The camera is my eye. I open and shut the lens. I sweep the horizon clean. It is hard to focus with so much dust. My eyes burn. Focus I must. That is my job. That is what I am paid for and that is why I am here. I turn and all that I see stretching towards the horizon is this endless sea of mud. Another landslide. Another mountain gone in torrents of rain. Another village buried. A strange sight but no stranger than all the other sights I have seen. I turn slowly in a circle as I walk and peer intently through the telephoto lens. The walls of the huts were mud. There are splintered boards, husks of corn, a rusty pipe that was a chimney. AS IF THIS WERE THE GARBAGE OF THE WORLD.
I stand in rain and gulp water from my canteen. It must have sounded like a freight train. Families ran into the street but it made no difference. The wall of mud cascaded down and buried their lives in an instant. No one heard the shouts or screams. I swivel this telephoto lens. Damn it to hell. All I see is mud and ruins. I must fix something in the frame. Wait. There is a pinprick in the distance. I walk towards it AS IF IT WERE MECCA. This is it. The shot always wanted. No other photographer is here. It is a face with splotches of mud. It is a little girl. She can’t be more than five. I move closer. She is buried in mud right up to her chin. She balances on something. I ask what happened. She says her mother and father her sister and brother are underneath. Her hands are caught like fish in a net. She does not ask for help. There is nothing I can do but snap these pictures. Shot after shot after shot. Time stops. The wet mud moves slow like a claw that rakes her skin. She knows she is going to die; it is just a matter of minutes. I stand on firm ground fifty feet from her; there is nothing I can do or I will be dragged under too. Her eyes are wide. She absorbs the world. She wonders who I am and why I hold this thing in my hands that she has never seen with the long snout that glides in and out. I ask her name. She is calm as lake water without a single ripple. “Omyra Sanchez” she says. Her voice echoes like gunshot in the stillness.
They all stare at me as if I am a freak.
Any journalist knows that what bleeds leads. This photograph will make me famous. I snap and snap and snap until she is gone. This is my job. I travel around the world. I work for Time Magazine. I have done this for ten years; I have no more tears. I pretend what I see is a dream. I close the lens. I hear the click. I pick up my canteen.