The Los Angeles Times printed the photograph on the front page. A toddler, face down on the shore. I was at work at my desk. I did not look away from the image. I wanted to memorize it: the wide curve of the still dark water on the small stretch of rocky beach, the two officers in black uniforms with red stripes, one held a camera, the stranger in a white shirt with his arms folded in the distance. They were there because of the small body, half in water half on sand, wearing beige pants, the left pant leg raised slightly exposing the white skin of the small calf, the short-sleeved red t-shirt, bare arms, little hands, the dark sneakers on his small feet, the little head turned sideways looking left as if he had only just fallen asleep.
They did not cover the small body. I understand this is a photograph for a newspaper. I understand.
That evening, I would google to see if they had found a name. The AP said it was Aylan. He was three. When he was alive, he was a Syrian refugee in a little boat on the sea with his mother and brother, trying to reach safety on the Turkish shore. Maybe they would head onto Canada. They all perished. I didn’t investigate any further.
And now Paris and more refugees and this morning I must get up and write.
Why do we write? Have you asked yourself this question again? Have you answered it deeply?
I write because it’s a compulsion.
And, I need to pay the rent. I also write because I want to learn to write better. I want to get inside someone else's head and change my opinion. I want to laugh, cry and selfishly heal my own wounds. I write, hoping that my stories will build bridges, help others feel less lonely, get somebody to open a door that they thought was locked forever.
Now, I see that doors are closing on refugees because of Paris. And I understand.
Today, I will write about how I felt when I saw the little boy’s dead body washed up on the beach.
First, I wanted someone to pick him the fuck up instead of just leaving him there in the cold water without a jacket. I hated the men who left him uncovered to be photographed. I hated the hate that pushed him out to sea only to suffocate. I wanted to clutch him up in my arms, and touch his soft hair, and make him warm again. And I wanted to whisper, it’s okay, you have done enough, and rest in peace. Screw these men.
I have not forgotten, Aylan. I pray for you every morning and evening during my Buddhist prayers for the deceased. Your little body represents all bodies born to live, laugh and dance and breathe, cry and love and hate and make war or fight for peace, to be broken, to heal and die. This is the history of all men and women. Buddhism says that peace is possible. That hate is something we each must change as we awaken to the inherent value in life. Obviously, this may take us a few more centuries.
I know that the boats will have to slow. Borders will close. And that many will suffer because of the actions of a few. For this, Aylan, I am sorry.
I don’t have adequate words to write a new history alone. But I will write what I cannot forget.