Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Fear

It's probably a bad idea to blog while emotional.  But until the Blog Cops show up and pull me over, I guess I'll write, because this is for me.

As late as this past Sunday, nobody knew where 20-year-old Virginia Tech student Morgan Harrington was, three months after she disappeared from the Metallica concert she'd been thrilled about for weeks.  I took one kid with me to Wendy's after church before we zipped into Target for a pair of jeans for him (poor kid, he was down to three pairs without knee holes), and as I opened the door I noticed yet another of the FIND MORGAN posters that have covered the area.

When the story hit our local paper in October of last year, about how her parents had set up a reward fund, and how Metallica had donated to it, and how her family and friends were determined to get her home, I remember looking at The CEO and saying to him, sadly, "They're not going to find her."  And he looked back at me and said what I hadn't: "Not alive."

As of yesterday, we know where Morgan is, and some part of me wishes I still didn't know, so I could pretend that maybe she would still come home under her own power and not in a box. 

I really, really wish I hadn't read all those Patricia Cornwell novels.  Every so often, my brain skitters off into wondering what Morgan's last hours were like, and I don't know whether that's due to empathy, or to horrified rubbernecking, or whether I'm just examining The Fear again.  Probably all three.

If you're female, you probably know The Fear more intimately than you'd care to acknowledge. These days, it's less for my forty-year-old self than for my daughter, but there it is: that tickle at the back of your neck that says, "Somebody is looking at me and thinking of destruction, because I am female."  The Fear keeps us from walking down dark streets alone and leaving our doors unlocked; sometimes The Fear keeps us from wearing that really hot dress or speaking to strangers.  Because You Never Know.  For most of us, The Fear will stay ghostly.

For some of us, it won't.  I'd like to change that.  I don't know how.  All I can do is raise my boys to respect women, and my girl to respect herself, and vice versa.

Morgan's family loved her very much, and she loved her family.  What's kept me going today is the memory of a choral piece I sang in college, a setting of a couple of verses from Song of Solomon:
Set me as a seal upon thine heart, as a seal upon thine arm
For love is strong as death -
Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it,
For love is strong as death.
 Here's a link to a recording of it on youtube: "Set me as a seal upon thine heart," by Sir William Walton, recorded by the Choir of St. John's College, Cambridge.  I'm American enough that I find it a little creepy for choirboys to be singing this one, although that doesn't usually bother me.  I think it calls for the passionate sound of women's voices rather than the purity of boys' voices.  And this performance is a little slow and bloodless, too - I always felt it was a tempestuous piece.  But the only other recording I could find had serious pitch problems, so St. John's it is.

Hold your loved ones close.  Pray for the missing.  Pray for the ones that miss them.  Hold The Fear at bay.

For love is strong as death.


Cynthia said...

I know what you mean about The Fear and horror that you feel for what might have happened to these poor girls after they go missing. When Natalie Holloway disappeared, I always thought that best possible outcome for her was that they killed her that night. Anything else was too gruesome to think about - and yet, sadly, thousands of young women disappear in this country, on vacations to other countries, and on cruises every year and are swallowed up by the horror of human trafficking.

Why isn't this a bigger issue? All over the world, women and children are the victims of unspeakable violence and we mostly accept it as "just the way things are". Is the problem unsolvable? Is a matter of priorities? Or a matter of it being to ugly to acknowledge, so we mostly keep our heads in the sand until something like this briefly wakes us up?

I don't know what the answer is, but I'm tired of praying that maybe some poor girl's death was at least quick.

lady jicky said...

Its 2010 and women and children still get treated like this.

The Left Coast Nose said...

I remember having a conversation with a college boyfriend about "The Fear"-- I had been grabbed from behind on the street (on the behind) and while completely unharmed, I was thoroughly shaken. I remember saying to him, "how would you like it?" He said, "You know, I would kind of like it if some girl let me know I had cute buns on the street." (!!!!!!) I then proceeded to explain to him that this did not feel like a playful pat on the rear-- imagine an eight-foot rugby player running up from behind and grabbing one's ass-- and not gently either-- that's what it felt like to me. Men don't get "The Fear" very often. (Or at least 20-year-olds don't-- men DO grow up...)

it is sad, and it is scary. But you're right-- teaching our children and ourselves to be careful and to have self-respect is what we can do, as well as look out for one another. As for that young women, she's in a better place now.

flittersniffer said...

That is a very sad story and one I had not heard about in our press. Virginia Tech does seem to have more than its fair share of horrible luck.

I guess some men are rightly afraid of being mugged, which is a more frequent occurrence than attacks on women I believe. It doesn't compare to this, but I was myself the victim of a violent sexual assault by a stranger in a park (in broad daylight) when I was 17, the day before a set of important school exams. I got away when he was disturbed by people out walking their dog, and - perhaps strangely - have felt stronger ever since, rather than more fearful about going out on my own. I guess I have always reckoned that lightning is unlikely to strike twice, and touch wood, it hasn't.