I say to Her, “I would like a new story please. Mirthful and soulful and sad. Please.”
It’s time for a story. An old story.
Let’s unfold it and bring it to here.
A story as old as a dog whose whiskers turned pale,
As soft as a kiss on the brow where it fell.
As sharp as the knife held up by the male.”
And here is the story She wished me to tell. Please.
In the far kingdoms of the land there was once a child destined into priesthood. Ordained from birth, for it was the nature of the people of the place to make such early claims.
The child had wishes to meander and dawdle about, to linger in dreams and surrender to a deepening sense of belonging elsewhere, outside the stone temple with its statues and altars and too many candles.
The child wished to be with the storms and their rains. With the hollow of trees. With rocks and stones and pebbles and boulders and entire frightful mountains. Frightful only if you forget to breathe.
The child slid around, always on the outskirts of the requested attendance to the priesthood trainings and the responsibilities expected. Coming to hear lessons, but only so, always late, always the first to rumble away, barefeet, fingers lightly fluttering on the air as they began to ascend the hill by the river by the temple of gods so old their names were never written to begin with.
The tall priest with the blank face fumed inside. First there was the scolding. But words mattered so little in the child’s ears. Then came the long ruby lines along the child’s back. The child sat, oblivious while meaningless tears of pain streamed down. Nothing mattered if there was an outside to lean upon later on.
He knew, the tall priest, there was no taming of that one. Not within the tools granted to him. Not yet.
It happened on a day the child was out, as always. That was every day. But also, that was a different day. Lying down strewn along a patch of moss in the meadows above the temple, the child rolled around, stretched all limbs, caressed shoulders and belly button, knees and feet. And then the child touched with curiosity the very centre. A caress. Nothing too unusual.
“But. This,” She tells me, “was a different day.”
Suddenly. Unexpectedly. A wave catapulted its way from there to up above, and down below. The child jumped on feet trembling with a wholly unfamiliar sensation. And the child knew, a holy sensation. For the child was more well practiced than any other child of these meadows in the sacred act of reverence. Of awe. Of curiosity. Of intensity.
The child stroked the place again. Gently. In wonder. In appreciation. Feeling the change of the body. Blossoming with blood. Fattened. Liquidy. A sense in the body akin to a rare delicacy in the mouth, to a magicking of two rainbows expressing in the eyes, to the sound of flutes harmonizing near the camp fires over gentle autumn nights.
And a while after, sweet saliva in the mouth, eyes closed to all but the inner sense of joy, an explosion. A pulsation. An understanding:
Adulthood has come.
The newborn adult went down to the temple. The sense of an end, and, the child-no-more thought, of a new beginning.
“I promised,” She intervenes, in this salacious, barely appropriate story She’s chosen to tell me today, “I promised you upon your own request a story soulful and sad. The mirth now ends.”
The tragedies we’ve learned to inflict upon each other.
And specifically, on women. For that, my friends, was the child’s gendered body.
I tell you that only now.
The tall priest knew. The priest was looking for the signs. For the highlighted cheeks. For the breathing that has changed, expanded, learned it can be brought in and out in a new way, breath of a sounding never used before.
That night, under the lights of too many candles, the smell of Myrtle in the air, the tall priest with the blank face laid down the child that has been. He unfolded her. She was afraid but willing. A kiss on the brow. An old dog that he was, whiskers turned pale. With a sharp knife he sliced off the tip of her delicate centre.
This time the woman screamed. And screamed. And screamed.
She did not know.
They did not tell the priestess to be of the ritual. A ritual concocted by whom exactly? Gods? Men? Venus? Mars? The story that needs to be told?
Because see, I invented none of this. This is not of a myth I created. Just a story that asks to be told. It is old. So old. And yet, we cannot face it with the equanimity reserved for the atrocities of things that passed away, that moved along, that fell from the face of the earth as we moved forward, humanity, with its insatiable gods-given need to explore, to experiment, to see what is and what can be, and yes to inflict pain and yes, to control…because this story is still being told.
I forgot. I forgot there are stories I do not like the telling of.
Even now, not too far from here, women scream and scream and scream.
“What is better,” I ask Her. “To know once and never again, or to not know at all?“
She wraps her arms around my mind.
“My time with you for today for now for this sadness has come to an end. All I can add, child, is that the woman, the priestess, still went out to the meadows every day and in it found her joy of the soul, and the many other joys of the body, even without that joy of her mutilated clitoris.
I hope this gives you solace, child.”
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