I get Wanda's number and she takes mine. We talk some more, confiding in eachother now, about love and men and how she is absolutely done with them, no more, never, ever again. She can't and doesn't believe in love anymore. Her eyes grow wide and wet. You can get burned forever can't you?
I listen out through another cigarette.
There's nothing worse than violence at home. Up close. Violence from a partner or a parent or all of it. Violence in a place you can't escape from. Because you're too young. Because you're too in love. Because you're too poor. Because you have nowhere else to go. The deep shattering of trust and with it all hope and confidence. Because no safe space means no safe space. Where can you go? When home is hell. And even when you leave, violence leaves its' trace. It's remembered in the body; buried, but staying, latent and inflamed again with the flex of instincts which fear have got to, triggered by the most banal of encounters.
Wanda didn't go into detail. But I'm used to recognising trauma. The way people talk with enhanced animation, the wide eyes, the re-live, the still undigested shock rising through the body and the voice.
I've seen it in women and I've seen it in men who had their lives destroyed - or almost destroyed - by other men, because they fought back, because they refused to accept injustices. They stood up and felt the full force of a company, or the police, or an army, and a state, and often all of it hurricained into one, long, nightmare. But if you saw them, on a building site, or in their homes making a tea, or in the pub, you'd never know they were at war. Likewise the woman cleaning your room, walking past you pushing an overstacked laundry trolly, or picking up biscuit wrappers in a chandeleir-lit atrium. Soldier.
Wanda hadn't just gone through hell in home and home in hell, but also another terrible experience, a different form of war on her. One to do with European border regimes and the people who can exploit them and profit from them. And they have guns. One to do with her poverty and precarity. A deal she'd entered into. She started shaking and shouting when she told me.