A one-way ticket from Cadiz to Tenerife: it seemed so easy. The civil guard might want to see papers, Michael had told you; but the clerk at the ticketing office did not seem to care. With your schoolgirl German, your long, ash-colored hair and skin that had lost color and luster from September in California to November in Bonnigheim, a provincial Spaniard could take you for a German girl. This is what you were banking on as you gripped the small, tooled-leather bag Michael’s mother had given you, filled with the extra pair of trousers and a sweater you would probably not need on the island, and boarded the Jewel of Cadiz. You had papers that had been easy for Michael to forge, adorned with the extra passport photo you carried in your wallet for–what reason? What occasion? Just in case you wanted to stage your own death.
He had thought of everything.
More and more visitors were starting to trickle in from elsewhere in Europe, but folks on the Spanish Peninsula, and particularly on the island of Tenerife, were not so used to outsiders then that they really could tell you weren’t who you said you were. Extranjera. That was enough for them. The children thought you were a bit dense because you stumbled over Spanish. You scrupulously tried not to speak English but if you did, it sounded like German to them.
So you had boarded the boat that seemed far to small to cross from one continent to another; far smaller than the cruise ship you’d taken from New York two months before. This might have filled you with dread, considering the sickness you’d suffered on that crossing; but the exhilaration of the plan unfolding buoyed you, the adrenaline or whatever made you high. You had chosen an upper bunk in the tiny curtained women’s area in steerage so no one would hurl on you from above, but most of your time you spent on deck, holding fast the railing, eyes fixed on the horizon of your future in the Fortunate Isles.
By pamela painter
On July 14, 2021
I like that her English sounded like German to some people. Nice ending.