Opinion | Make Me A Cold And Pitiless Goddess
After my own metamorphosis — a virgin, then not — I called the 17-year-old to break up with him.
“You’re stupid,” he said, laughing. “You’re immature. You don’t just break up with someone because you’re unhappy.”
The words paralyzed me. Around him I grew murderously watchful, even as I let him do things to me I didn’t want. There was horror there but also a disturbing curiosity. He’d already taken everything, so what else could he do to me?
My mom, like Demeter, stomped overhead, calling my name. She sensed I was gone, that something major was amiss. “Get out of this,” she said. “Get away from him.” She was worried I loved him, that I’d marry him and ruin my life.
I laughed at her. Love him? I hated him. I told her to leave me alone, but now I look at the picture of the girl being dragged into the underworld and I marvel that my mom reached for me as immediately as she did. I scowled and rebuffed her but I heard her, too. Someone was fighting for me, her voice faint above the gray banks where I wandered, and I was less alone for it.
Soon I turned 15. A couple of months later, the boy boasted to me that he was sleeping with a woman his own age, and I broke it off with him officially this time, sobbing not from grief but from humiliation. My girlhood lay dead in a cold blue room, a room I never wanted to revisit, but I woke up the following morning grateful to be free.
In the d’Aulaires’ book, Pan tries to rape the nymph Syrinx. When she escapes by turning herself into a reed, Pan plucks 10 reeds from the ground and creates the first panpipe, declaring it “the melodious voice of his beloved.”
I was lucky enough to keep my voice. I started writing. In my fiction I’ve drowned one rapist and shot another. In my last book, the rapist gets away with it, as most do.
But what I really want is a different kind of metamorphosis, to be not the woman altered but the woman altering. What will it take for us to toss the water onto the rapists’ heads, to watch assured as they flee, the blood-mouthed hounds — guilt, say, or responsibility — snapping behind them? It is not the violence of such a scene that attracts me, but the righteousness. Artemis was a cold and pitiless goddess.She knew — or learned — where to place the blame.
Sharma Shields is the author of the forthcoming novel “The Cassandra.”
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