Debate Magazine

She Suffers

Posted on the 21 March 2012 by Starofdavida
She SuffersGirl suffers.
It hurts Girl every day, hauntsher nightmares and waking dreams, makes her curl up under the covers and try torock herself to sleep. Girl stays up at night and cries about it. When asked, Girlcan’t say why; she can’t say anything. Maybe it’s the pain that renders hermute, or the muteness that causes her pain. She forgets which came first now.
The silence started long ago. Girltraces it back through history in her mind. She knows what she’ll see; she’sdone this many times before. The history of the world begins to play, like areel movie, in her head. At first, she sees only darkness, but then Girl seesGod creating the world: light and dark, heaven and earth. Then, people.
The story that hurts Girl beginsnow, with Lilith, the real first woman, made of the same clay as Adam. Girlsees God shape the two bodies and breathe life into their souls, watches thetwo frolic in the grasses of Eden,avoiding that tree in the middle. Girl has seen this often enough to know whenAdam will half-attack Lilith with lust, but she still hates seeing him aboveher, hates hearing Lilith cry out in God’s name. Girl mostly hates knowing thatLilith is silenced by history, her true story forgotten, blamed for her ownnear-rape. What hurts most is that she knows that Lilith was abandoned by herown sex, women turned against her by superstitious men.
Generations are born and die,from Eve’s children to the Matriarchs. These women hurt and heal Girl at thesame time, show her that women can be strong but so very weak, all at the sametime.
From the inside of Potiphar’spalace Girl sees his wife, Zuleikha, the woman who was stripped of her own name,sit and cry. Potiphar was a physical and emotional eunuch, unable to love Zuleikha,unable to fulfill her bodily needs. Joseph was a young, beautiful boy who fellin love with his mistress, paid attention to her, gave her emotional support,made her feel loved. She thought he wanted more. He did; they were in bedtogether when he changed his mind. Girl knows Zuleikha is angry and hurt, feelsabandoned and used, wants to wound Joseph as much as he wounded her. The ironyof the fact that Lilith and Zuleikha are so similar, yet such opposites - hushednear-rape versus publicized non-rape - is not lost on Girl.
The Jews are enslaved in Egypt for centuries, then they are freed; theyreceive the Torah on a mountain in the wilderness, wander for forty years, andenter the land their foreparents were promised, Israel. After centuries of peace,the Jews split into two kingdoms, Israeland Judah.
Girl then observes Jezebel, thePhoenician princess married to Ahab, a king of Israel. It interests Girl that jezebelis now synonymous with whore, but the woman never was one; despite an arrangedmarriage, she loved her husband, to the point that she got him the field hewanted even though it meant committing murder. Ahab deferred to his wife’sintelligence, but never loved her. Girl watched her unsuccessfully try to“improve” herself for his sake: she danced with brides to keep herself youngand lithe, wore make up every day. Even when men were coming to kill her, shepatiently applied her face paints. She knew she was going to die, and she wantedto do it in style.
The Jews of Israel are exiled,and so are the Jews of Judah, their Templedestroyed by the Babylonians. All they want to do is return to their homeland.
Vashti was thegreat-granddaughter of Nebuchadnezzar and the daughter of Belshazzar, two evilmen who kept the Jews in exile. Girl knows Vashti was not like them. She too feltlike a stranger in a strange strange land, taken from her home in Babylon and forced intomarriage to Ahasuerus, a Persian nobody who became king through luck and herlineage. She hated this man who usurped her throne, who treated her like he wasbetter than she was. Vashti wouldn’t take that. He would make a party for themen of Persia?She would make one for the women, in his private chambers, no less. He gotdrunk and wanted her to dance naked for his friends? He could wait forever forthat to happen. Girl loves Vashti’s rebellion, but hates Ahasuerus’s reaction: executingthe upstart wife.
Girl stops watching after Vashti;she’s seen enough for now. She thinks about the four women whose lives shewitnessed. Lilith, Zuleikha, Jezebel, Vashti. Some famous, some obscure, allstrong, even if they didn’t realize it. Their stories were handed down from generationto generation, but reinterpreted over time. So the four women haunt her,telling Girl that she must tell their stories, telling her that she cannot letthem be forgotten.
But Girl can’t speak. She willsuffer until she can.

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