Woman with ankh earrings

Isis and Nefertiti

Isis and Nefertiti

There’s a young woman sitting in front of me, five tired feet away. It’s Saturday afternoon and I’m at a bookstore in Atlanta, trying and failing to make words of my thoughts.

She’s in athletic wear and a denim jacket and her ankh earrings are made of wood. The ankh, an Egyptian hieroglyph symbol for “breath of life” exemplifies one's earthly journey as only part of an eternal life. Historians have claimed the symbol originated from the belt buckle of the Egyptian cosmic goddess Isis, credited with organizing the behavior of the sun, moon and stars; inventing agriculture and law and civil society—and thus, maintaining the fertility of the Earth. She was believed, in Egypt at least, to have power over fate. The symbol often appeared as a physical object given to powerful deities to sustain and revive human souls in the afterlife.

In 4th century CE, Egypt’s Coptic Christians adopted the ankh as a symbol of Christ's promise of everlasting life through belief in his sacrifice and resurrection. According to something called Ancient Encyclopedia, the Coptic Christian ankh is “most probably the origin of the Christian use of the cross as a symbol of faith today.”

In the modern West, the ankh is also a symbol of African cultural identity.

A pile of six books sits on our unnamed, broken friend’s table—all self-help guides for the recently tampered with at the hands of another. There’s How to be a Woman by Caitlin Moran, The Breakup Bible by Rachel Sussman and How to Be Single and Happy by Jennifer Taitz. Those are the only titles I can read from my seated angle without encroaching.

I sometimes forget what heartache feels like. It’s been so long since I put my blood-pumper in jeopardy at the hands of another.

A single tear falls down her right cheek and into the pages of a slender-spined book. She abruptly leaves.

Unapologetically yours,
Fiza