Kampong Cham, Cambodia
He followed the cow into the river.
“Go and collect the cow,” slurs his father as he shuffles, ready for the next round of cards.
He goes, but does not come back. A refreshed, clean cow meanders its way back to the house.
Three years ago, we met this little boy in a slum in Kampong Cham. The whereabouts of his mother unknown; his father sedentarily pouring his rice wine and waiting for his card players; and he, a scabied, little boy playing in the sand.
The local hospital was unable to deal with such a severe case and so months of treatment and back-and-forth to Phnom Penh ensued.
Eventually cured, he joined activities and interacted with others without scratching, without bleeding and without feeling ashamed. Chalk boards, counting, the alphabet were not his preferred activity but a ball and a lego set and he was happy for hours.
The team prepared him for school; he was sort of excited.
Now, we talk about him. We try and laugh about all the funny stories he told us, about the mischief he got up to. But we cross him off the list. We do not buy his school uniform; we do not count out his books and put them in his satchel…
And beyond the extreme sadness I feel, is an anger that I cannot express. An anger towards his father. An anger towards the person that was meant to take care of him, who was meant to protect him. An anger towards this man as he weeps at the loss of his child. Well, its too late now!
Go on, pour another one, shuffle another hand.