As someone who noticed everything, who worried about everything, as someone who paid attention to every single detail, he noticed this too. And, yes, the irony was not lost on him. He was wearing the same shirt his father gave him on the same day he was about to vilify his father. He froze in front of the mirror.
He bought you this shirt, something reminded him.
He’s my father – of course, he bought me a few things. It doesn’t change anything, he countered inwardly.
As he stood there, Rasheed’s ever-active mind wandered away. The conversation from that morning played in his mind.
“You know what to do, right?” the woman had asked him with a grave expression on her face.
“Yes, I know what to do.”
“Good. You go there, tell them how horrible your dad is, tell them how he neglected you for years. You tell them how you had to run away, how you had to come all the way to Berlin because of him. And, now, you’re desperate. You don’t know what to do, nothing to eat. You’re completely helpless.”
Rasheed had heard those lines several times since he got to Berlin, yet Adele felt the need to reiterate them over and over again.
“Can you act?” Johann asked.
Rasheed chuckled. “What do I need that for?”
“You need it now. You have to cry if possible. Pretend that you’re really desperate. Say you don’t have anywhere to stay even.”
“But I have somewhere to stay. I’m staying with you both.”
“So? If you don’t appear desperate, the German Government won’t help you.”
Rasheed rested his cheek on his palm and appeared lost in thoughts.
“What will they do to my dad?”
“Who cares?” Johann snapped, his ruddy-skinned face darkening. Adele rested a hand on his arm, as if to caution him on restraint. He inhaled, and visibly calmed, before continuing, “Nothing you’ll say about him is a lie, Rasheed. Is he not the reason you fled to Berlin? Did you not tell me so yourself? How he neglected you and your siblings, ever since you were put in his custody from Nigeria. Did he send you to school when he should have? He beat you a lot, didn’t he?”
“So, there’s no need for you to worry about him. They won’t even do anything to him. You’re above eighteen. You just need a convincing story so you can get help. That’s all.”
“Don’t worry,” Adele added with a smile, patting Rasheed on his back. “Everything will be fine.”
A sound from somewhere in the building brought him out of his musings. Rasheed straightened and stared at his reflection in the mirror. He made a face, then another – brows hitched and bottom lip turned down. The corners of his eyes were creased and he added a tremble to his lips. Finally he got it, his I-am-desperate look. Perfect! He had some convincing to do.
He bought you this shirt, that voice reminded Rasheed again.
This time, he ignored it.
He needed to get things done. He needed to fix the pieces of his life together. He would have preferred to have his own job and make his own money. He had heard about how they treated people who depended on the government for money. Adele had made sure to constantly remind him of that. She had reminded of the pittance the government handed out, how they’d look down on you and treat you like crap.
But he didn’t care, let them treat him anyhow they wanted, he’d gone through worse. Let them sneer and scoff, let them stare condescendingly at him. At least he wasn’t robbing a bank or selling drugs or committing fraud. At least, he was not doing anything illegal. At least, he was on the right path towards freedom from his father, toward his redemption and reinvention.
Written by Toby