Monday, February 06, 2006

Survival Stories

I eased the fears of a 17-year old gang-rape victim while a doctor and a nurse asked her humiliating questions and treated her body like a crime scene. Her biggest concern was for the third trimester baby still growing in her womb.

I held the hand of an 18-year old as she screamed the labor of pushing out her second child. Her mother, her auntie, or the baby’s daddy should have been there, but they were all down the street getting high in a crack house.

I sat in front of a room full of recovering alcoholics and drug addicts. They might have thought I knew something they didn’t know. All I really knew was that I better not try to fake it in front of a room full of recovering alcoholics and drug addicts. Thank God that's all they wanted from me.

I counted the cigarette burns on her arms as she recalled the abuse of her childhood. She didn’t know who to be most angry with, her father for inflicting the pain, or her mother for failing to protect her.

I met him in the Black Angel Cemetery. He was the man-boy whose sister had been murdered. No one bothered to tell him what happened until after the funeral. He never got to say goodbye, so we had to do it together, howling his loneliness and grief into the night.

I watched seven caps and gowns walk to the podium to accept the hard-won diplomas they’d earned. Happy tears of I-knew-you-could-do-it stung my eyes and warmed my cheeks. Afterwards, we threw a party and invited everyone we knew.

I listened to the ranting denial of a father who had repeatedly raped his little girl until she nearly dissolved into nothingness. He wanted her back, but she was free to take her 18-year old body away from him. Every day, she bravely carved out a life where the monster-father couldn’t find her. At night, she bravely curled up in a ball and sobbed.

I drank iced pomegranate tea with three generations of African women who had endured Female Genital Mutilation. Mute in my humility, I gratefully listened while warming myself in the glow of their hospitality.

(This post isn’t about me. It’s about those who’ve survived. It was an honor to bear witness to their courage.)

17 Comments:

At 11:12 PM, Blogger Dem Soldier said...

Very good post.

 
At 1:09 AM, Blogger nosthegametoo said...

Your stories speak for themselves... as does your compassion for the human condition.

 
At 7:18 AM, Blogger Lu said...

I love you, T.
I hope that you can read this post and love the life you've lived thus far--one where you've had the opportunity to touch and be touched by so many. Sometimes it's damned tough to recognize a gift when we're given one.

This post also shows why you'll never be a size 3--your Earthly body needs to be a bit larger in order to house that huge heart you have.
--Lu

 
At 8:59 AM, Blogger Anonymous Assclown said...

Those people all have one thing in common.

 
At 9:06 AM, Blogger Bainwen Gilrana said...

It takes an amazing heart to listen like that.

 
At 10:49 AM, Blogger AndyT13 said...

Amazing as always T.

 
At 9:42 PM, Blogger ZooooM said...

I don't get to comment as much as I'd like to these days, but just know that reading you is ALWAYS worth it.

 
At 10:32 PM, Blogger littlefeet said...

you are awesome...

these people you help...
these people you listen to...

they are powerful...because they have survived, and will survive...and because they had you to listen to them...

wishin you -

peace...

 
At 11:33 AM, Blogger Julie said...

I'm fighting back tears at my desk. What an honor to part of those stories. You are very blessed (and they are as well).

 
At 12:18 PM, Blogger Polyman2 said...

Theresa,
Thank God for people like you.

 
At 9:08 PM, Blogger theresa said...

dem soldier - thanks, and thanks for stopping by.

nosthegametoo - I've met some amazing people. Those are only a handful.

lu - I', so glad to have you around this place again.

AC - hmmmm

bainwen - thankfully, we're not alone.

andy - thanks, baby!

zoooom - I'm feeling the time crunch too. Glad we're still in each other's orbits.

monkey - I learned amazing things from all of them.

julie - I'm glad you felt it too.

polyman2 - It's a 2-way street. The values I hold dear are largely shaped by these experiences. These folks paid my tuition with their pain.

 
At 9:22 PM, Blogger naive-no-more said...

I really don't know what to say about this. How do you let it in without affecting who you are in a negative way? It's so much to consider. It takes a strong person to recognize the beauty in witnessing these events.

 
At 9:57 PM, Blogger Lu said...

Naive: I ask T the same thing all the time. I could never have survived the career she's had in the human services field--without either drugging myself into a 24-7 stupor or inviting half my clients to move in with me. She's fucking amazing, isn't she?

--Lu

 
At 10:43 PM, Blogger naive-no-more said...

Straight up Lu! Amazing is bit of an understatement maybe.

 
At 10:53 PM, Blogger Blazngfyre said...

You never cease to amaze me.
You constantly inspire me.

 
At 5:15 PM, Blogger Laurie said...

Makes my trivial day-to-day bullshit insignificant, ya know?

Those people were lucky you were there for them in those moments.. like an angel or something :-)

 
At 6:34 AM, Blogger Dick the Boomer said...

I lost it when I got to the one about the girl with monster father.

I love ya, T.

 

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