A priest and performer considers religion, the arts, and the often thin space between sacred and secular, church and culture, pulpit and pew.

Monday, August 20, 2012

"Sisters, Friends, & Rivals" - Peninah: What More Can I Do?

It’s not that he doesn’t care about me. I mean, he has to – I’m the mother of his children. That’s just it. I’m the mother of his children.

But I see the way he looks at her. I catch him kissing her forehead, touching her hand. I watch as they exchange looks with one another; lovers’ looks. He never does that with me. Elkanah cares for me, I know he does. But he loves Hannah. And it’s killing me.

After all, I am the mother of his children. I’ve given him sons to inherit, daughters to sell off. Healthy children, too, not sickly little ones who don’t survive infancy. I’m always willing, always available. I’ve treated him well, never pushed him away. But he loves Hannah.
But, I am the mother of his children. What good is a woman if she cannot give her husband children? I’ve been the good wife, the dutiful woman, the devoted mother. All she can do is weep, and starve herself, and weep, and pray, and weep some more. But still, he loves her.

She gets the same share of the sacrifice that I and my children get. It’s not fair. The women in the village are starting to notice, and to talk. It’s not fair! She’s done nothing, and I’ve given him everything. But it gets me nothing – nothing.

And it’s brought out the worst in me. I cannot help myself. I taunt her, I make fun of her, I make sure that my beautiful children are always present for her to see, and envy. I’ve said horrible things to her, things not in my nature to say; I’m ashamed of myself, and I cannot stop.
It’s not really my fault though, is it? If only he would stop looking at her that way, stop favoring her when she’s given him nothing. If he gave me the favor, the standing, the love that I deserve, I could easily leave her alone. My cruelty to her, and seeing her weep, is the only reward I have.

How much longer can this go on? She will never have a child, can he not see that? Will he never tire of her, this woman who clearly can give him nothing. When will he treat me with such love and tenderness and longing, the way I deserve to be treated?
Because after all, I am the mother of his children.

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