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  • The Syrophoenician Woman
  • Cristina Legarda (bio)

Matthew 15:21–28

Being an outsider is painfully embarrassing.First no one sees you because they don't want toand you feel like a walking affront to the world;and then when they do glance in your directionthe barely suppressed lip curl over the way you look—your skin / your eyes / the shape of your body /your day-to-day ways—makes you prefer the invisibility after all.

All of that is humiliating enough—the fear of what others thinkthe shame at being different—but to be called a lapdog while begging for helpby someone who's supposed to be a holy man—racist and sexist all in one word—is almost too much to bear.

But I don't care.My daughter is in the grip of some monster.It's so bad I cannot recognize her face.If this man can't see past the rules and codeshis people live for, we are done for.

Perhaps he is tired of being the exorcistor perhaps he's just tired (we all have our stories)but I am now too tired to let it go.I say please. They start walking away. I say please again.I don't even care that my voice is cracking. [End Page 131] even lapdogs under the table eat the children's scraps

When I say that he pauses. That's all I need—just look at me for a moment and see me here.He does, and I can see it at last—the recognition in his eyes, the shifting faithas he sees the willing forgiveness in mine.To escape our prejudices is hard, but not impossibleeven when our laws like second mothersraise us to believe in them.

The demon is gone I whisper to him.Yes it is he whispers back. [End Page 132]

Cristina Legarda

Cristina Legarda is a physician practicing in Boston. She has taught literature and ethics at Tufts University and medical ethics at Harvard Medical School.



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pp. 131-132
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