The goat herder filled a bucket with water so that his goats could drink. The patient, orderly way that the goats took their turn to stick their snouts into the bucket made a mockery of human greed.
While the goats drank, the driver filled up his plastic containers with petrol. We stretched our legs.
“He’s obsessed with petrol,” James said.
“Imagine if the Jordanians confiscate it all,” I replied.
“They might,” James said.
“He’d go crazy.”
“I think he already is.”
Between the two border fences was a refugee camp whose tents were bordered off by a wire fence. Women wearing overcoats and headscarves were moving between the tents. Their vibrant fabrics shimmered in the light, like precious stones against the whiteness of the tents. The camp’s existence was divorced from normal chronology. You could feel it; it wasn’t just a staging post between more fluid physical states, but a place in an incident freeze, as if it had become absorbed into the sky that overlooked it: time in that camp seemed to be on a geological scale.
“Refused entry,” James said.
We stopped next to a white hut. The driver asked for our passports. James wanted to get out. He leant forward, placing his hands on the top of the facing backrest. His nose almost touched the backrest. There wasn’t a door adjacent to our seat.
“Don’t worry,” Marwan said. “The driver will take care of it.”
Marwan’s unflustered casualness suggested that our destiny was in the hands of Almighty Good.
The driver had disappeared into the hut with our passports.
“Please!” James insisted.
James believed that our destiny was in the hands of Almighty Earthly Influence.
“It’ll be alright,” Marwan said.
“Please,” James continued. “I really have to get out.”
Marwan got out so James was able to push the facing backrest forward and skip out through the side door. He raced into the hut, clutching a letter that he had managed to get from the Indian ambassador through one of his father’s connections. He disappeared into the hut’s gloom. I followed him into the hut. A man was shrouded in half-light behind a desk – like a sombre figure stripped of human sentiment. The gloom felt like intransigence. A fan was swishing. A map of Jordan lay on a wall. The man was studying James’s passport.