All I could see was the smoke all around me. It was like a thick, gray-blue blanket that was laid on an invisible plane, twelve inches above the ground. I looked toward the door, but I knew that was where the fire was coming from. Trying not to panic, my eyes darted around the unknown territory of the hotel room. Did the window even open? What floor was I on again? I couldn’t tell if I was starting to feel disoriented and delusional from the smoke inhalation, or if there really were sounds of fire trucks and people coming to save me.
I knew I’d never fight for my life after what I had already lived through. In fact, most of my adult life I have felt like I’d rather be dead and knew this day would come and find me. As I passively gave up any attempt to get out of the smoke filled room, my mind drifted to my baby. He was so sweet. Always smiling and making the cutest little baby sounds. I remembered how sharp his fingernails were and how I was too afraid to cut them, so I would just nibble on them while he nursed. I remembered how his blue eyes had a thin dark ring around the outer rim of his iris, just like my own eyes, and how I could get lost in his stare. I could almost smell his skin and feel his soft, chubby body in my arms as I held myself on the hotel room floor.
When the escape from Holland was happening, there was hardly ever any time to think. You just did. You ran. You hid. You stayed as silent as possible so the soldiers would never find you. It’s impossible to keep a baby quiet though. There were so many of us in that tiny crawl space under the house. All the other kids were older and had already been frightened enough to know to stay silent, to not even move a muscle if they heard the clicking of the boots growing louder. But my sweet baby boy, I couldn’t keep him quiet. Why wouldn't he just stop crying?
All those eyes were looking at me, with a quiet despair I could never erase from my memory. So many lives I could save, so many possibilities racing in my mind that maybe, just maybe, we could stop running one day. But only if we made it past today. I grabbed my soft, dark blue bag that carried what few clothes we had. I held it over his face, hoping to just muffle his cries. Everyone looked away. I can only imagine they must have been profoundly grateful and yet completely horrified. My mind went blank. His cries stopped. The clicking of the boots slowly became quieter, until they too were gone.