“Her angel’s face
As the great eye of heaven shined bright;
And made a sunshine in the shady place;
Did never mortal eyes behold such heavenly grace.”Edmund Spenser
She came to see me because I spoke Spanish. She was in her early sixties; no more than five-foot-tall; graying hair; gaze halfway between the floor and the bow of my tie. The kind on non-look I frequently see in people who have been raised in humble surroundings and were never able to shake the feeling that they were somehow inferior to those in positions of authority. She had a serious autoimmune illness, but she also gave me a history of a lifetime of pain. She had always had to cope with severe migraines, or debilitating cramps while she menstruated, or aches that had baffled many physicians. She had been prescribed two different kinds of narcotics and numerous antidepressants over the years. To no avail: she still hurt. Which did not stop her from taking four different types of medications that acted as sedatives.
Why do you take all this medicine if it does not help?
“Maybe it helps a little.”
But it really doesn’t. You still hurt. Maybe we can talk about what it is that the medicine does to you. Maybe you do not need this much.
A look of concern.
This kind of pain that goes on for so long… Many times, it is due to some form of trauma that people suffer early in life. It could go back to when you were a little girl. Maybe you did not feel safe. Tell me about your family. Your father?
“I never met him. My mother did not like to talk about him.”
“Mom was very elegant. Taller than I was. Always liked to dress up.”
“Many times, she ran out in the middle of the night; didn’t come back until daylight.”
She left her children alone at home all night?
“Home? Which home, doctor?”
She looked down to the floor. She was smiling. Not a happy smile.
I could not hide a look of shock and wonderment. She went on. Never a home: maybe a stable, or a shack somewhere, or somebody’s carport if it was storming. Her first pair of shoes at eleven; her first dress when her older brother went to work. When she was eighteen her brother managed to enroll the family in a government program that allowed them to move into a house. Much of the labor done with their own hands.
“Which home?” The way that she said this kept pounding at my head. For a few seconds I had trouble wrapping my arms around this extent of poverty. Then it occurred to me to ask.
How did you get money for food?
She began to fidget with her dress.
“Some of the time, when mom was gone all night, she brought money home.”
That was all?
More restlessness. She moved her head from one side to the other.
“No; no; doctor. Don’t make me talk about this.”
Whatever makes you comfortable. But I think that there may be a connection between your childhood and the pain.
More pleas to leave her alone followed. More nodding; a few tears; then many tears. She begs me.
Maybe it will help to talk.
“There was this man…”
A prominent man. A man with money. Every couple of weeks she was sent to his house to ask for money.
“Do you think that he was your father?”
She shrugs. She smiles. The same not-happy smile.
Now she looks up. I can see her eyes. They are beautiful; soothing; the kind of gaze that was even now, at her age, attractive and appealing. Angel eyes. It occurs to me that she must have been drop-dead gorgeous as a young woman.
“And he gave you money? Every time?”
She nods yes. A lot more tears.
Yes, there was always money. After he sat in his rocking chair and made her sit on his lap. After he made her play the game pretending that she was riding a horse.
“A lot of times he squeezed me too hard. He hurt me.” Then, all of a sudden, he would gasp, relax, and get a few bills out of his pocket to hand to her.
“Did you tell your mother? Anyone?”
Of course. She would get beat up by any adult she mentioned this to. Even the sacristan at the local church, a pious and devout man, hit her when she complained. Then he played the same game with her, without payment.
She looks to the floor again.
“I was pretty, doctor. You can’t tell now; I’m old and chubby. Everyone made comments about my eyes.”
I do not know if it will help to say that she still looks sadly beautiful. I keep my silence.
“What happened to your mom?”
She developed cervical cancer later on (no surprise here). Her three daughters banded together to take care of her, and pay for her treatment, when mom fell ill. All were parceled out to different men while they were children, but not as frequently or intensely as my patient. I ask her why they remained so loyal to mom.
“The state wanted to take us away. My mom said she did not want to break up the family. She fought to keep us together.”
Of course she did, I feel like saying. She did not want to lose an important source of income. Again, I keep my mouth shut. I am exploding with anger inside.
“I was the pretty one, doctor. Maybe if I had been ugly…”
Do you ever wish that you had been born ugly?
She nods yes. A few more tears. While she looks straight down to the floor.
You know none of this was your fault, don’t you?
The grownups that surrounded you did not do their job. You were a little girl. What were you supposed to do? Not your fault.
She looks at me. I get a very disturbing feeling that maybe no one has ever said this to her. I look her straight in the eyes again.
Not your fault. You understand? They messed up. They were terrible to you. You were born pretty, so what? It gives them no right!
She nods. A trace of a smile.
Angel eyes. What should have been an asset became her curse. I think that maybe all of her life she has wondered if there was a way that she could trade them for someone else’s.
I tell her that we should try to get rid of one of her medicines. Maybe a lower dose to begin with.
You are safe now. You have a good husband. No one can hurt you anymore. The pills will not make that horrible man go away. You made him go away. You left. He is never going to bother you again. Give it a try.
She nods and smiles. She agrees to come back for a follow up visit.
We will keep your eyes as they are for now. Maybe later we can talk about a trade.
She laughs and walks away.
Angel eyes. Millions of angel eyes get beaten and abused every day; all over the world. And we worry about who is going to win the baseball game, or how many presents our daughter will get at her wedding. Hundreds of thousands little girls throughout the universe are sold to evil men by their parents. Particularly the pretty ones. We spend $750 billion per year on defense, because we feel that it is that important to have the ability to annihilate any nation that dares to attack us, or even annoy us. We do next to nothing to stop this awful merchandising of innocent souls.
I went home feeling an unusual degree of sadness and futility. I wondered how long it will be before we make sure that angels all over the world are kept safe.
Angel Eyes will be the first chapter of Dr. Garriga’s next book that will deal with abuse of girls and women. We want this book to have lots of publicity; we want to be on Oprah. It will help a lot if we have thousands of followers for our blog. Please convince a friend to follow us.
As Dr. Garriga has said in the past, all of the profits from the next book will go to help educate young women at risk for abuse. Every last cent.
This Post Has 5 Comments
I felt very sad as I read this latest story. The victim/patient is like so many millions of women all over the world. It was especially disturbing that the sacristan did not offer any help. And it is shameful when one who could have offered some help does nothing. I wonder when we will begin taking better care of our fellowmen, I support Dr. Garriga and do hope he can be heard and seen on Oprah.
wow, very powerful and moving story…good luck with getting the stats out there…
A very well written story. I have read it over several times. It is almost like reading a movie script. In fact when the book is finished it might well be picked up by one of the studio’s. Dr. G. you are one great writer. Please keep it up.
Wow! Very powerful!
Any one that steals the innocence of a child should receive the same punishment as murderer. T
hey take oh so much from them. It is a life long punishment for the innocent child.