Crowds pouring into a busy shopping mall, bags touching, people pushing and eyes looking everywhere as people make sure their belongings follow them into the mall. It’s around 2pm and everyone on the trip has been waiting to do a bit of shopping in France ever since we got here a few days ago. Matt walks in front and everyone sort of ends up walking into the store together.
The streets are filled with mini Christmas trees that all lead up to the massive one in the middle of the square. There’s a funfair too which makes me think of the one in London on the south bank. I’d go there with my family and always make mama buy me a ticket to go on the carousel. We would be able to see it from a far distance, as the colours would mingle together with the fastness of the ride. The colours jumbled, and my eyes saw circles of different hues dancing together in the windy winters of London.
Annie is close by and so is Joe, my close friends. I tell joe to find a music store when we go in as I knew they had big headphones in the France music stores where you can listen to Drake’s album there. We pace it to the mall and before entering I notice two security guards who stare at me. One was a black guy, normal height with a big black jacket on. He had a cap on which matched the other security guard’s. But this other guy was slimmer and white. He looked middle aged and bored of working at the doors of the mall, seeing a monotonous cycle of people rushing in to stores. They both fixed their eyes on me, I look down at my top as I thought maybe my stomach was showing from the breeze. I can feel the cold against my skin, the kind of cold the feels like its seeping into your skin by little cuts and scratches. I touch my face briefly, as if I was scratching or moving a few strands of hair away. But there was no hair, and there were no strands. Because I wear a hijab. That’s when I realise, “Joe, I don’t think I can go in, the security guards are looking at me and I think they want to cause trouble”. Joe pretends to listen and says “don’t worry they’re looking at everyone, we all look foreign to them. I momentarily think of Joe’s appearance and think he could pass easily as a French guy. He is white but slightly tanned from his summer trip to Hawaii with his parents. His parents weren’t having a great relationship, so they thought a holiday would help. I still haven’t asked him about that.
I start to think about the guards and we’re closer now to the doors. We approach the glass doors that run so high up, it makes you think how they fit them in so easily. We all walk in together and I immediately jump from the alarms that begin to go off on every door of the entrance. There’s about 4 different doors that go along the mall entrance. The alarms create red lights that go up these beams at the entrance and I look back expecting to see a few teenagers running out of the store after having stolen something. But no, there’s no teenagers there. I look back forward to suddenly see the two security guards in front of me. The black, heavy looking man is so close to me I could touch his shoes with mine. My heart starts to beat faster and all I can think about is what did I do and why are they stopping me. The white security guard acts as back up, he stands behind the jacketed man who stands over me to say “Qu’y a-t-il dans ton sac?”. I go blank and the words escape my brain. I stutter, and nothing comes out so he begins to tug at my coat. The alarms are ringing, and my mind goes silent, it failed me. I’m so flustered I don’t know what to do but say, “rien”, nothing, and the security guard takes my bag. At this point I suddenly remember all the other students have huddled into one corner of the mall’s entrance and Mr Franc tells the security guard to back off and that we are here on a trip.
The security guard throws the bag at me and it drops to my feet. He tells me to “open your bag and take everything out of it”. He begins to speak in English, after probably realising I couldn’t converse in French. I bend over and look at Joe and Annie, who stand there helpless but made me angry that they did nothing. Why did they go silent. Were they scared? Did they think I actually carried anything that would harm them in the slightest? Questions begin to fill my mind and I now have a lump at the back of my throat. I want to let out my frustration, but I can’t. Not in front of them anyway. I begin to poor out my bag and start to regret why I packed so much into my backpack for that day’s trip around France. I always like to have mini things ready in case of anything that could happen. But I don’t think I had anything in my bag that would prepare me for the security guards. Maybe pepper spray would help. I don’t know why I’m thinking that but no. Ok I have to take all this merde out of my bag and show them that I have nothing worth being searched for. Everything comes out, my lunch box, papers from the different museums we were going to, cards, and souvenirs and makeup pencils and lipsticks. They tower over me, as if to say I would hide something from them. But no, I emptied everything out and they stood there. As if disappointed they couldn’t prove that this Muslim woman with a headscarf on didn’t have anything, and was not guilty.
They wanted to arrest me and have a reason to target me. But what did they find, nothing. And they took away my dignity.
People stared as I packed up on my knees, putting an orange back into my bag and I see Joe’s shoes getting closer to where I was kneeling. He knelt down and began to help me put my stuff back into my bag. He put the last sheet into my bag and he said “they’re all a bunch of racists, you’re worth more than both of them combined”.
I smiled and put my rucksack back onto my back, Joe gave me a semi smile, it’s the smile he does when he feels something deeply and has more to add, but he doesn’t. He leaves it at that and we walk into the mall. Off to the music store to listen to Drake.
A mini story.