The BabyJanuary 17, 2005
It was about 7.30 pm when we found the baby. She’d been hidden in a recess by the side of the road, wrapped in a krama, and left with a bottle of milk by her side.
Jamie had rushed into the bar, maybe an hour earlier, asked to use the phone and then explained he had seen her; a child, a baby.
A deformed baby.
She had no eyes, just sealed skin where her eyes should have been, a hole for a mouth and she was crying like a normal baby.
But she had no eyes, no mouth, nor did she have any fingers. She was crying. A crying baby; covered in ants and dirt and shit.
I remember almost retching as we hesitated and looked at each other. Finally Jamie picked her up and holding her tentatively at arms length together we carried her by her kramah.
We drove to Kantha Bopha childrens hospital, the free childrens’ hospital in Phnom Penh. The doctors refused to touch her and instead simply motioned for us, to put her down somewhere, preferably somewhere over there, a motion of hands over there and nowhere near them. Instead we put her into a scale
We were left staring at each other searching each others shocked faces for some kind of a hint; any kind of a hint.
We waited and eventually a French doctor came in and told us in a matter of fact kind of way that yes, she knew this child. She told us that the baby had a congenital deformity possibly caused by syphilis and her grandmother had collected her the day before.
Collected and then abandoned and left to die. We left, walked back to my bike, back to my bar and back to my pregnant wife. On leaving a Khmer doctor asked us for money.
That day, I saved that child’s life; undoubtedly, and then I walked away.
Later I had a dream, a nightmare; a blind deformed beggar walked into my bar one day and I turned her away. Maybe I gave her a hundred Riel to disappear.
What happened to that child? Are you curious? I thought about searching for her and completing the narrative; tying up the loose ends of the story, but no there is no completion.
We simply walked away and we never returned.