At Hajj

by Amaan Hyder

He had been in his own group, walking in a line with his hands around
the waist of the man in front. His group had been snaking through the crowds like that
for a few days. One morning he had been at the back of the line and he had felt
the crowds closing in. He had not seen it bottleneck so badly before. The message
went down the line to hold on tight and he had got the sweat of the man in front on his beard.

Next to him a boy fell to his knees and he let go and helped the boy to his feet.
The boy began to cry and he panicked and lifted him onto his shoulders and
shouted as loud as he could in his language that the boy was lost. He yelled and
the boy cried. He didn’t know what to do. His group couldn’t stop for him. A
little while later the boy saw a familiar and scrambled into the hands of the
pilgrims in between. He watched him go. It was over like that.

I’ve seen him asking around for his people, that man. The orphan. He had
been in his own group, walking in a line with his hands around the waist of
the man in front. He says in his language that he is lost. And watches while the
message he sends out goes down the line like a boy scrambling on shoulders in
a crowd. The scent bottlenecks at his beard and in his sleep he is lost and lifted
and let go in the cried-out desert.