This piece was developed during the second Bartimaeus Institute Online (BIO) Study Cohort 2016-2017. These pieces will eventually be published in a Women’s Breviary collection. For more information regarding the BIO Study Cohort go here.
Hos. 1:2-3 When the LORD first spoke through Hosea, the LORD said to Hosea, “Go, take to yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom, for the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the LORD.” 3 So he went and took Gomer, the daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son.
Hos. 3:1-3 And the LORD said to me, “Go again, love a woman who is loved by another man and is an adulteress, even as the LORD loves the children of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love cakes of raisins.” 2 So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and a homer and a lethech of barley. 3 And I said to her, “You must dwell as mine for many days. You shall not play the whore, or belong to another man; so will I also be to you.”
Only she can tell her story. Only Gomer knows her truth. But I heard her dead woman story over and over from the mouth of her canonized abuser, her voice excised. Her face beaten blue then resurrected as a meek beloved by the voice of her attacker–his will replacing her breath. Her husband’s version of the story lives in my bones, in the structure of the scaffolds invisibly pressing down, pitting us against each other. “Don’t be that woman,” the whispers said, but “you know you are her,” too. Any stirring, any desire to have gifts brought you by a laughing turn of lovers must be crushed. I can’t know her experience, but I had to imagine her voice to try to seed survival.
According to him, she’s a metaphor for everything wrong with the country, an abstract concept of disgust. They said she’s lucky to have a man who married her instead of just using her, this man who claims to be father, master, god, lover, jailkeeper. She is bought and sold, he exposes and displays her body and entertains his friends with explicit details of her sex life. She gets no say in the role he casts her in, of Woman eviscerated as lowest, whoring, lustful, abandoned. He claims God feels like he does. He says even the good Lord wants to beat His wife sometimes, but He always forgives her, always comes back. He’s the righteous victim in this divinely inspired romance.
But what would he be without her? Her life, their marriage is his prophecy. Caught up in the cycle of a man’s possessive rage, what echoes is her absence, the negative space of her active presence as a beloved human. Where does her buried voice surface?
Perhaps we both loved men we dreamed were rescuers. Perhaps she looked to him for refuge and he gave it.
But at the snapping of a twig, a little fall, a simple loss, we found at midnight they were hollow, gasping heroes. Beating back their shadows–the kind we always harbored, hurts we knew and guarded since our earliest steps. Where we groaned and stretched, staggered with the weight of bearing that painful truth–that no one saves us but sometimes we can ache together– they snapped at once. They became our hunters. Bursting in over us with righteous fury, cursing our weakness. Blaming the few tears that escape this sea that we each alone can witness.
There is some kind of loneliness in knowing: fool, he doesn’t know I feel it too.
That I look strong because I’ve been terrified so long. That I seem weak because I leak at the seams. That I have fought this fight before, alone. That I have been tender so long that my face is stone.
He claims he had power over her, that she was in his debt since the very moment of her birth. No wonder if she tried to take a little power back, or a lot. Not be so dependent, earn her own life on the side. Escape from his all-encompassing control.
I want the story to end differently. Maybe, when he came to take her back, she looked him in the eyes, brown hands firmly claiming a child’s shoulder, “Yes-my-people.” Maybe she stood rooted in the dirt, saying:
You did not bear me,
you did not save me
You were not there when I lay in my blood
you cannot take me any longer
God saw you steal my wages
God saw you strip me, shame me
and I don’t believe God told you to do it
I am not your woman
You are not my god
Maybe: God chooses me.
Maybe: Get the hell out. Now.
Swallow him up
Swallow him up