Grieving for Reality

Tonight, as I turned off “Mr. Selfridge”, I felt tears burn hot at the backs of my eyes and I fought a brief battle that I finally allowed myself to lose. I covered my face with my hands and just sobbed for a minute or two. But I wasn’t just crying. I was weeping. I was grieving.

I must note that what I am about to describe has definite trigger warnings attached to it.

The end of the episode depicted Kitty Edwards, head of the beauty department at Selfridge’s, heading home after work. As she did, she passed a few ex-soldiers returned from WWI, one of whom asked for a penny. She shook her head and didn’t stop walking. Then he called her a bitch, which stopped her in her tracks. He accused her of spending her money on fripperies and yet couldn’t spare a penny for a man who had fought for King and country. She informed him that she hadn’t been shopping, she’d been working. He told her that he’d seen plenty of “working girls” during the war making good money “lying flat on their backs”. She spat back that she was head of department, that she sold lip color and rouge, had just worked a fourteen-hour day, and it was no wonder that he and his lot couldn’t find jobs. Several of the men converged on her and the one speaking to her grabbed for her. She fought back and hit him. Enraged, he struck her so hard that her face bounced off the wall of a nearby building. He then instructed one of the men to “keep watch” while he proceeded to cover Kitty’s mouth and assault her. Thankfully, Harry Selfridge was just leaving the building, heard her muffled screams, and ran over, shoving the men away and shouting for the police before the man could rape her.

Perhaps I had a surge of hormones, perhaps I am getting more emotional in my deepening thirties, or maybe it’s because, deep down, there is a visceral fear, a despicable truth, and terrifying reality attached to this depiction.

I have been extremely fortunate in my life to have never been verbally or physically assaulted. However, I have had friends who were. I have had extended family members to have been assaulters and, thankfully, gotten the punishment they deserved for it. The truth of rape/assault culture and its prevalence is not hidden from me. And scenes like this hit me hard with that reminder.

I wasn’t allowed to walk home from youth group as a teenager, on the same street that I had grown up on, because it was considered too dangerous for me to be out alone at night.

I remember a year in college when my guy friends wouldn’t let me or any of my girlfriends walk anywhere on campus alone after sunset after we had four safety alerts for assaults posted in four weeks. I remember resenting it. Not my friends’ insistence on escorting us but that my freedom to walk our beautiful campus was curtailed and we were given reason to fear and worry.

There have been events that probably would have been great fun but that I declined because it would have meant that I would have been walking back to my car late at night in unfamiliar territory.

For years, I refused to buy a winter coat with a hood because a hood meant that I couldn’t use my peripheral vision to see who was coming up behind me.

My doors have always had and will always have the deadbolt shot.

My keys are always in my hand when I move through a parking lot alone at night, and I immediately lock the doors again the minute I’m in the car.

I don’t get catcalled much anymore but, the times that I did, I would ignore it and increase my walking pace. I’m a small woman so slipping through and losing myself in a crowd was a well-honed talent.

I hate that I have had to do this. I hate that I will teach my daughter to do this as well. I hate that her father and I will worry about her when she’s away from home and regard strangers with at least a modicum of suspicion at first.

All of this, including my tears at a television show, is because I acknowledge the reality of rape/assault culture and the deep wounds that it has inflicted and continues to cut into our society every day. I weep for it, I grieve it. Like all women, however, I continue to live it every day. When, in order to be true to life, even art must depict it, how can you deny the reality of its truth?

Fan-fiction: The Daughter of the King

Author’s Note: Based on the television show Forever, starring Ioan Gruffud,. This is written from the perspective of a female character as she rides in an ambulance towards the end of the episode “The King of Colombus Circle”.

“Courage. You are the daughter of a king.”

The daughter of a king. I certainly didn’t feel like the daughter of a king. I was lying in the back of an ambulance, the klaxons whirring and whining overhead, drilling into my temples, my blood leaking out onto the gurney. And he sat over me, reminding me that I was the daughter of a king.

A dead king.

A king who was assassinated. By an assassin who had now come for me. And for my son.

My son!

My baby!

There I lay, shot and bleeding. Soon, I would be dead. The dead daughter of a dead king. Soon, my son would be as I had been: an orphan. Shuffled back and forth through the system all his life. My precious, beautiful, black-haired baby boy.

I felt the tears on my face but I couldn’t tell if they were hot or cool, whether the world was loud or quiet. All I could feel was the weight of fear on my chest.

I couldn’t leave my boy an orphan. I couldn’t let him grow up like I had: shuffled between foster, group homes, and CPS facilities all his life until he aged out, never cared for, never loved. I thought I had found love, once, in the arms of his father. A man with a wife and family of his own, but I convinced myself that he loved me. He didn’t.

But he gave me my son. And I loved him. My son who would soon be motherless.

No. I couldn’t let my son grow up like I had: wondering every day where he came from, why he was given up, why no one loves him. I couldn’t let him go through that.

I could not die.

I would not die!

He held my hand, that man from the police, with the lilting British accent. The man who had told this Cinderella that she was a princess. He told me to have courage, that I was a king’s daughter.

And the world slipped to the left, darkness flipping over my head.

= = =

When I woke again, I saw my son. He was in the Queen’s arms. She smiled and, seeing me awake, came over to the side of the bed.

“I hope you do not mind me holding him,” she said, “It’s just that he looks so much like his grandfather.”

Grandfather. Father. Gone. But I had not been forgotten. My son would not be forgotten. He would be raised with a family, with love. A grandmother and a mother who adore him.

Princess or not, I would give him a legacy.

Multiple Dramatastic Love Affairs

I love dramas! Particularly, period dramas. “Downtown Abbey”, “The Paradise”, “Upstairs, Downstairs” (new series), “London Hospital”, and “Mr. Selfridge” are my current favorites, along with the most recent season of “Ripper Street”. I am still chomping at the bit, though, for “Marco Polo” starts on Netflix today, as well as the newest season of “Downton”, which premieres on PBS in January (hush, my beloved Brits, I know you’re all ahead and whatnot). That is the best part of my New Year. “Downton Abbey” is one of the few dramas that my husband and I have enjoyed from the very first episode, devouring the first season on DVD and then settling down to watch each new season together week by week, year by year. It’s been one of my most positive television experiences ever.

The cast of “Ripper Street”

I have dreamt of myself in those stories, inhabiting those varied settings, gowns swishing around my ankles, navigating my way through upstairs or downstairs, shops, music halls, etc. What else draws me is the language. It is why shows like “Ripper Street” and “Spartacus” clasp and hold me close: the attention to detail of syntax and vocabulary. It is lush, wonderful, and enthralling; it draws me into the story to listen to them speak, to hear the phrasing and lilting sentences roll off their tongues. I fall in love with their voices, their accents, their different language statures. It gives life to the characters, a deeper cadence to their souls and characters, and ties the strings of my affection around them all the more tightly.

After all, I mean, I am the woman who fell in love with a man partially because he knew the meaning and proper usage of the word “philologist”.

My favorite moment from the finale of “Downton Abbey”, season 4. No, I shan’t spoil it.