Tomorrow is the last day

Tomorrow is the last day.

I see an image on Facebook of a water pipe cut down the middle. It’s someone’s job to go around cutting the pipes for drinking water. I wonder how they made the cuts. Was it with a knife or a pair of tough scissors to slice through the plastic? I wonder how long it takes to cut a water pipe and how strong you need to be.

The rations get cut off tomorrow too, though they’ve been winding down food stocks for weeks, the reports say. No fresh fruit or vegetables. Just the basics, and soon the basics will be takeaway packages only, no sit-down meals. No power, no water.

There have been nearly 100 days of protest on Manus, but so far, the last days of the camp have been quiet here. I don’t think most people actually know. If they’ve heard of the closure they think it’s because the refugees who’ve been living there have been settled somewhere else. America, maybe? Didn’t everyone go to America? I think I heard that.

Sometimes I feel like the news moves so fast I can’t keep up. My screen is wave upon wave of things, calamity I mute with my own fingers swiping through. I want it to quiet, I want to think more clearly. I’ll wait for a clearer time to read those articles in full, to call my MP (to find out who my MP is and call them - Peter somethingorother, I think). But this closure is conspicuously quiet. And so much slower. The news comes in dribs and drabs, and then finally I read the long stories written by people on the island about what it’s like there: what it’s like to be imprisoned for years, and then for the prison to close down around you. To know that even your captors will leave you for dead.

Those of us who do know what’s going on have underwater objections - muted, ineffective. We are soft and immobile, dead bluebottles on a beach. We say we don’t know what to do, but in truth most of us have given up, hollowed ourselves out. We have come to regard this cruelty as a background condition to our lives. It’s not hard. We are good at silence, even when we mask it with indignation. We get better at it each time someone is killed.

Back in May I made a quilt by reading incident reports from one of the camps. I hand-wrote the text, I slept a night on each sheet, I stitched them together. It took forever, and when I had finished, the quilt was huge, much larger than my bed. It stretched out in all directions. A quilt of my own complicity. A nightmare quilt I did not design, but one I stitched with my silence.

As I wrote those documents I couldn’t look away from the names. I couldn’t read them, of course. They were censored by thick black bars. But they were there.

I hear them now.

Tomorrow is the last day of the camps.


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