I had just been to the opticians after many years of putting it off, and for the first time in my life I had got some spectacles. I was driving down the road and had to pull up at some traffic lights. I noticed I was a few yards behind a large dirty white van. It had French number plates on it. Someone had written something in the dirt on the back doors of the van. You know what I mean? Lots of jokers write stuff on dirty cars, especially on filthy white vans. Terms like ‘wash me ‘ or ‘also in white’ etc. You will know what I mean won’t you? This white van was really dirty but I could see some sort of verse had been written in its filth. Anyway I inched forward because I knew I would be able to read it with my new glasses on.
Well this large van had ‘Shuusshh Asylum Seekers Sleeping Inside Please Do Not Disturb’ written in the dirt. Well I started giggling about it and I realised that I wouldn’t have even seen the sign without wearing my new glasses. I stopped laughing at the joke when I thought about what I would do if the sign was true and there really were asylum seekers asleep in the back of the dirty white van. Anyway the lights changed and off we both went. I was following the dirty white van down the road.
Whilst driving on down the road I couldn’t stop thinking about the words on the vehicle’s doors and I started to imagine that if there really were asylum seekers sleeping inside the van then wouldn’t it be the right thing to do to knock on the van and tell the asylum seekers they had probably now reached their desired destination, and it was time they thought of getting out of the filthy van. After all they obviously needed someone to tell them that they had arrived at their perceived place of asylum (England), and because I had been the one that saw the sign, because I was wearing my new glasses, I thought maybe it was my job to actually wake them up. Surely the driver of this van didn’t know he had asylum seekers in the van. The driver was obviously using the van to make a living and the asylum seekers only hid in the van to try to reach a place of asylum. Surely they didn’t want to spend the rest of their life anonymously in the back of a filthy white van, living without a clue where they actually were I thought?
I pondered on that very thought for a moment and decided that if I did bang on the doors to wake them up then surely those asleep would be grateful to me for waking them. Maybe they would thank me for telling them that they don’t have to cower in the back of a van any longer. Maybe I would be a hero for waking these people up and maybe they would cheer me?
Then I thought hang on a minute, maybe if I did bang on the doors and try to wake them they might think I was really the authorities and attack me for doing something they didn’t want me to do, after all they were nice and safe in their smelly dirty white van. No one really knew who each other were or where they had came from, but they felt safe wallowing in the dirt together.
Maybe if I did bang on the van doors my actions would only have left them cowering in fear behind the said door, after it was their only world now. I started to worry over what I really should do about it and it was all because I could now see signs that I couldn’t see before. If I hadn’t been to the opticians I wouldn’t have even seen how dirty the van was or even noticed the writing on the doors. Maybe if I banged on the doors or even opened the doors they would thump and kick me and run past me. I thought maybe they would spit and hiss at me because they see me as their perceived enemy. I didn’t fancy that, but was prepared to risk it.
What was I to do? I started regretting actually wearing my glasses and wondered if I hadn’t lost my vanity, and gone to the opticians, I wouldn’t have even known there were even some folks asleep, in their own little world, behind those van doors.
I worried and I fretted over the fate of these asylum seekers. My heart decided that I should help them but because I was hesitant the van had simply got away from me, further down the road and a large lorry was between us, blocking my view. The white van then sped off because the lorry slowed me down and it was soon out of my reach. I couldn’t bang on the van doors now, even if I wanted too. The asylum seekers, if indeed there were any ‘real’ asylum seekers in such a vehicle, were obviously going to be left fast asleep in the back.
I pondered on my dithering, my cowardice and my failures and I was kicking myself for letting the dirty white van get out of my reach.
It stayed on my mind and that very same night I had a dream in which I saw the white van again. I saw the sign on the doors again. But then, in my dream, I put on some bigger aviator type glasses on and I floated up in to the sky and the big dirty white van became nothing but a dot and as I floated further and further upwards the scene changed in to a big dirty planet Earth.
The sleeping asylum seekers in the back of the van had changed into the entire human race. The whole bloody dirty planet was full of asylum seekers. Yes, instead of me being a few yards behind a dirty white van I was now up hundreds of miles in the heavens looking down on millions of dirty asylum seeking people. It was the same scenario but different ‘dirty’ vehicles sort of thing.
Anyway… because of my eyesight I could clearly see that Mount Everest had a massive words carved in the rock, illuminated with massive spotlights, that read “Shusshhh, Truth Seekers Sleeping Below Please Do Not Disturb’”
The dream started fading and I came back down on Earth. I gathered my thoughts and instantly remembered the single dirty white van and I remembered the poor asylum seekers too. I remembered the large lorry blocking the road between the van and my vehicle. I vowed never to get stuck behind that bloody lorry next time. I remembered the driver speeding off up the road, with a load of asylum seekers asleep in the back of the van. I thought next time I see a situation like that I won’t hesitate to open the door. BUT it will not be the dirty back door with jokes written on it, it will be the drivers door that I open. I shall let the asylum sleepers really sleep if that is what they really want, but I will for sure not ever hesitate to open the drivers door and ask them who the hell is paying them and where they are actually taking the passengers. I think I owe them that much!
Matthew Delooze (2009)