The story of the fugitive begins with some birds. I am walking to the store to buy tuna, and I am looking at these birds. They looked like this, except they were in motion instead of stopped. They are here to set the scene, which is Amsterdam, in an immigrant neighborhood, in January 2016.
When I arrived at the store I noticed a new type of tuna. It was slightly more expensive but it came in a new looking package. Next to it (to the right) is my old trusted type of tuna. It is in an old looking can but I know it very well. I got two cans of the old type. One for me and one for my cat. Then I went home. But before I could get home, I came across the fugitive.
The fugitive was stopping people on the street and talking to them. I was next in line. When I got close to him, he put his face right up to my face. He stood very close to me.
He said “Please I am a refugee.
“I am being kicked out. The government told me I am not a refugee. They are sending me back to Sudan.
“I escaped at four a.m. from the refugee center."
“What do you need?” I asked him
“78 euros.” he said. “I am going to Lyon.”
The government was after him. After four years of reviewing his case, they decided that he didn't meet the standard for a refugee and so he was on the run. Or so he said.
"I only have three euros," I told him.
This was true. When I told it to the fugitive he began to lose interest in me until another idea hit him.
"Do you have a car?" he said.
"Of course not," I told him.
When I got home I started to second-guess myself, thinking that I should have helped him. When I left him I said "Good luck," which seemed friendly, but he responded very philosophically (and I think, a bit bitterly) by saying:
"There is no luck. There is just mankind and humanity."
I told my wife on the phone that he said that. He was saying was that his "luck" came down to a choice of whether I would help him or eat tuna. I asked my wife if she thought this was correct, and then I asked her again and again over the next hour or so, annoying her. What did he mean? I made her stay on the phone as I looked up tickets to Lyon, just to see if the fugitive had his story straight, and wasn't lying.
Finally my wife made a statement which was very true but very unsatisfying. It is, in other words, a very true thing to say, but it didn't make me feel good, or make me feel like I had accomplished anything that day, except for eating tuna. Even though she told me to leave it, the thing she said was so true and simple that it made it so that I went to look for him again. When I looked, though, he wasn't there.
"It's his fate," she said. "Not yours."