Excerpt: 'Love Always, Petra' by Petra Nemcova

The poor man was trying so hard to cover me. And I was so not caring about it. He stopped his attempt to clothe me and laid the shorts over my lap. I pointed to my pelvis. "Broken, broken."

Both men nodded their heads, their faces full of compassion. How brave these men were to put others' safety ahead of their own and to come back into the ever-threatening danger. I soon learned that many people were doing the same thing. Again the men tried to help me up. I screamed.

"I can't sit up."

One of them motioned with his hands, asking if he could give me a piggyback ride.

"No, no, no," I cried. "Not possible. Too painful, too painful."

They looked at each other and then at me. I understood that they could do no more; they would have to go and bring back more help -- at least I hoped they would. I motioned to the man who had covered me with his shorts, asking if I could have his T-shirt. Immediately, he took it off and tried to put it on me. I shook my head. "No, no." I didn't want to wear it, I wanted to use it. The water had gone so low, I couldn't reach it with my arm anymore.

I took the shirt, let it fall into the dirty water, and then drew the dripping cloth up to my face. It felt so good, so refreshing, that filthy water. The men bowed and went off. I dropped the shirt again, pulled it up, and rubbed the dripping cloth over my neck, my breasts, and my arms. On my right wrist, muddied and shredded, was the bracelet from the Chiang Mai temple. I lay back, put the wet shirt over my face and chest, and closed my eyes. I read once that when people are dying, their whole life is flashing before them. I wasn't so sure I was dying, but while I waited, and prayed for help to return—for both myself and all the others—I began to think about Simon first and then my mother, my father, my sister, my grandfather, my grandmothers, my friends... my work. I believe that there is a pattern to life, and lying there, cradled in the palm tree, I could see how what had gone before in my life was making it possible for me to survive.

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