Editor’s note: This story is inspired by real events. It is part two of a story of an Afghan man, facing prejudice in Iran, who has decided to leave illegally.

It was raining that Sunday in Dorood. On the way to my family’s home, I was thinking about my escape and what the journey would be like. I felt strong and determined but at the same time, for some reason, the streets and the walls of houses that I could not wait to leave seemed on this day to be so kind and welcoming. I knocked on my parents’ door and told my mother and father I was leaving. Their faces contorted in sorrow. My mother cried.

We were six guys stuffed into a car, trying to cross the border into Turkey illegally. Our smugglers took us on roundabout routes over bumpy roads. I couldn’t see out the window, so I listened to the gears of the car as they groaned over the hills. Images surged in my mind: father, mother, their arguments, the mountains, alleys, streets, my friends.

The car ride took ten hours and ended in a village in Kurdistan. There, we were introduced to new smugglers who led us over the mountains on foot. After three days of strenuous hiking, we finally arrived in a remote village in Turkey. We stopped for a day to take a rest.

The next day, we were taken by a car to the coast. This ride took just twenty minutes but we had to lie down on the floor of the car. The car stopped suddenly and we were told get out. We were on a bluff high above the sea. It was not quite dusk and, looking down, we could see a row of lights and a beach searchlight shining in the distance.

Since I was bigger and stronger than the other guys, I grabbed the heavy boat bag and started in the direction of the coast. To get to the beach, we had to walk down through a large grove of trees. It was probably only about a half hour, but seemed to last forever. Finally we found our way. On the way down to the beach, we could see the houses, and as we got close, we had to climb over some fences. The sun had set when we walked around the beach houses. The view of the ocean was spectacular. To the left of the houses were what looked like olive trees. We were momentary interlopers, refugees passing through another world. Not far from the houses was a noisy bar. Fortunately, as we walked by, nobody noticed six guys trying to look conspicuously insignificant.

In the dark outline of the coast, I could see a rock outcropping about a mile past the bar. One of the larger rocks hung over the others, simulating a makeshift cave. It was dingy and smelled of seaweed and salt, but it was our home for the night. There was not much talking. We silently each grabbed a spot and curled up in the half-wet sand. I could feel the cool of the ocean air cut through my thin T-shirt. The ocean was incredibly calm, as if it was waiting for us. I couldn’t sleep well because of the cold, yet at the same time the melody of the ocean lapping against the rocks made me feel relaxed.

After a few hours, I woke to the sounds of engines. The night was completely still except for that noise. I climbed over the rocks to get a better view and could see four Turkish boats that seemed to be patrolling the waters. Beyond the boats, I could see the Greek islands. They looked so close it was as if I could almost touch them.

I watched the boats for awhile, and then crawled back into my spot. I dozed intermittently, listening to the sound of the engines ebbing and flowing as they moved across the water. At 4 a.m., the noise of the engines stopped. I looked around to see who else was awake. One of the guys left our makeshift cave and went to a high place to check for any signs of a guard boat. He came back ten minutes later and said we could go.

To be continued…

By Mina M.