At first glance there is nothing much to it; just a black and white photo of a tall man and a hut on a sun burnt day. Not much to it at all, until the question I’ve been trying to push aside pushes back.
“Why is he crawling?”
And then the reality of what I’m seeing is crashing towards me like a tidal wave. I want to run but it’s too late. I’m being sucked under because nothing I can do, nothing I can ever do, will erase what I’ve seen.
There is a naked skeleton of a man crawling; crawling because the fluid in his joints has evaporated and to stand would grate bone against bone. The soft part of his feet has been used for energy and to stand would grind bone against stone.
His body is an anatomy lesson; structures that should be hidden are visible. His body is nothing more than long bones wrapped in butchers paper; a present for a dog.
There are tears in my eyes. I have to look away. I read the pictures caption hoping that the man was alright. I read the caption hoping that this image didn’t come from this world, not this world that I live in.
But no – this is real. This is a photo of a man in a camp for the chronically malnourished. He is going to die because he got caught in a war where hunger was a weapon.
I look back at the photo and see the hut and I wonder how many more people like this man there are? How many didn’t have the energy to crawl out of their beds? How many just couldn’t bear to face the fierce sun gods wrath, feel it burn them one last time. And that makes me wonder what drives this man, the man in the photo? What is it that is so strong in this man that he can keep going when I would have given up?
That’s when the tidal wave releases me and I come up for air. This is a photo of a broken body but not a broken spirit. This man is showing more self pride in the time of his humiliation than I could ever muster in my heyday.
And now I have a new hero, a tall man I saw in a black and white photo that was taken on a sun burnt day.
© Matthew Dalton