I wrap a blood pressure cuff around his arm. He is shivering from the winter cold. A constant hum can be heard through the tent we are using as a clinic.
Outside thousands of people are huddled together trying to shelter from the rain, talking, waiting. I ignore the noise and try to focus on my patient.
“Your English is really good!” I say to him. “Where have you come from?”
He half smiles and looks down at his dirty hands. There is a sadness in his eyes, so I don’t want to press him with questions. I don’t dare ask if he has family or if he is travelling with anyone.
“I am from Syria,” he replies, not lifting his gaze. “I have been walking for three weeks to get here to the border. I am so sorry.”
“Sorry? Sorry for what?” I ask.
He points to his feet. “I have not taken these socks off now for three weeks, they are wet and I have not showered, I smell.” He looks up at me tired and resigned. “I am a professor at the university, I speak seven languages. In Syria, I was somebody.” He showed me his hands. “Now I am nobody. I am a refugee.”
I get him the tablets he needs and hand him a pair of new socks from a donation box under the table. I walk him out as my shift is over.
I feel so cold and can’t wait to get to the car to get out of the rain. I can’t wait to get into a warm shower and into bed, I am exhausted.
I see a little girl – she might be four years old. She hugs herself, shivering, her teeth chattering.
There is fear in her eyes. In that moment I feel so guilty. I feel guilty for wanting a warm shower and to get into bed, when this little girl is about to spend the night standing out here in the rain, waiting with 10,000 other people to be registered as refugees in Europe.
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