The Market

Once again, it was the season for weddings. The young women came down to buy husbands; the young men came down to buy wives. For three days, they circled fountains of radiant statuary and crossed plazas of faded mosaics. They danced to flutes and lyres, conversed, kissed, and ate almonds and oranges. The man from the south came to see the girls. It was whispered that he was rich. As he strolled along, he stopped once to whisper to a quiet, ordinary girl who was neither plump, nor slender, nor very athletic, but who was nonetheless beautiful in her own way. Walking close to him was a man from the east, who spoke to a blind girl with a limp. When they were about to pass one of the most beautiful maidens, she gestured and said, I warn you, I will not serve. I will not be your hebe, your artemis, your aphrodite, your pallas, your hera or your gaia, nor will I be your muse. I am not your little virgin or whore or maid or mother or goddess or confessor. I will not tolerate a man who whispers to other women, a man who lacks the courage and the coins to march straight up to me and take me captive. Mark well what I have said. The man from the south said, It was good of you to announce that, but you should warn the others, for the girl I was whispering to is my newly betrothed. I’ve been pining for her for years, and finally saved up enough to buy her. I merely walked over here because you were staring so intently, and I thought you had something to say. Forgive me for being mistaken. The man from the east laughed in her face, saying, I have been chosen and bought by a bride who wants my company. I was merely following my friend here. She is blind and almost lame! the beautiful woman cried, and turning to the other, shouted, Your wife is nothing at all! Nobody could describe her! The man from the east said, Do not insult the crown of a man’s life. A virgin strives to keep her body safe and healthy–one day, after she marries, this purity and courage will pursue her–she will show young men and young women how to protect themselves, be patient and longsuffering, and pursue what is good. A whore serves more than most people, making them feel happy and loved, even if her manner of doing so earns her just or unjust condemnation. A goddess has power, wisdom, and glory—only a fool would reject divine fortunes and favours. A mother makes life and is the reason we are all standing here today. All of these things are beautiful, but it seems that you love nothing beautiful. I love the blind girl because she is all of those beautiful things and is far more beautiful than any other woman to me here, and perhaps one day I shall become like her and be worthy of her love. In this life, everyone serves someone or something for a reason, whether you buy or are bought. The only difference is whether you will be a captive to what is beautiful or to what is horrible. Do not hate me! the beautiful woman cried, covering her eyes. She whispered: Not everyone can be free.

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