Monday, June 16, 2008

Helter Scherherazade

Her Story

She began her story in a prolific voice. She ended on a devastatingly tragic note. “The history of human speech is really the history of voice,” she began, “and the history of voice is really the history of everything. It resounds in the unfolding of a singing universe, echoes in a cockle shell of varying scale, a rotating octave out of which it blares forcefully—palpable, operatic, beastly. It extends out of the beginning of things that carry their own ends in finite and numbered breaths, the dying dragon, the hero’s song. If we cannot hear it, I’ve always thought anyway, one might as well not be born.”

I read straight through. I laid the last disturbing page on the table. Exhausted, worn out, I closed my eyes. How terrible, violation and silence: violence. How wicked. The writing vivid—beautifully rendered evil—“The Story of a Girl.” I didn’t see it coming till they held her down. Over and over they thrust their arms down her throat, their hands, knuckles and wrists elongated, fingers thick and groping. They wrenched out the one thing that, by nature, seemed wholly her own.

“Down her throat they plunged, grabbing hold, first one till he tired, then the next, each one trying harder than the last to dislodge it. Cold to her tears, glad at her humiliations, eager for her gurgling cries—the more she struggled the more they punched and twisted and banged.”

And then it gave. One of them finally drew it out of her, blood dripping, roots dangling. I continued reading, turning page after page. I could see him and he looked like he’d gone mad. Light glimmered in his cupped hands like song itself. He lingered there, hovered above her body which had gone limp. Her mouth moved but she made no sound. I saw his face, saw all their faces. My heart banged. Never had I seen anything as sad, her face, her hair matted, her eyes running the color of blood. Beauty made to feel ugly, joy murdered, goodness left for dead. I touched my cheek. It was her cheek.

I knew them all. I’d seen the four of them before. They had raised an ugliness in me then, but that seemed inconsequential compared to the gaping pit that, then and there, alone in my room, opened in my chest. I was shaking— impotent rage. The image of her face, the way he bent over her. “I’m sorry,” he whispered in her ear, folding the light of her voice in the dark hollow of his hands.


That's when it hit, out of nowhere. The thought. Cold sweat running down a tall slender glass, sudsy. I could smell it. Her story had twisted my thinking. The taste of a drink infiltrated my body. Craving reared its head, bared its teeth. Inside my body an unnameable tangle of wire sought relief. (I thought I’d gotten past this thing.) I stood, walked into the kitchen, ran some water, splashed my face. With intention, I drew deep breaths, turned, leaned back against the counter. Why are you here? The question presented itself as it had before. To drink?

It took a minute, but I stood my ground and soon it came clear. It was only a story! How could I? I snickered, turned, and set some water on the stove for tea, grabbed a cup out of the cupboard. And just as I had nearly returned to myself fully, a ruckus grew outside. A jumbling rattle clanked and pinged. I turned to the window. Walking round the table, I peered out. Rank unbelief nailed my feet to the floor then. Impossible, I thought. It could not be. Them.

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