Early Morning Light – John Calvi
I haven’t put this story to paper before. I understand it differently now, maybe in ways I couldn’t have decades ago. It was early morning when the phone rang. A woman I’d taught with in prisons was calling. She’d just come back from the hospital with a young friend who’d been raped earlier that morning. Could I come do healing work at the survivor’s house now.
I shower, dress, and leave in haste of bodily motion. But in my mind I am quiet and prayerful. Be thou with me as I do this work. May I be a vessel of Light. It’s a long drive, giving me the time to go over what I’ve heard and then set the details aside to reach my deepest calm and feel the heat grow in my hands. No worries. No fear. Don’t interrupt the given flow of Light with mere human obstructions. Ride the high tide to deliver the best.
She’d been out late at a party. Walking back to her car in a dangerous part of town, this small young woman was literally picked up and carried in to an abandoned building by a much larger man. She struggled and was beaten. And when he was done, he just walked off leaving her in the dark and cold. From the police station, she called her friend. They met with the police at the hospital. And now they both were at the survivor’s home.
I come in slow and quiet. I need to see and feel her response to this assault before I begin any work. Is she tired and weary into calm or fretful? Is she still or pacing? Are words still too much to process or can simple conversation going slow happen without too much pressure. She is in pajamas in the living room. Showered and weary, she’s been given a sedative but hasn’t slept really. We don’t discuss particulars. She feels best close to her friend and not talking very much.
She lies on the carpet and we begin. I keep my hands soft and my touch firm. I only touch her head and limbs and do not approach the areas of trespass. I’ve done this work more times than I can count because sexually abused women make up the largest group on the planet. But always the work is years after the assault, not fresh like this.
There are not words to describe how it feels to open yourself to feel another’s pain come in to your body. There can be no flinching or wincing or partial acceptance. It’s beyond story or listening to the wailing or witnessing desperation. It’s a wave of knives forcing their way through. And any resistance catches like fishhooks. The task is to come in calm and strong. Stand and face the wave. Feel all of it’s meaning and dimension. And let it go through- the bull under the red cape, the car sliding sideways on ice, the grief of trespass, brutality, and disrespect without filter.
I touch her head and shoulders. I hold her feet. I hold her hands and draw down her arms. Each of these is a hello and can we connect essential energies. Mostly it feels like an empty garage, only a shell. But by and by comes that feeling of yes, I am here and soon a flood of that essence of her pushes to the surface. I draw this out as one would unfold a large tablecloth underwater to find the stains that need soap and scrubbing. More and more comes to the surface, show me all there is.
She is still lying quietly with little expression, no sound. And I am working up a sweat doing simple touches, all the heavy lifting is felt and not seen until- towards the end of the work I am sweeping my hands over her as though I am gathering up all the Light around her body. I am scooping up her most immediate and intense self to raise it upward, heaven-ward, for cleaning. And this is when tons of grief lift from her body, pass through mine, and are released. My face crumples with terrifying sadness, my arms stay aloft, and a rage and deep sadness washes through and is gone in moments. The friend sees this and identifies it accurately later. The survivor goes off to bed to sleep peacefully.
I have a long drive home in which to be in awe of those moments and the task of being faithful and doing more somewhere soon. I’ll see her a decade later at a funeral. She will thank me again and I become teary to hear her gratitude and remember that early morning Light.
And now it’s more than 20 years gone as I write this. Looking back I can see this miracle not of my making is what I wanted for the first battered woman I knew, my mother. To live with the unrelenting violence and no one making protection put a longing in me. How this longing became connected to warm hands to lift wounds out of the body is beyond my understanding. It’s a horrible gift- horrible and beautiful. Horrible because there are no gloves save focusing on the Light. And it cannot be done except in the war zone of that persons trespass. It’s beautiful because relief is witnessed over and over in the most splendid geometry of balance and rightness. It’s changed for me over the years, but the basics remain the same. Gathering enough reverence before is crucial. Rest and quiet afterwards are important too. I’ve made a small beautiful life so I can dip into gruesome. The older I get, the more beauty I need.