Sinarth, who had not looked in a mirror since taken from his parents, pushed forwards. He stared at his reflection, barely recognising and not trusting its apparition. A large dried green pampus grass beside him brought out his sun-darkened skin, the blue sky framing it all. His hair was askew, matted in places, sitting above his dirty and grimy face. The new grubby torn sack did not even sit straight, skewed up on one side. His bare chest sunk, with skinny arms by his side, the chub on his face completely gone from endless working and only gruel twice a day at best. A frown of worry started from his forehead in a great V, pushing down one eyebrow and compressing his eye to sink across his face.
No haunting desolation in his eyes from sickness, starvation or despair; possibly temporarily missing, being surrounded by the groups of children now, exactly as he remembered back in Siem Reap. Leaning forwards on his toes to see his reflection once more, the children behind came into view, enabling him to perceive what he had not noticed before. All had a similar frown, some the beginnings of that desolate stare but only just. Most had matted hair, the girls definitely better groomed, though having no instruction from their mothers.
Nearly twenty children posed as if waiting for a photograph. Smaller ones in front and bigger behind, the Cambodian children blessed with a gift for positioning themselves in infinite faultless poses. Several crossed their arms, others gingerly touched their hands together or hung their arms loosely against their sides, unsure at that instant how to present.
One boy held his too large trousers up by swapping his hands, grasping them at alternating angles to prevent them falling down. Another boy thrust his right leg out in front in defiance, while two boys placed their arms around each other’s shoulders smiling, their first touch of another in years. The girls smoothed their skirts made from curtain material or sacks, ragged and shapeless, with younger ones wearing shorts and all naked from the waist up. All from different families, brothers and sisters separated, now forming one family with each looking after the other, the children of Cambodia. Posing for a portrait, they squinted in the glare, their rich skin darkened in endless summer heat, a puddle’s reflection and flash of sun to capture it all.