Thursday, March 1, 2012

bearing witness to misery

Tap, tap, tap.

The sound of small finger nails tapping softly on the car window hunt me at night.

Shadows I ignore or try to, using the very veil that I reject to hide my shame. I cannot look at them in the eye and say no. I cannot look at them at all because I have nothing to say. I feel empty of words and excuses. Their misery is so vast that just looking at it gives me vertigo. A nine year old without a hand “tap, tap, tap” I pray she does not make it to my window, all the glass in the world is not enough to keep her out. I look the other way and find some hands, which have no legs and therefore cannot reach high enough to look right at me. And yet I feel naked under their gaze.

I cannot give them something because nothing will ever feel enough. How much? to whom? I cannot make a difference so I look away, away from the masses of ripped old  clothes , from hardened skin and black teeth, and beyond them probably a harder and blacker soul, because  for the one that has nothing, for the one that has no power, he at least has her. He can at least be her master. He can at least take it out on her.

she……she can’t do anything. She can raise his children and then from her son demand a bride price, so that a new she can end up destitute and forgotten.

“Tap, tap, tap” drips the water from the walls in a shelter. The children watch TV in a bare room next door. “Tap, tap, tap” drip the tears I thought I did not have. I thought I was immune. And here I am in a dirty bathroom wondering “why not me?” 

but also: why was I spared only to be made a witness to that which I cannot change

the “Tap, tap, tap” continues

I give one old lady a bill. Her eyes become watery , she touches me while raising her tired eyes to the sky thanking it for answering her prayer.  It’s but a dollar, and  I feel my heart is worth about the same amount.

Another woman asks us to pray for her and I say yes, I will. I lie. I lie because I cannot believe that if there was a god that could answer a prayer he would not have already  answered hers. But I do not have the heart to tell her there is not even that.

“Tap, tap, tap” this time it’s my subconscious knocking, telling me to look away, to close the door, to let them go on dying without me.