Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Black and blue

Today was my first day back on the streets after the accident. Although I bought larger framed sunglasses yesterday to sufficiently hide my purple swollen eyes, when I saw my friends on the streets, I took off my glasses to show them what had happened. As the sun slipped behind the clouds and it started to rain, I put my glasses in my bag and decided I didn’t care about all the stares anyway (I got a lot of them). The initial reaction from most of the sex workers was, “Anita, who hit you?” which tells me a lot about their lives. Perhaps most people associate black eyes with violence, and particularly domestic violence, when it’s an injured woman. After listening to my story many of the women shared with me their own experiences with car accidents and incidents of violence which caused their faces to be similarly bruised.

One woman, L. told me that for six years while she was married to her ex-husband, she had to cover-up a black eye everyday due to the beatings she received. When it wasn’t one eye, it was the other. She became a master at hiding the bruises by arranging her hair so it covered her face, wearing sunglasses all the time, and applying make-up. I felt badly that viewing my face reminded her of past trauma but at the same time, perhaps perceiving my vulnerability made her feel more connected to me. Perhaps by seeing the white, privileged gringa banged and bruised up, she felt more inclined to share with me her experiences of domestic violence. Interestingly, all the women yesterday were particularly intimate with me in terms of their own brushes with death. It struck me how another woman pointed out that although her ex-husband used to beat her as well, he never touched her face. She seemed proud of this fact. She said, “I’ve never been touched on my face like that.” I replied, “I’m glad you’ve never been beaten…” She corrected me, “Anita, of course I’ve been beaten, just never my face! My ex-husband used to beat the shit out of me…I had bruises all over my body.” Oh, I see. I’m sure he didn’t touch her face for his sake, not hers.

Another woman S. shared all her various accidents, describing them in gory detail. All of them involved alcohol, unsurprisingly. The other women joked that obviously God doesn’t even love her because he won’t accept her into heaven despite all her attempts to enter. She described one horrific accident on the coast in which everyone was drunk and stupidly, they decided to drive to the beach, but didn’t make it very far before crashing into another car head-on. She was in the back of a truck and of the 15 people crammed into the vehicle, only three survived. S. then launched into all the fights and beatings she has experienced. Once again, I was left with a mixture of sadness and shock at these women’s lives, but also with a profound admiration for their strength and perseverance. Even though I got into a car accident, the trauma of it has mostly passed and I survived with just a few scrapes. It cannot compare to the systematic trauma that many of these women have experienced (and unfortunately, continue to experience). They speak about their suffering in such blasé terms, making me realize that these were everyday occurrences. If I experienced daily trauma I would probably become accustomed to it as well. Sharing my accident with the sex workers and receiving their responses makes me realize, once again, just how lucky I am to have a loving family and circle of friends. Without a doubt, I won the lottery this time around…

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