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believe the stories they tell you

published: 2012-01-17

A guy stops me on the streets. I thought he wanted to ask the way.
“Thank you sister,” he says. He explains that he is from Iraq. Then he speaks of how he is a refugee and had applied for a permit but the Dutch government hasn’t granted it. They are stricter on Iraqis now, he says.
“Yes, I heard on the news!” and instantly I feel really smart. He talks and talks and I’m getting cold and impatient. He says he is now roaming the streets and needs to be registered at an existing address in order to access the salvation army’s resources and anyway it’s cold and he has a friend in the North who he’d like to see and who can help him out, but…
Yet again I feel smart, “speak no more, you need money, do you? It’s an expensive dare.”

He nods, yes a trainticket costs about 26 euros sister.
I have just bought a pair of shoes. And so I quickly open my wallet which has 16 euros in it and give it all to him. That’s how relieved I am he isn’t asking me for my address to register himself. Otherwise I’d have had to lie. “I know the problem, I don’t have a house either…” or something of the sort.

His black eyes glimmer briefly on looking at the money, perhaps from disbelief or from joy. But it is only very briefly.

I bike away feeling increasingly foolish. He is probably just a drug-addict who has figured out what to say.
I decide I don’t care. It’s not the truth that matters. It’s about wanting to believe that the stories people tell you are true.

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