Catherine Micqu

818 days

I always though that freedom would make me happy. But I wasn’t happy. I was taken from myself, and even though I was released, I was not there.

I was held in captivity for eight hundred and eighteen days. Two years and almost three months. The prospect of coming home and hugging my friends and family kept me going, day after day. I expected to be happy and healthy and coming back to my old life and picking up where I had left before my abduction.

I came home, and everyone was there — politicians, family, friends, journalists, reports, photographers. Everyone was happy to see me. Everyone cried tears of regret and relief. Everyone had too many questions, and I had no voice to answer them. But then the novelty of me being home wore off. Dark had become light, but the light was slowly turning into dark again. And my family showed how angry and hurt they were. They accused me of being to blame for being abducted. I had chosen to travel to Tunisia on vacation. I hadn’t fought for myself. They hated me because they had to wait for me, and yet their lives had to go on without me. They forgot that I was the victim and that I was struggling too.

After a while, I wished that I had never come back alive. I felt as isolated as I had in captivity. When I had been in chains, and without food, I had had the will to live and to survive. Freedom had broken that will. I was broken. They had taken me, and I had never come back to myself.

I sat in a luxurious apartment that I had bought from the compensation I had received from the government. For every day I had suffered, I received a hefty sum of money; as if the money would make me forget the torture and the ordeal. I had doors and windows – electrical light. Warm water, running water – at will. I was allowed to come and go whenever I wanted. And I fell in love with doors. Opening and closing them, walking through them and closing them from the other side – even locking them. Although locked doors made me nervous, I had food in my fridge, fresh fruits, and vegetables. I was allowed to move and be free, and yet, I was still a hostage. I was a hostage of my mind – I couldn’t escape the memories, and somehow, I didn’t want to. I had spent two years living another life – being in civilization was too different from what had been my reality for eight hundred and eighteen days. The light, the sound, the hectic of modern life, electricity, a bed, fresh linen, clean clothes, a shower – I had lived without these things for such a long time.

Looking into the mirror, I didn’t recognize myself anymore. Everything was different and everything was the same. My hair was longer; my eyes were emptier. My skin was pale, my lips parched. And thin, I was thinner than I had ever been. I chose not to count the scars on my torso. I chose to ignore what my body had endured during my time away. I was not feeling myself anymore. I had become a stranger to myself.

I needed to find a way to console my old life and the new one – I was not the same person anymore. I knew that I should be happy because I was free. Instead, I was overwhelmed with life. I led a life in invisible chains. I needed to find myself. But where? No one had any answers, and at the same time, I held them all inside of me – but they were not ready to be voiced and join me in freedom yet.

***

(Inspired by a French documentary “Otages” (hostages) that I saw and that moved me a lot. I want to write about this fictional character that popped up in my mind. Maybe I’ll get there.)

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