Gadban is one of them.
His steel-blue eyes shine from his face, furrowed by grief and pain, yet somehow they radiate a kind of calm and imperturbability that gives support.
Fixing the children's gazes.
Takes away their fear, at least for a little moment.
Caressing their souls in the here and now.
He is not paid, even the water and his food he brings himself. The medicines are organized somehow. The bandages, the disinfectant, the cheap cigarettes for himself.
Everything is rare barter goods, for which dining tables, blankets, last belongings are given away. Nobody thanks him. Who should?
There is no one left to look.
I have a little boy on my lap who plays with my camera. With his dirty fingers he smears around on my lens. It doesn't matter, I let him... I can't take any more photos anyway. I don't want to take any more photos.
Instead, I humbly observe what true devotion means. Mercy, humanity.
In its purest, its most unconditional form.
As we begin the long drive back to Erbil in the early evening, we sit in silence in the car. Dana, my friend and fixer, rarely at a loss for words or crude jokes, turns off the radio, much to the chagrin of our driver. He squints his eyes.
"What a fucking mess," he mumbles, more to himself than to us, looking out the passenger window. Scorched earth and bombed villages pass us by.
He hands me a Kleenex in the back as I try to stifle my sobs.
Fuck it, I just start crying.
What a fucking mess, indeed.