16# A ghetto getaway


NIGHT - Lyon St-Exupery airport, France - INT

Malika was the happiest mother on earth. Her elder son, Karim, was getting married. Karim had been the perfect son: brilliant in school, obedient, and respectful. After high school in Morocco, he got a scholarship to study in Lyon, and became a prestigious robotics engineer. Karim planned a small ceremony at the city hall in Lyon, then a classic wedding with friends and family the year after. Malika was in heaven.


In the late 80s in Morocco, dependent children did not have their own passport. So, when Malika got her French visa at the embassy, she asked for Yassin's visa to be attached to hers. The trip to Lyon would be Yassin's first trip abroad, and also the first one by plane. Twelve-year-old Yassin was excited.


Karim booked two roundtrip tickets for his mom and little brother. They would fly over the weekend, just to attend the ceremony. Malika packed for three months. She prepared all the delicacies her son loved and missed from home. She and Yassin boarded the plane and reached their seat. She imagined the event a million times: her son in his wedding suit, the bride in the white dress, the flowers, the food... Exhausted, Malika tried to sleep. Yassin, jumping with excitement, watched the first clouds fade in, his face glued to the window.


They landed at the Lyon St-Exupéry airport in the evening. Yassin’s unremitting curiosity tired her and everyone around. He was bouncing on his seat, asking too many questions, and staring at people. Malika scolded him. The altitude hurt her joints. She was tired and needed to pee. They exited the plane and searched in a hurry for the closest restrooms.


Malika instructed Yassin to wait with the luggage in front of the ladies’ room and went in. Inside, a large yellow tape barred the door of the two cabins, leaving only one in function. Eight ladies were waiting in front. Malika mumbled a curse and existed the room. She found her luggage against the wall but no signs of Yassin. Impatience turned into anger. She yelled, “YASSIIIIIIIIIIIIIN! COME BACK HERE RIGHT NOW, I’M LEAVING!!!”.


Meanwhile, Yassin had gone playing on the conveyor belt. At the sound of his name, he knew he was in trouble. He ran back to Malika and felt the sting on his cheek, followed by a hot rush of blood to his head. Malika seized his wrist and dragged him along. Yassin started sobbing but a single glance of his furious mother quieted him down. They passed everyone on the conveyor belt in threatening silence.


Malika reached the customs line, shaking and about to wet herself. She shifted her weight from leg to leg and tightened her grip on the silenced Yassin, more afraid than in pain. The customs agent behind the glass cabin has a baby face, which he concealed beneath a stubbly mustache. Malika handed him her passport.

  • Customs agent: Good evening, Madam.

  • Malika: Good evening.

  • Customs agent: What brings you to Lyon?

  • Malika: My son is getting married tomorrow.

  • Customs agent: Oh, congratulations! Can I see your visa please?

  • Malika: It’s in the passport.

  • Customs agent: I did not find it.

Malika sighed and grabbed her passport at once. She flipped the pages and laid it open on the visa page under the officer's teenager moustache.

  • Malika: IS THAT GOOD?

The agent pulled the passport to his face. Malika was hopping from left to right, her bladder about to explode. Tension and impatience spoke up at once.

  • Malika: Can I go now?

  • Customs agent: Yes, your visa is in order. Who is the boy?

  • Malika: He's my son.

  • Customs agent: I cannot find his visa.

  • Malika: He’s minor. My visa applies to him as well.

  • Customs agent: I’m sorry Madam, but he needs his own visa.

  • Malika: They did not say that at the embassy.

  • Customs agent: Your son cannot go through without a visa.

  • Malika: TO HELL WITH YOU! KEEP HIM THEN. I'M OFF!!!

Malika stormed through the gate. The agent, alarmed, stepped out of the cabin.

  • Customs agent: Madam, please, you cannot do that.

  • Malika: Is my visa in order, yes or no?

  • Customs agent: But…

  • Malika: YES or NO?

  • Customs agent: Yes

  • Malika: Good. Then move out of my way, I have a wedding to attend.

She walked on with her luggage, leaving Yassin with the agent, both in shock. Malika did not even look back. Yassin watched the agent's thin mustache with a investigator's intensity that made him uncomfortable. He looked around for support, but his colleagues were busy with other passengers. Malika was walking away; his panic grew with every step.


In a desperate attempt, he grabbed Yassin by the wrist and ran after Malika. He shouted "Madam, wait. Madam, PLEASE WAIT!" but Malika feigned a deaf ear. She kept a steady pace toward the arrival gate. In a last sprint, the customs agent caught up to her.

  • Customs agent: Madam, please, take your son.

  • Malika: Oh!? so now, he's allowed?

  • Customs agent: Please, next time, make sure he has his own visa.

  • Malika: Where is the closest restrooms?

  • Customs agent: Eh?

  • Malika: The toilets, WC, pipi room??? I need to go NOW!

  • Customs agent: Over there.

  • Malika: Thank you! Yassin, stay here and watch my luggage, I'll be right back.

She headed towards the restrooms, leaving the customs agent alone with Yassin again. He straightened his mustache and walked back, head down, to his glass cabin.


Yassin stood watch this time.

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