He approached me abruptly, purposefully, and unapologetic. He wanted to know what my talent was. I scoffed in his face, too shocked to hide my disgust.
When had I been reduced to just a performance ability? Did he see me as the main character struggling through my scenes or was I the understudy, desperately waiting backstage for her moment to shine? I took a deep breath, preparing myself to answer the nameless man and found my mind unlocking moments I had worked so hard to bury.
It's funny how a stranger can intrude on your life and send you spiraling down the rabbit hole. My memory vomited up the most painful night I had experienced...one I preferred to think of as an observer, rather than as a participant.
She sat there curled up, panting like a crazed dog trying to recover from the strain placed upon her body. Her eyes met her own in the mirror and she dropped her head in shame. How did she let this happen? Why couldn’t she stop it? How long, God? How much longer?
The questions were pointless. No matter how hard she racked her brain for answers, her life had spiraled out of control. Where she had once had stability her days were now filled with uncertainty, panic and fear. She had become a stranger to herself. The stranger was so far from the proud woman she knew before. She could no longer hold a conversation without waves of anxiety flooding over her. Clothes were used as a shield and her deep laughter came few and far between.
The thudding of the beast’s footsteps grew louder as she heard it draw closer. Her heart pounded against her chest and beads of sweat formed across her temple in anticipation of round two. She forced herself to stand up, nauseated by the pain searing through her broken shell. She had neither voice nor physical power but she did have an inner strength, immeasurable. Weak and exhausted, she knew she would crumble under his power instantly, but she could not give up on herself.
The foul odor of the beast entered the room before he did, making her gag from its intoxication. The beast was sick. She had tried to nurse him to health but her love for him had only made her his primary target.
The beast would not meet her eyes as he entered the room - perhaps a sign of the last trace of humanity he may have had left.
With the first blow she closed her eyes and transported her mind to a time of freedom when her life was full of richness. There were days when she could feel the rays of the sun penetrating her body and wrapping her in a blanket of warmth. The sweetness of her smile and the sparkle in her eyes were infectious to those around her, but her hopes of love and joy were laid to rest as her body exhaled its last breath.
I snapped back to the present as he asked me again what my talent was. Survival. My talent is survival. It's not pretty, it doesn't sound melodious to the ear or dazzle the eye, but it is ferocious and ravenous for life.
You see, I remember things by feeling: intense, awkward, painful, embarrassing, joyful, content, and neatly filed in my mind, holding me captive to moments in time. For better or for worse, and stuck there like a splinter pushed too far down beneath the skin.
I reminded myself why I was even in that hotel lobby. It was the annual Grand Canyon Bahai Conference. Instantly I beamed. Being around other Bahá'í's allows me to breathe easy as a woman. We are taught our worth from a young age, our importance to the development of mankind and our equal station to all men.
As a woman, I'm the primary educator of my children. How incredible it is to know the method in which you raise your children will be a reflection on mankind!
I left that conference knowing I had to live the rest of my life making sure I raise my children to know that there is no person on earth who should be allowed the power to rob them of their happiness. Ever.
My children are young but I promise humanity I will raise them to be citizens of the world. We are all worthy of a good life.
JOURNALIST: Natasha Badkoubei (@itstashabadkoubei)