Every Saturday morning they come around and have us draw numbers from a small wooden box. Then we wait. They’ll come back and call twenty numbers as we crowd in the main yard, its dust oddly red and muddy as nothing I remember from the outside to be.
Some women whisper nervously about being freed. We hold our numbers close to our breasts, afraid to let anyone see, to be holding someone else’s lucky number. But luck is dependably random.
Some of us are silent, having gone through months of Saturday mornings. We see hope as a wisp of breeze that blows through the camp on its way somewhere else. Eyes shine through the lack of expressions, expectation nearer oblivion, some flickering a final spark. It’s mostly the new ones, the latest arrivals, who are excited, believing that this week their number will be called, that they are already on their way home.
She had just arrived three weeks ago, a young woman, her belly bursting with child. We found an extra blanket, shoes for her feet. She stands anxiously, her face innocent and naive. She had become my friend and that frightened me.
The guards return. My number is called. She silently begs me. I wipe her eyes off my face, turn and join the line. Her hope brands my back like a hot iron. I’ve never told her what I suspect, in case I am wrong. But for this week, at least, I think she is safe.