Trigger Warning: sexual assault and eating disorders.
Memory–a bewitching realm, magical and melancholy, real and imagined–absconds as soon as it is experienced. We do not know where The Past hides, but it is both heavenly and harrowing that we live in a reality cursed to fade as soon as it is felt.
When I first meet people, I often ask them about their first memory. Most people respond with a wistful sigh, furrowed brows, and a recollection of vague impressions composed of colors, nebulous sense-perceptions, and broad brushstrokes of consciousness inextricably linked with their emotional awareness.
My first memory is vivid; I was sitting in my wooden high chair. I recall some edible substance on the little table before me; I remember reaching my arm toward the food, grabbing it, and attempting to place it in my mouth. And I remember looking at my hands and my arms, and feeling an emotion that I now know to be wonder. I could move my fingers! I had control over this … this thing–this body; I could control my hands! What magic!
I often strain to remember that feeling I had when I was a toddler, when it was still such a magical thing that I had the ability to pick up my Cheerios, that I could wiggle my toes, or that I could raise my arms to play peek-a-boo with my father. And I always thought how interesting it was that my first memory was remarking on the oddity of me having a body. Physical awareness was not instinctual, it was discovered with delight.
Those same two fingers that delightfully reached for Cheerios became my dear friends that helped me in other endeavors. It was those two fingers that clasped my pencil when Mrs. Brown taught our kindergarten class to write our names. It was those two fingers that turned the pages of all the books I voraciously read: the fairytales, the fables…
It was those two fingers that gently caressed my grandmother’s prayer rug … those two fingers that clasped my little sister’s tiny hands when she was born, and those same two fingers that I used to teach her how to use her two fingers to hold her pencil…
Time passed, but those fingers were dear helpmates, given to me by God to do good deeds: spreading love, attempting to lift others up in lovely clouds of encouragement.
…but it was those two fingers that I shoved down my throat, forcing myself to vomit, purging myself, trying to feel clean again after my rapist shoved his two fingers inside me.
Innocence disappears quickly.
No gentle transition.
Trauma does odd things…
What used to be God-given cohorts became helpmates of a different sort: a way to purge myself of someone else’s sins.
Wonder wanes when trauma sets in. Confusion, guilt, denial…
When is forgiveness actually just denial masquerading as clemency? When is mercy actually just minimization masquerading as grace?
I want my tears back.
I want my years back.
So when Donald Trump speaks of using his two fingers to “grab women by the pussy,” I am reminded that fingers are simply servants of the heart and mind, and they do the bidding of that person’s soul.
Where have your fingers been?
When I turn the pages of my favorite fairytale, I find myself staring at those two fingers … when did helpmates for Cheerios become instruments for torture?
And I am reminded that Pontius Pilate used his fingers to wash his hands, ‘cleansing’ himself of any guilt or shame in the death of Jesus of Nazareth. Those same hands refused to save an innocent Man from crucifixion.
And I am reminded that though I was violated by a man’s hands, there is another Man’s hands that were violated for me. His hands were pierced for me. For you. For the absolution of sins. So that we might confess our iniquities to God, to one another, and with a contrite heart, repent of the wrongs that we all have committed against our brothers and sisters.
“I moved on her like a bitch…”
Where have your hands been?
I am haunted by Teresa of Avila’s words when she wrote, “Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours… Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are his body. Christ has no body now on earth but yours.”
God forbid we use our hands to hurt and harm others. God forbid we lose our moral sensitivity, shedding our mantles of gentleness in exchange for crowns of putrid misogyny, and racist, insufferable vitriol.
May our fingers work ever so diligently to avoid becoming that which we see in Trump. May our fingers remember to touch one another in unadulterated, innocent hugs, handshakes, and embraces. May our fingers remember the joy, awe, and wonder of grabbing Cheerios, instead of “pussy.”
Photo by Dan Wilkinson.
About Mia Tabib
Mia Tabib is a graduate student at Yale Divinity School. She loves the stories people tell in their eyes. She loves watching candles flicker when blown softly into their flame. She loves Christ, The Church, humans, existence … and she thinks love conquers all.