The only question that torments me now is this: what could his purpose be? Let me rephrase it: what have I become an accomplice to, unwittingly? What is the crime—
And the minute I ask it, the answer becomes clear, dreadfully clear to me. My heart starts hammering, hammering heavily inside my chest. I try to calm myself with a memory of the old days, when for the first time I held my newborn daughter in my arms.
It was then that an incredible thing happened: Tamar not only looked at me but also her eyes widened, and for the first time she saw me, and wrapped her transparent little fingers around my thumb. Now her mouth opened into the sweetest, loveliest smile, and she cooed at me in recognition.
I had never experienced anything like this moment before. Overwhelmed by happiness I felt the pounding of her heart next to mine. It was then that I made a solemn vow: I would become the best father ever, and protect her, then and in the future, from all trouble.
Now I rush out of the court to stop what I know is about to happen.
In The Edge of Revolt, David figures out that his daughter is in danger of being raped by her half-brother, Amnon. When he arrives at his house, no one would tell him what happened. Is he too late?
I follow the clip-clop of the hooves around the bend and down the hill, aching to arrive already, to find my daughter and rock her softly in my arms, as if she were still a baby.
These are the words I would sing to her, this is the promise I would make: “The city of Tyre will come with a gift, people of wealth will seek your favor. All glorious is the princess within her chamber, her gown interwoven with gold.”
But when at last I reach Amnon’s house, the place seems deserted—except for an old maidservant who acts as if she were deaf. She would not answer any of my questions, my pleas. Head hanging over a washbasin, she is bent on scrubbing the scarlet bedsheets, trying to rub away a large stain of blood.
“Where’s Tamar?” I ask, in a voice that is thick with worry. “And Amnon? You seen him? Where’s he?”
She waves her dripping hand at me, but it is unclear if this is meant to indicate that there is no one inside—or that I, too, should leave the place.
I shout at her, hearing my voice echo, with great urgency, throughout the house, “Your master, Amnon, where’s he?”
The maidservant brings a finger to her wrinkled lips, perhaps to calm me down, which is when, for the first time, I start listening. Like me, she cups her ear. There is a sound out there, barely human—but somehow I recognize that it is not the wind, wailing with such despair, such sad lament.
At last, “There. There she is,” the maidservant whispers, breaking her silence.
“Tamar?” I say, hoping the answer would be No.
“Tamar,” she says, her voice cracking. “I was told to do it.”
“Was it my fault? My job is to obey orders.”
“What was it your did?”
I can barely hear her, as she says, “I had no choice but to put her out and bolt the door shut after her. She was wearing an ornate coat, a coat of many colors, the kind of garment virgin princesses would wear. Once she found herself on the street Tamar ripped it. She put ashes on her head and put her hands on her head and went away, weeping aloud as she went.”
Tamar put ashes on her head and tore the ornamented robe by Ivan Schwebel
The desolation of Tamar by James Tissot
In writing of this scene, I was greatly inspired by artists who depicted this moment in the story. Here are two of them, known for creating a series of paintings on the life of David and his family: James Tissot, a French painter and illustrator who became famous painting fashionably dressed women in scenes from everyday life, imagines Tamar coming out of Amnon's house in her ornamented robe, bewildered. His painting puts her in a traditional scene. Ivan Shwebel's painting transports her to a starkly modern setting, suggesting that the plight of a raped woman is both universal and timeless.
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Wow... the first image really, genuinely moves me to many emotions.ReplyDelete
Yes, I love the first image too, such a cold city and nowhere to take the pain... Thank you Carolynn!Delete