Dear New Queen,
If you are reading this, I am long gone. I left the palace behind. I may have even left Shushan. I’m not sure where I will be when you receive this letter, but I’m far away from the king, his ministers, and a life that was never mine. Wherever I am, my story is now my own. I am free.
My name is Vashti. The king sent me away because I refused to dance at his party. As a child, I loved dancing. I spun barefoot circles with my mother and her sisters. My palace was in her arms, her stories were in my ears, and her song was my heartbeat. When I think of dancing, I think of my mother, even though she is long gone too.
I’m sure they told you the story. On the seventh day of his banquet, the king’s eunuchs came to fetch me from the women’s quarters. We’d had seven days without those men–without the alcohol on their breath, without their hands, greasy with food. Over that week, the women in that room shared our own stories and learned each other’s songs. The animosity between us melted as our own words returned us to ourselves. When the eunuchs arrived on Shabbat, we were at our tisch–our table. I was happy to dance. I just didn’t want to dance for him.
I suppose at this point you’re accusing, “A queen who prefers the company of women to the company of her king?! A queen should yearn for her king’s praises!” And you’re right. But I never wanted to be a queen. I only wanted to be Vashti.
The fear that rippled through the kingdom because I wanted to be Vashti! The horror. The rage. The king’s ministers worried my refusal would lead all other women to refuse their husbands too! If the bond that ties husband and wife is so delicate a thread, that no one dare tread upon it, for fear of breaking – perhaps the edict was necessary. Banish me, so women stay with their husbands. Banish me, so women witness my punishment. Banish me, so women fear what their husbands have feared all along: loneliness, separation, isolation. These fears are part of my story too.