Stripes, an Enamel Mug, and Freedom.

June 12, 2013 § Leave a comment

ImageI am sitting at my dining table. It’s Wednesday afternoon, the clouds are hanging down, and I’m making the most of the dreariness by using it as an excuse to light candles. A song by Matthew Ryan is playing out of the computer as my phone silently faces the table – dismissed for now. A mug of steaming coffee nestles into my hand in between sentences and in the back of my mind I’m thinking about the Pad Thai I want to make for dinner. Simple things, it’s true. But it strikes me that these small facts are in fact the marks of freedom. On a grey day, I light a match and yellow sparks. I feel a lull and I pad into the kitchen to heat up milk and make coffee. I am in the mood for acoustic harmonies and I click play. I fancy Thai food and I pop out to grab prawns and rice vinegar. And when I’m done, I cook with my husband and slurp noodles and laugh and talk and enjoy him. I do not feel fear; grasping at my neck and threatening every move I make. My darkness, when it comes, is never complete. And when I fall, I have many hands lifted out to help me up.

I take a breath, and in this moment of clarity, I try to process how incredibly lucky I am. Every story read in the research for my book speeds through my head like a fast-forwarded montage… Zoe, trafficked from Eastern Europe to the UK with the promise of a hotel job, only to be raped repeatedly. ImageSophia, who dug what could have been her own grave, had she refused to service the men forced on her. Stefa, standing on the street corners, crying and praying to be rescued. Shadir, a young Indian boy sold to a slave trader at 15. And then there’s Norman, a buyer of sex for most of his life, who only in old age finally looked into the eyes of the latest woman he had paid for sex, to see “haunting sadness and fear.”

And there is no word sufficient to describe the contrast. I know it is true; that I cannot live a heightened life in order to compensate – that the mundane must go on, will always go on. But oh Lord, the slaves. I am reminded of a piece of writing in the ‘Not For Sale’ compilation:

‘If you have any real doubts left about your ‘position’ in this, remember the many positions sex-trade women will be forced into, on their feet, their stomachs, their backs, theirs hands and knees, to be raped daily.

Then get down on your own knees and thank God that you have not been brought to this. And after you have given thanks, get up and help us.’ (Lucy Berry)

What can I say to you? I feel blessed to the skies and beyond. I will turn my eyes to the gutters and do what I can to lift these beautiful souls out of the depths and up up up into something other than – well, other than slavery. Freedom.


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