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Alaska Quarterly Review

Excerpted from "Liberty and Justice (For All): A Global Photo Mosaic"

Brenda Ann Kenneally

Brenda Ann Kenneally 
Dana and Elliot, waiting for Dana to go into labor with their second child, in Troy, N.Y, June, 2011. Brenda Ann Kenneally

Elliot was 13 when he fell in love with Dana. He was home for the weekend from the most recent of many court-mandated juvenile placement facilities, where he had lived off and on since he was five.

Dana was 16, and knew the trauma of being plucked from childhood and transplanted into another life. She and her sister had been sent to live with their aunt to escape their father’s alcoholism.

Elliot had seen her from his bedroom window. When he got back to “the home,” as the kids who lived there called it, he could not stop thinking about the girl who looked like a princess.

During his weekend visits home they fell in love. They became inseparable and practically lived in Elliot’s bedroom. But Elliot broke probation and was sent to prison. He found out that Dana was pregnant while he was at intake at New York State’s Greene Correctional Facility.

She delivered their child while he was there. Under pressure from the church, Dana gave the child up in an open adoption to a couple in the congregation, who promised to give the baby everything that Elliot and Dana couldn’t.

Years passed. Elliot was released, but by then Dana was about to marry a man from the church. Heartbroken, Elliot married soon afterward. Although both unhappy, they tried to move forward and invest in their new, separate lives, telling themselves they were doing “the right thing.”

Two years later they left their marriages and reunited, breaking completely with their families and Dana’s church. They have begun to rebuild their lives together. They have an apartment. Elliot works in a restaurant to support the family. Dana became pregnant again almost immediately. It was as if taking control of her body was the only true liberation from their past that she could offer. Her hand on his chest, under the fresh tattoo of her name, is an attempt to heal from the injustices that have brought them to this moment.

 
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Page Updated: 3/22/12  By:  Jeffery Oliver