From my journal

1 Oct 2015, Port-au-Prince

Yesterday on the motto ride back to Cite Soleil we stopped to look at a dead man in the canal. Gaetan observed, “It is like he is a pig just lying there.”

His body was situated in a way that made it look as if he was only sleeping, except for the fact he was naked and covered with flies. And yet he appeared very unlike a man. Because how could a man be dead in a canal filled with trash and have no crowd gathered around him? A human—any human—has someone. But this man was an unhuman in his lying in heaped trash, a piece of refuse himself, with no one to name him or say something. He was alone as the wind and that was the only thing that seemed to reach me.

Gaetan, Junior, and I sat on the motto and looked at the man several minutes. The sunlight of early afternoon burned the narrow access road, the canal, and the man. But there was no smell. Not yet. We sat and looked, each in his own silence, like we were waiting for the man to do something. Like the man was waiting, but for what?

I put my hand on Junior’s shoulder and gave him the soldier’s squeeze, the mute signal to move. As we accelerated I looked at a group of people sitting at a wooden market stall within sight of the man. A young girl in a school uniform sitting with them looked through me as we passed and I turned to look back to the unhuman in the canal wondering was she looking toward him. Here she sat within sight of the dead body but it might as well have been sitting in sight of a dead dog, so complete was her lack of interest. Her eyes were looking in a different direction.

A death without ceremony may be the worst death of all for what it leaves behind. As we rode away I was ashamed of myself for how little I felt after witnessing the man. It was like I began to mentally pinch myself to force a feeling because to be so empty, so bereft of emotion at the sight of the greatest tragedy ever for that man felt as terrible as death itself.