In Sweden she wears a white hijab and stares at the birch trees. At sunset the trees form a dark waterfall against the golden sky. Tonight there is a crescent moon and the child is crying again. Tomorrow she will study the new language and pack her hopes into the suitcase that lies in the wardrobe. She will buy aubergines, lemons and garlic. She will throw out the old bread for the jackdaws who pick their way across the grass. One day perhaps she will go home. This is what she says to herself as the child cries and the lamps come on, one by one.
We watch a video of their old house in Syria. Blue skies. Fat white blossom. A David Hockney pool. A gazebo covered in jasmine. Their house is large with sweet green hedges, the hall big enough to hold a wedding party. They show me this in their small, dustless apartment. When the video is over, she sighs. She switches on the television to a Lebanese talk-show, and brings us hot, sweet coffee, baklavas. Her hair is faded. Her husband sits on the edge of the sofa with his crutches. She smiles as we eat and sip our coffee. Her smile is like her sigh, sad and lovely. An exile’s smile.