Content Warning: Child abuse, domestic violence.
Safer at home is what we are told to do in these United States right now,
and the idea is you will not be able
to spread the virus, or catch the virus, if you are home.
I was never safer at home growing up
and sure, people talk about that—safer at home—
but it’s not safe for everyone, especially if you don’t have a home,
and certainly not one you are safe in.
I think of the girl I pass sometimes, walking my dog at night.
She puts herself in a green bag and curls around the meter block to be invisible and sleeps.
She pulls the bag over her head and draws the cord. I was afraid it was a large animal dropped off
until I got closer and saw it was a woman, the top of her head visible beneath the closed bag.
I must understand that she has no home, and she came from one at some time– that was not safe.
Do you remember the little boy? So cute—with a little man’s hat and
a twinkle in his eye, eight years old. His parents beat him repeatedly because he didn’t put his toys away correctly, and because they thought he was gay. He was eight.
They tortured him. I think so often about that kid, his face eager to please,
at some point someone took that picture.
I wish I could have …saved that kid, loved that kid, made it OK for that kid to grow up.
Because his parents eventually killed him. Safer at home. It terrifies me
all of these locked up houses with people inside not coming out, doing what?
Of course, I agree we are safer at home if we have houses and they are safe—
stay at home, safer at home. Don’t spread the virus.
But for the woman who had that block of eight hours of time while her abuser was at work?
The kids who run into the streets “to play” to get away from home?
For the myriad of teens who are trying to find the window to take the online class,
with their parents yelling in the background. Yelling and then taking it out on them?
I know. I know that if there had been a one-year lock down when I was “growing up” I
never would have– grown up.
I see myself running out the door. A young girl tying on skates and skating for miles on the river.
Climbing trees and building tree forts four stories up. I had to get out. Get up. Get away.
Get out of sight.
In my teens boys with motorcycles met me down the street where my parents wouldn’t see.
Whatever happened to me outside the home, as hard as it was,
was never as bad as what happened inside of it.
Home was friends. Home was running through the woods, smoking cigarettes with friends, looking for rides, and moving, moving free, running out. Free.
Home was rarely safe. My father raging, and more, and we were in the path of the hurricane.
If we were in the home, we couldn’t get out of the path.
That little kid, Gabriel Fernandez, eight years old in 2013. I know why he smiled. He had his hat on.
He was going places.
There are so many people right now who are not safe. Not safe at home. And the outside is not safe.
We are in a pandemic. And the inside is not safe. Because it never was.
Pray. Pray. Pray.
Hestia of the home, Hestia of the hearth: protect them.
Most of us? Many of us? Were never safe at home. And so many of us are no safer at home.
Let us live to fight together again.
Shoulder to shoulder to shoulder to shoulder.
Let us live to open the doors to let the children run,
to let the women free, to let the men learn.
For now, Hestia protect the hearth.
Deep inside the houses the children… all the Gabriel’s…please find a way…
Join with Mary, Theresa, and Magdalene, Hestia.
Find a way- for the boy with the hat to keep smiling
I said over and over to myself as a kid, “You just have to grow up.”
May it be so. May they grow up.
And yes, thank you to all the essential workers who go to work and have to go out.
Especially the cleaning ladies.
Both of my grandmothers were cleaning ladies. The women who I know late at night because I work late at night, that entire workforce—the nighttime cleaners.
All the essential workers—they leave home and maybe get sick and go back home
and leave again. The stress: we are not all in this together.
Hestia bring equality.
Hestia keep the house fed. Keep it warm.
Make it be at least safe –enough.
Safer than the outside. Safe enough to get by.
Hestia, you who preside over all sacrifices, and maintain the home fire:
help them find the fire to defend themselves if necessary. You are honored with the first sacrifice in every household. Hestia you chose to spend your time not on Olympus, but on earth with us, with the mothers you loved. Then protect us, all of us, Hestia, the orphans and the missing children, and the home, the safer at home who are not safe, protect us.
Who can we pray to? Who can reach into the locked homes? The locked rooms? The scared children? The silent women? Hestia intercede for us. Please, if you can,
please, make it truly safer at home.
In These United States
Marie Cartier has a Ph.D. in Religion with an emphasis on Women and Religion from Claremont Graduate University. She is the author of the critically acclaimed book Baby, You Are My Religion: Women, Gay Bars, and Theology Before Stonewall (Routledge 2013). She is a senior lecturer in Gender and Women’s Studies and Queer Studies at California State University Northridge, and in Film Studies at Univ. of CA Irvine.