Atlas & Alice | Issue 7, Summer/Fall 2016
Excavation is a human impulse, but archeology accounts for only pieces of the story. Inevitably, I will break from empirical evidence and listen to the mercurial patterns of the body instead. In this case, perhaps somewhere between the eye and the temple there is a sacred meeting place where womanhood and pain collide, where a generation ago my grandmother might have embalmed herself in scotch, and decades ago my mother, lost and uncertain, may have been born again, again—if not for their children. If the estrogen running through our cells can account not only for debilitating headaches and hereditary sadness but an intrinsic desire, then perhaps the same darkness interred within us can engender an unworldly capacity for love. If that is true, then maybe, even further back, in some similar shadowy past, Hatshepsut may have first imagined Neferure by her side, and heard her whisper “mum” in the darkness or, even better, a word for queen. The women in my family get migraines, don’t sleep well, cry in the shower, and—with the exception of my mother—drink too much. As a girl, I grew up with neither faith nor religious practice, but I had a remarkable curiosity in ancestry and ritual comfort, which has never gone away. Our lineage is wrought with a threshold for pain, madness, and mania that taught me the importance of lying down in the dark until the throbbing subsides, until we fully dry out, of mummifying the self against our own decline. Is it wrong that, if I have a daughter, I want to teach her this: To entomb herself now and then? To close her eyes and play dead for a few hours until she can handle the light again? Is it wrong that I want to share the peculiar relief of sitting up, fog lifting as we unwrap ourselves, straighten the bed sheets and blankets and step back into the world, preserved?