|Self Portrait of the Artist as a Witness of Atrocities|
digitally altered painting
by Mary Stebbins Taitt
click image to view larger
Cowardice and the Two Ongoing Murders
A girl is screaming and pleading for someone to help her as a man approaches and stabs at her with a knife. I turn and start toward them, then panic and hide behind a wall at the edge of the stairwell. I pause, weigh the options of rushing to help her or running to escape. The man has a weapon; I have nothing. He is larger and stronger than I am. I decide to run for help. I am at college. I run to the top of the stairs and enter the administration area. Another man with a knife is attacking another girl. This is within sight of the desk where I was going for help. Pandemonium surrounds the area and the receptionist is talking urgently on the phone—but not about the ongoing murder, about something administrative and unrelated. I try to interrupt and tell her about the girls being attacked, but she shakes me off, annoyed and busy. No one will listen.
Tuesday, March 26, 2013
I am a girl being attacked (multiple times), a girl seeking help, a woman trying to help others, and a person avoiding responding to calls for help—all at once. I am truly all of these people. I am the coward who runs rather than helping the person in trouble. AND perhaps I am also the (a) man (person) attacking with the (a) knife.
- Ø Although I have not been murdered (not yet, knock knock), I have been attacked and threatened with murder more than once (once with a knife) and have been attacked in other ways as well (rape). Being attacked is terrifying and can be life-threatening or life-terminating.
- Ø I needed help during and after my attacks and had great difficulty getting it (was turned away from rape crisis because I wasn’t hurt enough—hello?).
- Ø I have made efforts to help people in trouble: the fire in the apartment building, the woman passed out on the side of the road, the man having an epilepsy attack on the side of the road, and others. I’ve been turned away begging for help for others.
- Ø I have turned away from helping people for a variety of reasons, fear often being first among these.
- Ø I have learned sarcasm and cruelty from family and partners and sometimes turn it toward others—and sarcasm cuts like a knife. L
This dream resonates for me. I am ashamed of my failures at being helpful. Shame attaches to every phase of this scenario. I want to be at peace with myself, but so many people need help. Including me. I cannot help them all.
I am reading a book, I’d Know You Anywhere, by Laura Lippman, which is bringing up a lot of memories for me. The protagonist, Eliza, witnesses the peripheries of two murders, is raped and fears for her own life. I can see both elements of the book and elements of my own life in this dream.
The book, by the way, is well-written, engaging and suspenseful.