Thick heat hit my face as I pulled back the curtain and moved into the room. Inside, everything felt baked-in and still under yellow flickering lights. There were two other nurses there, silently and quickly (as we say) “putting the room back together”. New supplies went into drawers to replace the things that had been used, linens and towels into bags, surfaces cleaned, restoring order and readying for the next moment. The nurses’expressions were gentle, yet keen, and their movement almost rote and instinctual like birds, darting around the room.
In the center, raised high on a gurney, lay the little white pile of blankets and child that had brought me to that room. My eyes scanned and I swallowed hard. The color of the little face tripped a wire, and an alarm in my brain. Immediately my heart jumped and my mind and instinct flipped a switch towards an algorithm of assessment, a pathway towards an intervention. But no intervention would change the heavy, solid stillness that hung around the little pile, and covered every iota of every thing in that room.
I held the camera by the lens, and in the weight of it cupped in my palm, was a strange tension. Wombed in the dew of the sweat of the the skin of my hand and the heat of the room, it was as if the thing itself, toiled in agony. It was as if the thing itself toiled in the tension between begging to be released from it’s duty, and daring itself to step…right up and carry out the work it was tasked to do, which was to document by photo, a dead child’s injuries.