At The Voices and Faces Project, we believe that art and writing can play a critical role in creating change. "The Stories We Tell," our testimonial writing workshop for survivors of sexual violence, domestic violence and trafficking, was developed to be transformative for both the writers who take part in it, and the readers who encounter their poetry, fiction and creative non-fiction. Here is a selection of some of this writing, from our workshop.
A Letter to Lady Liberty by Rebecca Singer
Dear Ms. Liberty,
I respectfully acknowledge that your arm is likely quite tired. Holding up the flame of freedom, truth, and justice is no small task. In fact, it is an enormous responsibility. I do understand how difficult that burden can be, as there are days when I have not been sure that I could fit another tale of violence and victimization into my backpack. It seemed like too much work to hoist it onto my shoulders and venture forth into the world. But then my young neighbor Josephine's impish smile is there before me. From beneath her Christmas braids I see her sparkling eyes daring me to forget her bruises.
So, I get it. I really do. But, come on, no one told you to demand the tired, the poor, the huddled masses. That is on you. You said, and I quote, "Give me."
So we gave. The tired. The poor. The huddled masses. The wretched and the homeless. The tempest-tossed and those yearning to breathe free.
And now, and now, you want to give up?
Or worse: not only do you want to let your arm down, turn off the light, and shut the door, you want to put on a blindfold.
Or worse still: you want to use your torch to shine a light on those tired, poor, huddled masses so that the vibrant, rich, and rugged individuals can root them out and push them down and send them away.
If it were only migrants, or only communities of color,
Or only people with disabilities,
Or only those who identify as LGBTQI,
Or only Muslims,
Or only women, I might be able to write it off as just one unfathomable and unsavory quirk.
But, really, this wholesale institutionalized structural hatred and violence against all but the few whose cloaks of privilege allow them warmth and protection — it leaves me reeling, it leaves me questioning the very ground beneath our feet.
I get that your work is hard. I get that your arm is tired.
But my heart is too heavy and my fear too great to let it go.
So, Ms. Liberty, I hereby offer my arms to help you hoist the lamp back up to its proper place as one of a thousand points of light, reminding us who we want to be, who we truly are.
Please hear my words in the spirit in which they are offered, in humility, with admiration for the principles you espouse, with a sense of the courage it will take for us to return to our collective roots.
Yours, Rebecca Singer, American citizen
Accra, Ghana 1995 by Heather Ragan-Kwakye
Gifty and Joy liked to say, "One for love, many for money!"
They had a shoe collection like Imelda Marcos', lined neatly along one wall of their simple sparse room at the Hotel de California in the Adabraka neighborhood of Accra. A traveler's hotel, popular with tourists from around the world with its dingy charm, 1930's British colonial architecture and reasonable rates, the California was a great place to start a new life. A ceiling fan in their room was extra and happily paid for. Two narrow, foam-mattressed single beds, a well-swept concrete floor, two suitcases set up on the floor along one wall as "closet space."
Joy and Gifty had come in with the most recent tidal flow from Nigeria to Ghana; the one driven by more stable politics and economics and familiar English and pidgin, drifting across Benin and Togo into the arms of what they hoped would be well-paying expats and locals in a growing metropolis.
Gifty was an experienced seamstress back home, but couldn't wait to plan her wedding, be married and teach primary school back in Nigeria. Joy was hoping that her fiancé would help her to become a nurse.
They began at the Kilimanjaro Bar, a hot-spot for Nigerian sex-workers and expats to hook up. I was their shadow for three months.
We lay on their motel room floor, giggling about breasts and beauty and bodies and penises and romance and faux romance and pick-up lines.
They were hopeful entrepreneurs, wide-eyed planners and dreamers who slept curled around one another like birth sisters, twins embracing away the cash transactions and indignities of first-time drunkenness and the men who used their vessels as repositories for their own disconnected loneliness in a place thousands of miles from a sense of Home.
Over the months, the girls became competitive with other Nigerian women on the road to anywhere else, and with locals who didn't enjoy immigrant laborers in the sex trade scene.
Lighter was better, they told me and each other. I watched as they experimented with bleaching creams from China with no instructions or warnings in English or any other local language. Their faces and necks and arms became blotchy with chemical burns from extended applications. Their eyes dimmed with nights of insults and injuries, the exchange they endured for dreams that receded little by little with the ebb tide back across the borders.
The shoe collection for a time remained immaculately kept, polished and neat. Their colorful wraps and skirts and gowns stayed impeccable, hand-washed in buckets, line-dried, lightly starched and iron-pressed, and hung brightly on wire hangers on a taut string between two nails, across the wall above their shoes.
But their bodies in three short months became transfigured receptacles of disdain for loneliness, for misogyny, for desperation, for hatred, for everything anti-love.
One night, I was walking along a roadside dirt path from a tro-tro stop to meet a friend at a Lebanese-Italian pizza joint in Osu, a well-heeled neighborhood that had a western-style grocery store. I hadn't been able to find Gifty or Joy for about three weeks. Their room and their shoes had disappeared.
Out of the darkness, lit only by peripheral passing headlights and the tiny kerosene lamps made from condensed milk cans with shoelace wicks on several street food and cigarette vendors' tables...out of the darkness came Joy. Her eyes were glazed, her face nearly unrecognizable, her left arm askew, healed as a broken arrow pointing towards a different future. A man who didn't want to pay, she said. A white man. He had beaten her. She had fought. He had thrown her out of a moving car near Labadi Beach.
I held her tightly for a long time against my own daughter, now growing in my belly just 6 months.
"Tears are for children," she said, trying to adjust her fractured posture, "Children cannot endure a woman's work." she said, "I'm going now. Okyena, wai, tomorrow."
She was 18.
I didn't see her again.
•Written during "The Stories We Tell", The Voices & Faces Project's testimonial writing workshop for witnesses and survivors of gender-based violence.
Tribe by Sarah Sullivan
As the night approaches
We stand united, protected, heard.
The ice and steel of silence is pushed away…
as the warmth of acceptance is reflected on our faces.
We remove from the fire the sharpened stones of our common pain.
Witnessing, validating, honoring the cost required to reach in and grasp our wounds.
We are making an Ebenezer of our life stories,
a pile of precious stones…
a marker to serve as a testimony to those who have yet to find the strength to speak.
And when the task is complete, we collapse onto the grass,
(which has been softened by our tears),
And curl up into the safety of each other's backs.
Forming a separate memorial that lives and breathes
And can finally sleep in peace.
•Ebenezer means "stone of remembrance" 1 Samual 7:12: Samuel then took a large stone and placed it between the towns of Mizpah and Jeshanah. He named it Ebenezer (which means "the stone of help"), for he said, "Up to this point the LORD has helped us!" NLT
My Ghost by Sara Burr
There's a naked woman in the street.
I happened to glance out the door,
Open to the slight breeze this hot night,
And saw her stumble into the road.
A woman without clothes, white skin
Reflecting the light of the street lamp,
Who made no sound in flight.
I watched silently, then
Slowly turned into the room.
What caught your eye, my husband asked.
There's a naked woman coming this way, I replied.
He did not move to her aid, and I stood frozen,
Remembering my own rush for the alley in this
Everyday neighborhood, and he in close pursuit.
Like the nameless woman coming our way,
I knew sometimes it's safer in the street.
Copyright © 2011 by Sara Burr
The Date by Jeanne De Vita
Our waiter has a man-bun and that look I know so well. He looks from me to you, appraising the tilt of your chin as you nod for me to order first. I give him a minute to process that yes, we are on a date.
He says, "I'll be right back with your drinks, ladies," and I smooth my hair, acutely aware that something feels out of place.
By the time he places the chardonnay in front of me, I'm ready to go home. It's not you, of course, you're lovely. Our mutual friends were right, we do have a lot in common. You write feminist lyrics for a vegan post-40 punk band who really live their values. You chuckle self-consciously and apologize for ordering the fish. You're cool and that charms me. But I've been worrying myself for days over how I would wear my hair. You see, for the last six months my hair hasn't troubled me, but since you asked me out, nothing about it has been right. None of my shoes fit, my jeans are too loose and too tight, both at once. I have no idea how I've dressed myself every day in the clothes I'm finding in my closet. There seem to be just so many things wrong with my face. I can't believe I have always looked like this, have I always looked this way?
I've been readying myself with small talk and self-talk and stories and lies. It's so hard to speak your truth over a plate of seared salmon and fingerling potatoes, so by the time the wine comes, it's not the hipster with the man-bun or anything about you. I am just tired.
That's when the negotiations begin. I promise myself like a child refusing her veggies that I don't ever have to see you again. First date and last date, no harm done. Just get through a few more bites, I think after all I'm enjoying the pesto puree. I'll sip the wine, I'll call an uber, and then, I promise myself, I can go home. Alone.
It's hard to be me every day of this life, every day that follows the days after the star-stained night when the person I could have been died at the hands of the person I was forced to become.
I am tired and my face feels funny. I know that when it's my turn to talk, I squint in a way that looks like pain and my nose gets bigger. I try not to imagine what I look like to you as I speak, and sip, and taste, and I hope that as I open my mouth the promises I whisper to myself don't slip out for you to hear.
Soon, I've finished my drink and the waiter comes back and something does slip out of me. It must be funny whatever I said because the waiter laughs and looks at you. You smile at me as though you're in on the joke and I realize then that you are. You say that I have a gorgeous smile. I realize this place must have kind light.
These laughs, these smiles they bring me into the moment and the chatter about leaving, and running, and getting back to being alone softens a bit, almost stills. I focus fully on my meal, I accept a bite of yours. I contemplate a second drink not because I need it but because I feel convinced that I can stay for one drink more.
By the time the bill arrives, I realize I've made it. At some point I pared the conversation down from two to one, from the one in my head to only the one passed between you and I.
I haven't run away. You walk me outside and I am less worried about the many ways my inadequacies must be obvious to you. I am less consumed with tripping over words that trap me into truths too difficult to qualify as small talk.
"Good night," I say. "I had a nice time. We should do this again."
I always say that. It gives us both options.
•Written during "The Stories We Tell", The Voices & Faces Project's testimonial writing workshop for witnesses and survivors of gender-based violence.
Ireland by Audrey Smith
When your mother comes to visit, you show her all the usual things: the blue-gray buildings where you’d read Friel and Beckett; the library where you’d sat writing in the mornings; the coffee shop you’d escaped to between classes, where the baristas would look at you with disdain for sleepily ordering an Americano just before remembering that you’re in Ireland and they don’t call it that. You take her to the bookstore and introduce her to the woman you’d befriended there—who’d ordered Alison Bechdel’s Dykes to Watch Out For to the store for you on the day you realized you wouldn’t be studying “women’s literature” in any of your classes, or at least not any time soon. You bring her to the Centra on the edge of campus and she says something under her breath about the criminally overpriced cheese; you make a vague reference to the many occasions you’d frequented this establishment, most often on Saturday nights, and always in search of ice cream and cheap wine.
You show her these places, but you do not show her the others. You do not bring her to the common room where you first saw him lounging on the sofa; you do not point to the O’Connell bridge and say this is where he asked if he could get a kiss off me and then leaned in close, the stink of his breath like lime vodka and cigarettes. You do not bring her to the staircase, or to the hallway, or even to your own dorm room, and you do not tell her why. Because when he’d left you finally, you stripped the sheets that still smelled like him and then hid the clothes that he’d pulled from your limp and shaking body. You do not show her the shower where you tried to scrub him out of you—until you bled all over again, until you gave up and crumpled to the floor and let the water prick hot on the back of your neck. You never show her the mirror—but when she is gone you look in it and remember the morning after, when you first saw your face in it, when you first saw that there were bruises.
Instead, you wind your scarf tighter around your neck and show her the sidewalk where the bus had dropped you off, straight from the airport, for the first time. Here’s where I stood, you say, when all I knew of Ireland was what I’d seen out of windows—when everything that would happen still hung—shimmering, ephemeral, and just out of reach.
THE WAKE OF DREAMS: AN AUBADE by Anonymous
I dream of burning houses, my hands
around another’s neck.
Philosophy is not
for young men.
You dream of water
panta rei like a river.
Where is something solid?
Only you and me.
I know you cannot sleep,
but soon it will be morning.
I’ll make coffee,
donuts with sprinkles.
See the sunrise,
no grass out of place.
I know how much you love
You are a wilderness
amidst the trash of towns
as plastic hurries undrowned
on the river’s surface.
This Midwest sun is real,
only burns you if you let it.
Please don’t forget
to put sunscreen on your forehead—
Don’t wake me
in my dreams
I hear your voice
like a song sung underwater.
Ice always in the river,
I’ll swim with you on my back forever.
Philosophy is learning
how to die.
You were always wiser
In the myth of Tantalus
the murdered child
rises from the dead,
but can what’s done be undone?
I’m not so sure.
Philosophy cannot tell.
This dream of you
is all that’s left.
The Daylight Basement by Carrie Anderson
All the times are the same time and we are in the same chair it is brown like the carpet is brown and it's the kind of chair that reclines when you pull the lever on its side. On another day I might pull it over and over and launch myself backwards again and again just to feel the falling the sudden bouncy resistance that ends the fall, but today it's not me who pulls the lever, the man does it, the TV is on, it is the shape of a box. On the screen men are running and depending on when I open my eyes they either chase a ball or throw a ball or collapse into a pile of men on top of a ball as the people behind them groan or cheer and they wear blue and orange and white all of them, the men and the people in the stands. The TV stays on while the man talks, this is rude I know to talk while someone is watching TV, he might miss something and then have no way of understanding what happens next, why the people on the screen are crying or laughing or getting up from the dinner table when no one has taken a bite. But the man talks anyway he uses his library voice, his mouth is in my ear, his breath smells like food he has chewed but forgotten to swallow and he has placed a blanket over us, yarn zigzagged together, itchy, the plasticky threads rubbing against each other make a sound like a hum. The man asks me the question I don't know the answer to — what is it what is it what is it — he wants me to give words to what he is doing and I don't know the answer but I know the word, it's not the right word but it's the only one I've been given, so I say it, I say it again, I say it over and over. And did you notice? — that the curtains are green, they are always green every single time.
This Day by Melissa Starr
This professor likes me. One day in the future he will write a letter of recommendation for me to include in my grad school application, and I will get in the program. Protocols do not allow me to read his letter, but I do read parts of it ultimately, when I am accepted into the Master's program. The head of the social work program recommends me for a fellowship award, which I do not get. He includes quotes from Dr. Carlson's letter in his own recommendation, and asks me to proof read it. So I know this professor likes me, and I knew it on this day.
Dr. Carlson teaches the Abnormal Psychology class in my undergrad program. He reminds me of my little brother, the youngest one. They share similar facial structure. My fondness for my brother may transfer a bit to my fondness for this professor. Dr. Carlson writes me notes on my tests, commending me on my answers. At first I assume he does this for everyone, but then I learn that many of the students think the tests are hard. I study, but Abnormal Psychology isn't hard. It's about lists of symptoms, memorizing the criteria for each disorder, and recognizing what separates one from another. Like bipolar I and bipolar II. Does the person experience a true manic phase, or not? And anorexia shares many aspects with bulimia, but a diagnoses of anorexia requires a body weight significantly lower than then the norm, under 85% percent of what would be expected given the other variables.
It seems I learn these things easier than some of my classmates. It might be because I have some reference points to attach the information to. I am older than the average student, and life provides us with reference points. I have known many people, and been many places. In the future, the year that I finish my Master's program will be the same year that I turn 50.
As far back as I can remember, I have loved to read. Reading has gifted me with a large vocabulary. Just don't ask me to pronounce all of the words I know, because I have read more than I have heard, even today. I do know the meanings though. I remember learning in grade school about root words, and suffixes, and prefixes. For me, this knowledge was like having the key to a secret code. I could figure out most words by using the context and what I knew of their Latin origins. So hypomania holds meaning for me, even before I read the definition, because I know the parts that make up the word. Maybe it is this understanding gives me an edge over the younger students. I wonder if they still teach root words and such in grade school. I often read the materials before class. Not always, because I was taking a heavy credit load to finish the program in three years instead of four. Trying to make up for lost time. I do not remember if I read the chapter prior to that day. What I do remember is how my body felt when Dr. Carlson read aloud the DSM 4 criteria for PTSD.
A. "The person has been exposed to a traumatic event in which both of the following were present:
(1) The person experienced, witnessed, or was confronted with an event or events that involved actual or threatened death or serious injury, or a threat to the physical integrity of self or others.
Frozen. I look down, down, down as each word fills the space around me. The world slows and my heartbeat quickens, pounding, pounding. My face is flushing, or has gone pale. I don't want to be here. No way out. Breathe. Breathe. Breathe. Don't look up. He continues:
"(2) The person's response involved intense fear, helplessness, or horror."
The world is still in a sort of slow motion. I know these things, all of them. These words do not lend themselves to distinct definitions, they blur together simply as the feeling of my body. I hear some of my classmates having a side conversation about nothing at all. Dr. Carlson is speaking… "persistently re-experienced, intrusive and distressing recollections, dreams, flashbacks" .... I am breathing. I can breathe. It just takes focus and looking down, but not at that page, here, this one. Others in the class engage in a discussion with the professor. I remain with "…actual or threatened death or injury, a threat to the physical integrity of self, …a response including intense fear, helplessness, or horror". I remain, with a pounding heart and an inability to meet the eyes of my professor, for fear that he might recognize my knowing. In a room full of people, I sit alone, breathing and breathing again, confronting the knowledge that I might be the only one in the room who comprehends the meaning of his words.
Bishop Brom by Barbara Yoes
Paul is a pain in the ass; I don't even like him, but we have something in common; shame and
pain. I wear a purple blouse, a black skirt and black sandals. The jacaranda trees are casting their weightless beauty to the concrete below; it is June, 2007.
I step up to the courthouse, but not before the door opens. I notice a woman behind me, and Paul whispers in my ear, "It's time." The woman asks if she can clip the microphone to my blouse and what I assume is a battery pack receiver to the inside of my black waist band in the back. Paul and the woman say: "Tell him whatever you need to say."
I walk up, confident and strong, knowing I am stepping up to the gallows.
The cross he wears is huge, it is silver and as big as his chest, it hangs over black robes. He is small, but I know him, not personally, but nonetheless, I introduce myself. I shake his hand as he recoils with recognition on his face. I follow him. First at his side, then behind him as he begins to shake his head, "No."
Two men behind him yell at me with authoritarian voices: "You cannot speak to him." But I speak to him, and I ask him questions, following every question with the word; "Sir?" I notice camera crews. I try to keep up with him as he tries so hard to avoid me. There is something wrong but momentous happening in this common place. Why am I here? I am so scared and yet my voice is strong. I feel out of my body, yet rooted, and therefore, I am calm within a storm.
GUM STUCK IN HER THROAT by Aliza Amar
The sound wave reached her ear…
You look good said the voice.
They do what they often do, judge the world externally and superficially. Going deep to the unknown they might encounter the biting teeth of another reality.
Her eyes staring at the voice, traveling fast to the world unknown to many, a world built by the landscape of emptiness, abandonment, neglect and fear.
The walls of her bone and skin are hollow, where she could only hear the noise of the past.
The deep pain and shame wrinkled her years.
She lives in the shadow of her ancestor's extinctions.
Year after year she stood still in silence, remembering their pain, suffering
and loss. Remembering the un-imaginable.
She can't help but wonder, would anyone ever remember her? Would anyone see deep inside her world?
Would anyone help in the reconstruction of her landscape, growing hope
and blossoming peace, reviving her organs with a flash mob dance,
dancing to the rhythms of her authentic truth?
Awakened, she slowly pulled out the gum stuck in her throat, for the first time she could hear.
The sound of her voice filled the air with sunshine. Sunshine is in her story,
in writing and sharing…
Sunshine is in the blue color of the sky,
the sound of roaring engines…
Sunshine is in the room,
listening to unfamiliar voices…
Sunshine is brushing off the dust of shame.
Silence nearly killed her.
Breaking the silence revives her to joy, freedom and self-expression.
Abandoned Houses by Alisa Bernard
I've always dreamt of houses. Sprawling heaps of architecture litter my dreamscape. They vary in nature, shape, size and purpose but are consistent in one singular feature: they are all abandoned. They stand alone as if the world around them forgot they existed and the earth they stood on crumbled long ago leaving only these structures floating on islands in space. Each house is unique; one a roman villa, one a dilapidated desert shack, another a converted tree house complete with elevators run by pulleys and levers.
Though abandoned these houses all have a presence, a residue of the former occupant. Perhaps a previous dreamer's spirit still dwells where I now stand. Rarely do I feel these spirits are happy, but rather I feel the weight of their being pushing down on my shoulders. This weight intrigues me at first but inevitably it will cripple me into terror. I always flee. Frantically I run down hallways, corridors and aisles attempting to escape the oppression of solitude, yet not quite solitude, I feel slowly crushing the breath from my lungs. I can never seem to conjure the scream begging to escape my throat but rather a gargled whisper is all I have strength left to utter. Forever in these dreams I run or sometimes swim or climb trying to escape the confines of these pillar strewn cages. In my mind the house is itself a trap with many entrances but only one exit, and that exit is long since wiped from my memory. Every turn is new to me and every room is different. But always that presence, that spirit that stirs when it feels my fear is always there.
Sometimes I find a place to hide, behind a door or under a chair but always that fear finds me. In the form of rushing water it sweeps me away or sometimes it will take the guise of crumbling floor boards beneath my feet… but it always finds me.
Waking from these dreams is a form of fear itself which I avoid at all costs because the terror of laying in my own bed not sure if the dream is over or not is just as paralyzing as the solitude that threatened to engulf my soul within the dream.
Wake-Up Call by Sharon Naylor Pettigrew
There is rest.
The room is quiet and dark.
The air is cool.
The sheets are clean.
I sleep through the night.
No one wakes me.
My body is whole.
No missing parts.
I breathe easily.
I feel safe.
He, the one I left, used to wake me.
It didn't matter if I was asleep, or on my period, or had a root canal, or
just nursed my baby, or fought with him, or if it was the day of my father's funeral.
It didn't matter if I said, "No."
My body was his...the Bible said so.
The Brick House by Rhonda Cochran
The yellow bus pulls in front of the two story brown brick house. I go down the three stairs of the bus and look up at the grey sky above, I close my eyes and take a deep breath of the cool air. I turn and wave to the bus driver who is smiling and waves back. She motions for me to head into the brick house. I hesitate, but slowly walk to the front door. The door is a beautiful door. The top half is made of glass. Glass I had broken not long ago that was replaced.
I turn the knob and enter the hallway looking around. Where are all the people? Who is here? I slowly walk further into the brick house and see a man and a woman talking. Their expressions are ones of anger with each other. Their words fall on my Deaf ears, but I know something is wrong. The man looks at me and points to the upstairs. The brick house has 16 steps that lead to the 2nd floor. I walk the first 8 then the landing, then the last 8 steps and turn to my right.
The tan room had a bed with stuffed animals on it, including my beloved Michelle. Michelle made everything familiar. I have had her since I was 3 years old and she is my closest friend. My teddy. She knew all my secrets. We didn’t need language to communicate. In my mind, if I thought it, Michelle understood.
I sat on the bed and took off my coat. I ccould feel the vibrations of someone coming upstairs. The man walks in the room and fear instantly fills my body. He kisses me on the forehead and points downstairs and makes a motion to his mouth. I slowly try to form the word in my voice “eaaat?” I ask as his head nods.
I walk downstairs through the living room. The TV is on and a teen girl is sitting playing an Atari. I only got to play after I did things for the man. She turned and looked at me and smiled. She got up and headed toward the table that was set for 5. The man, the woman, and the 2 older girls. They all began to move their mouths talking as I sat there, invisible, unable to understand. There was laughter, side glances, and silly faces by the 2 girls. I couldn’t leave until everyone was finished, it’s amazing how long it takes people to eat when they have others to talk to. I looked around at these familiar, yet unfamiliar faces, house, and room in silence. I am invisible, but I am home.
VIOLENCE MADE HER A LIAR by Marilyn Campbell-Lowe
The alarm went off at 6 AM, and Gloria jumped up! She was excited to start her first day on her new job. It had taken her a long time to find this position. She had interviewed in many places. She was proud and excited to have landed such a prestigious job. Added to that she would be working for a true heroine of the women’s movement, Charlotte Kline. Charlotte was strong, brilliant, famous in the Public Relations world, and Gloria was to be her assistant! Okay most of what she would be doing was typing but still, she would learn and she would be around Charlotte. Gloria thought of herself as a feminist. She had burned her bra in college. Written on the subject. Performed Margaret Sanger on the radio. She stood for women’s rights in this new dawning of the second wave.
So the alarm went off at 6 AM, and Gloria jumped up, took her shower, put on her brand new clothes, paid for with the money her mother had sent, and looked at herself long and hard in the mirror. Then time came rushing in. Thoughts came rushing in. What was she going to tell Charlotte? How would she explain this on her first day! It was so awfully embarrassing.
Gloria’s mind suddenly switched into survival mode. What lie could she tell that would make sense? That would sound believable? The lies came rushing in so easily it surprised her. She had fallen downstairs. Run into a door. Her baby had hit her with a wooden block. “Wait, I know, yes, that’s perfect, he’s a soccer player after all.” The lie formed an idyllic scene in her head. She imagined a sunny, summer blue sky, the bright green expansive lawn of Prospect Park, Brooklyn, where the men played soccer through the summer every Sunday. “Yes, that sounds convincing,” she told the distorted form the mirror.
“What happened to you?” Charlotte would ask. And Gloria would be quick to answer, “I know, can you believe it! On my first day of work no less?! Yesterday, I was with some friends for a family picnic in Prospect Park where our husbands were playing soccer in a championship game. We were winning. We were up by two. I was sitting with the other wives and children on the sidelines, thank goodness the baby was in her carriage, because I was in the wrong place at the wrong time let me tell you. All of a sudden this soccer ball flies right at me and hits me hard in the face. I just didn’t see it coming. It came out of nowhere. Ha, ha, ha.”
And that’s exactly how she explained it to her new boss the next day. That’s how she explained the swollen, blue, painful, embarrassing, helpless, frozen, beaten down, worthless, ineffective, loser, whore, lying piece of shit, left black eye, that her husband had given her the night before her first day, working a prestigious job, for a heroine of the women’s movement.
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March 26—27, 2011:
"Through The Voices and Faces Project's writing workshop I found my voice—and I found the joy that comes with realizing that I don't have to go it alone. Thank you for affording me the opportunity to be heard, to hear others, and to experience immeasurable healing."
- Elaina Meier, Wauwatosa, WI