Awoken by a harsh slap, my first instinct is to protect myself. However, it is not possible as my arms and legs are bound to a stout wooden table. Distant chants echo from the darkness around me come in louder as those who chant draw nearer.
Groggy from not enough sleep and stunned by the violence, I whimper because I see that I am only wearing my underwear.
Fear runs through me like ice water in my veins. If only I could move! What are they going to do to me? Oh, Mother, hear my prayer!!
I see flickering lights in the distance. Candles are being carried by figures in dark robes. The chanting is in a foreign language. Where am I?!?!
The leader stands at my feet and I see her face clearly in the candlelight. All of the faces are painted black and white in different patterns. Like masks, they are both frightening and beautiful. I am shivering as much from the cold as from the dreaded faces above me.
Highly personal and secret questions are asked of me by each one of them around the table. I must answer truthfully and without hesitation or all would be lost. After each question, I am rewarded or punished. Reward is an article of clothing and punishment is another slap.
My face is stinging from the slaps and tears, but at last I am warm again for I have answered enough to satisfy their hunger. The soft clothing is like the cocoon of a butterfly.
I realize that the chanting was in Greek.
Carefully, they unbind my arms and legs. They gently massage them to get circulation back. I am given assistance in dressing for my new life. My face is painted in a unique pattern, too. Robes have been discarded and we stand in a circle, hand in hand, united in sisterly love.
I am proud to be counted among one of the most giving and civic minded sororities on campus. My mother was a member and maybe, someday, my daughter will be, too.
January 17, 2007
Patricia A. Harnack