After twelve years of marriage his fishing hat, which sits forgotten on my armoire, is all that remains. The house creaks and groans, trying to establish a new order. The floorboards still look for his heavy, morning footfalls, while the dip in the mattress defiantly begins to rise up.
I have trouble sleeping. I go down okay. I starfish on the bottom sheet, fanning my legs back and forth back and forth across the cotton. But at 3am the novelty of space wears off and I’m a frozen arrow of flesh in the middle of the bed.
I walk down the hall and into the living-room. I sit on the couch and let the tears come. They don’t come evenly. They either barrel out of me in great, wracking sobs, or they drip silently down my face and gather at my chin.
I am overcome with a desire to see my vagina. I don’t question this desire. I have not seen my vagina in many years.
I bring the square mirror from the bathroom. Pyjama bottoms off, I sit on the floor with my knees spread open. I hold the mirror, its bottom edge resting on the carpet. For a moment I don’t look. I just sit, naked from the waist down, and realise I have not been this thoroughly alone in a very long time.
Then I look down.
I am Alice looking in the glass.
I am pulled down. Then sucked up, travelling backwards inside myself. A sticky diary of all that has gone before. I race through versions of myself, getting snagged on aggression, wading through regret, and drenched in passion, whose moments are so rare I’m filled with something wholly unfamiliar.
I squeeze the mirror in my hand and it shatters under my fingers. I bleed. My rage has horrified the glass and it will not be turned or replaced. Sorrow is gone.
There’s a white heat at the centre of me. I have no idea what to do with it. I’m afraid to touch it. But it must be got at. I want to destroy. I want to shred things with my teeth. Claw, bite, rip, mount.
I am turned wild.
I pound the floor with my fists. I hammer the floor with my rage. I howl my fury deep into the carpet. My half nakedness fills me with hatred and desire. I lean on my forearms and raise my hips up to the ceiling. Prostrate myself to God.
Come and get me again, motherfucker!
I am screaming at God.
God, who gave me an opening to life then filled it with crap. Stuffed me full.
God, who made my sex vulnerable. Prone to violations that I can no longer recall.
No. No. I was wrong.
Dear god, hold on.
Here they come.
Slave girl. Rape girl. Native girl, bought and sold. Wife beaten. Witch woman. Burned alive. Drawn and quartered. Stoned, drowned, buried, hidden. Dirty, wicked, evil. Predatory, hysterical. Too accessible. Inciting, inviting violence. We come from rivers and rivers of blood. Hours and hours, days days, years years, centuries centuries of blood.
And oh my god,
here they are.
Wailing through me.
These blood-ravaged women. Centuries of them. Here they are. It’s too much. I am laid bare on the floor. I am made immovable with incomprehension. Red with rage. I feel all of it. We carry All Of It in our bodies. Rape-bloody, beat-bones, abuse-heart, slave-hands.
All Of It.
In the morning, I wake, a broken thing. Bone-bruised and bloodied. Half naked, shivering. I am ancient. I wash my skin, careful not to scrub it gone. Croned overnight. Now I carry it all. I am huge with it.
He lets himself in. The disregard astounds me. This violation is not simple. He will not understand. I brace my ancient body.
Don’t mind me, just getting my hat… Jeez Tiff, you still in your dressing gown? You sick?
I said, John, don’t move.
Jesus, what’s wrong with you?
Centuries of violence push me to him. My nails strain, flex into claws. My bones harden. My teeth sharpen. My legs grow strong. My heart beats like a colossal fist against the door of the cosmos. I feel the sky’s shoulders brush my own. I bare my fangs.
Jesus! What the hell are you doing?!
I hiss. I am primal.
Holy shite, woman! What’s got into ya?
Multitudes of voices scream at me. They propel me forward, picking up my feet and setting them down again.
I am at him. My heinous breath devours his face. Atalanta fills me with breath and I double in size. Clytemnestra raises in me a murderous arm.
It’s his smell that stops me. Smells like ignorance. He has no idea. He never will. Revenge would lay flat and unrewarding against his beaten face. I still my raging arm and stare at him. His naivety confuses me.
What the fuck, Tiff?
Just call before you come, okay John? Just call next time.