“Women’s barrack!” he screeched, pointing.
I scrambled away from his fury and slithered into the women’s building. They were all pushing each other, and screaming. Their clothes had already been removed and carted to the building next to the rail station. Chairs stood on the sides and dressed men prisoners stood behind them, chopping off the women’s hair.
I walked forward to an empty chair. I motioned to a girl closest to me. Her hair was dark brown; tangles running down her back like a waterfall. She sat on the chair and I shaved off all her hair. She cried softly as I did it. She was so skinny and petite that her ribs were like broken shards of rock from underneath her skin.
“Are they going to kill my Grzegorz?” She stared up at me with large eyes. They were grey- white; swirling tide pools filled with bouquets of gleaming pearl seashells. Her eyes were framed by thick, black lashes set in a delicate face.
She was actually quite pretty.
I stammered and turned pink and asked who Grzegorz was. I thought it was amazing how I could still have human, boyish feelings in a place like this.
“They are going to kill him, aren’t they?” she asked. She blinked and I was freed from the intensity of her whirl pool eyes.
After so long being so close to death, you stop caring about others. It’s every man for himself. I long ago stop worrying that I would be lonely, because typically, I would befriend a Sonderkommando one day, share bread ration or something, and the next day, I would be cooking his shot body on the racks.
So naturally, like an idiot, I said, “Why should you care about him? What about yourself?”
She looked up, through her crystal tears; her gray eyes were ancient, like the ocean; beautiful, depthless. “You’ve never been in love, have you?” she smiled faintly.
I gaped at her. I tried to answer, to try to make her see logic; that it was her who she should be worried about, but I stumbled over my words. Her smile grew wider as I failed to prove her wrong somehow, but her eyes grew more worried; they produced more tears until I was sure a fountain was on in her skull somewhere, water exiting through her sockets.
In the end, I replied that I hadn’t.
“If you had been, you would understand,” she responded.
More than half of her thick hair was lying on the floor; I was trying very hard not to nick her scalp with the blade.
She asked me why I would not answer her.
“I don’t want to disappoint you,” I said.
She requested politely that I not speak to her in riddles.
I stopped the razor for a moment. My eyes raked over all the women in the room; lining up to be taken through the tube to the gas chambers. I would not lie to her where she would be taken, but I would give her hope about her beloved.
I asked her how old her Grzegorz was.
“Seventeen,” she answered.
“Well,” I said, “That’s good. He’ll probably live to work in the camp, like me. If he’s young, and he’s a male, he’ll live.”
I winced. This was not always the case.
“Ahh,” she sighed, grinning thickly. She closed her eyes and I finished shaving her head.
“My Grezgorz will live!” she exclaimed and looked at me. “Thank you, thank you.”
I tried to smile.
She stared toward the door where the women were being pushed and shoved out. “But I will not?”she whispered.
The word was cold and hard. It was hideous. I felt like I had spit acid at her, the way she recoiled and shrunk inside herself, trying to contain her fear.
I could not think of anything to say. I could tell her that death would come within ten to fifteen minutes. I could tell her not to look through the portholes at the amused spectators. I could tell her that I would be there to remove her body later, when she is was heaven. But I did not.
As I led her out the door and the Kapos whipped and shouted at the women, I thought of something; I told her I would look after her Grzegorz.
She touched my hand. She looked back at me once, before the sound of the truncheons coming down on bodies and the shouts of, ‘Showers! Showers! You are going to wash!’ grew fainter and fainter and she was gone.
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