Copyright © Ann Nielsen 2004
Once I lived in a strange place. It was a town in the desert where all the rich ladies became very fat. They lived on butter and cheese and sweets, and when they were rich enough, didn't do anything much at all. They got around and lived only with the help of their servants and slaves, who did everything for them, and in that small place, they lorded over every aspect of everyone else's lives.
Like them, the houses were fat and round; small bungalows to large villas, made of whitewashed clay, with bowed walls and conical hat-like, red tile roofs. In the poorer neighborhoods, they were stuffed together like rolls in a pan.
During the years I lived there, the population was probably about three thousand people, young and old, rich and poor together. In the town lived rich women and very rich women, not so rich women, -middle class I guess you could say; and then there were a small population of servants, and lots and lots of skinny slaves. Oh yes, and a little over a hundred men and boys, but they're another story which I will come to later.
The truth about the condition of slavery was disclosed to me, as fully as possible, one day after my mother made a business mistake and went broke. Our house and possessions were confiscated. My beautiful gold earrings and white linen dress were slipped off and handed over to a matron at the slave market. I was shown how to wear a slave garment so it wouldn't fall down, and then I was given a bucket and scrub brush, and led to the latrines. Suddenly I realized why people didn't like being servants, I don't think I had ever considered it before. What an ass I was, I realized.
I hated servitude immediately and resented my mother for having lost our fortune. By the time I was ready to mount a protest, it was a little late. Soon after being sold, my baby fat fell away, just as easily as my expensive clothing had.
When I was still a little girl I fantasized about the idea of escaping. But I was too afraid. Everyone new there was nothing outside the town worth having. On the maps, the town was an oasis of bright green in a sea of brown, fading at the edges to nothing but empty sheepskin. I had asked a few times of course, but the answer was, ‘No, nothing else'. -As far as I could tell, that was true; walking or sitting atop the wall that surrounded the town and it's fields, groves, and pastures; before I was sent to the slave market, that is, all I had ever seen was flat land, scattered with sage brush, mesquite, and acacias, stunted by the perpetual drought.
There were people that lived out there, however; to be sure, because they came to trade with us. In any case, when they showed themselves they were a sad scruffy lot, and naturally never allowed inside the walls of the town.
I don't think they like us much, the outsiders that is; I heard from a school mate they call this place "Meat town" because we eat so much of it, and think we're all crazy because we want to be fat.