Her bones rattled in their loose skin casing. Flesh and fat were luxuries of childhood, in that window before deprivation was understood. Her hair was still short from the last time it was shaved but it was growing, it was growing.

Itchy was her scalp, and home to bugs that burrowed their heads beneath her skin making it sting while they sucked her starved blood.

Her knees clanked together, building the bulging bruises that coloured her limp limbs. Her hand made a shelter over the bluest bulge on her left knee, the flesh alive but not fresh, was weeping waterish whiteness through the dry blood that sealed the surrounding skin.

Her wounds wept to reveal what her fortitude couldn’t conceal. Her eyes would never leak her secrets in front of us.

She tried to hide with her hand the weeping wound on her knocking-knee, she tried to hide all her wounds with her stories of heroes, not of herself, and not of the heroes she’d met and made. Heroes that couldn’t be traced to those times and places, heroes that hid in her head to ease the horrors; Mozart, Beethoven, Bach, Rembrandt. She didn’t speak of the secret heroes that she made as she led them to their freedom, or herself, the hero who brought people with her to the other side of that time, to be sitting on that truck where her bones rattled, her knees clanked, her wounds wept.

Little volcanoes covered her skin as scabs and scars. Her boiling blood was rupturing, the crust was releasing the gas and ash and burnt hair that had been inhaled, endured, and trapped in there. Under all the dirt and hurt was her young skin that she couldn’t see clean again.

Her saliva, a precious resource, her hydration, her bath, her creation. Her mouth had morphed into the Sahara but she mustered strength like Sarah. Her rage and revenge could not be spat. Instead, her tongue pressed into her palette and her muscles moved for the remedy of rain as saliva sprung mechanically, magically, from the mystery of her body. She spent some scant spit to smear the dirt away, she tried to clean what her body couldn’t hide. The dirt, the blood, the hurt, the mud.

With a moment to sit, no longer on the run, she could see into the pit where her body had been flung. Two of ten toes were broken. Three of ten toes were missing nails. Four of ten toes balanced nails now dead. Those dead nails would likely fall too but she straightened her back despite the spasms and hoped for four small miracles that her nails might live, because now she believed that she would live, she saw her blood, she was alive.

She’d eaten too much. A portion of bread with fat, but a portion too large following the speckled trails of scarce crumbs and occasional snails. Food was in her belly but in her malnourished system was disease. She needed a toilet. She needed some dignity. She was in clean clothes. She was with soldiers who’d saved her. They told her she was a miracle. They knew the secret of how dirty, dirty, dirty Auschwitz was. She needed a toilet. She needed some dignity.

Waiting for the war to end, waiting to die, waiting for reunions, waiting to wake from this world of wreckage, waiting for the truck to stop, waiting for the toilet.

She was alive. Her body was working. Quickly. It didn’t want the fat. But it would get used to it again. Slowly.

The war was ending. She found a toilet. There was no paper. She needed some dignity. She saw a copy of Mein Kamf.

She began wiping it away.

 

 

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