Monday, August 18, 2008

The Woman

Once, I met a woman. She was large armed, greasy haired and cruel eyed. She was eleven feet, four inches tall and her breath smelled of the rotting air of a black and moulding basement. She stood over me when she had heard of my state and her dark head eclipsed the sun. I shivered in the shadow of her.

"Sit," she ordered, and drew a chair for herself. "Now," she said, and placed one palm on the table and fitted her sagging yellow elbow into its angle, her hand pointed like a revolver at my face across from her. I slid my palm, as small as a child's, into hers, and her thick fingers closed around my own so tightly that I could feel the pulse from her meaty thumb throb against my own. "On three," she said, and on three we began, because these are the rules and we must fight or forfeit.

The first time we fought she slammed the back of my hand so hard against the table that she broke my wrist, my knuckles popped from the skin like cooked kernels of corn and the blood ran like a ribbon to my elbow. I vomited from the pain and the broken bones and the fear. She stood triumphant, then came to me lying in my mess and threw me roughly over her shoulder. She carried me down to her underground home and kept me alive on sow bugs and worms and the things that skitter in the dark.

She watched me for months from her corner lying on a dirty mattress, until my bones mended, crooked, but whole and I came to my senses. "I don't belong here," I said, and I stood to go home because these are also the rules. She rose like an ominous mountain from the mist and grabbed my bony arm in her hand. "Not until I name you as mine," she said, and she roped my crooked arm to a hook on the wall. I hung there, pinned like a trophy while she built a smouldering fire. She took from the coals a hot iron and with a thick smell of burning flesh she branded the name on the white inside of my arm, then untied me and turned away.

I stumbled up the stairs to the trap door and crashed against it, expecting to be dragged back down by my collar to the dirt and the dark, but she did nothing. I climbed from the ground holding my burnt arm to my chest, blinking from the strain of the searing sunlight. The door dropped loudly as I ran.

The second time we fought was much the same: It was do or die, and I nearly did. "On three." She broke me; I bled; she took me to her home where I lived off creatures that lived off the dead, though she could not stop my arm from healing - crooked though it was. And then again, I rose, I climbed, I left.

And the third. And the forth times. The thinnest whisper of a rumour and she is knocking at my door, fearsome; familiar as my mother's face. And my arm came to look like a tattooed and twisted root. Ugly and strong in the places it had mended. The thick scar of the name burnt purple.

She came again this time with the same foul strength and patient cruelty that she always meets me with. She had heard the news and left to claim her own - blew down the walls of my shelter with her dark breath, and in the midst of the rubble threw her mighty arm on the table in challenge and said, "On three."

And since “three,” we have been wrestling again. We sweat. I seep red ribbons. She cracks my bones against her might, but this time they will not break, the scars will not concede; and I claw her eyes, but she will not leave. She has named me, and we both know it, but the lie of the name is only as deep as the burn, which is only as deep as the surface, which is no depth at all. The broken bone though, has mended deeper, knows truer, sees clearer, and those scars will not answer, loud as she may call, to the burnt name Abandoned.


JB said...

I can not believe no one has commented yet. Perhaps we are all stunned speechless. The popcorn kernel knuckles -- such a gruesome image -- stayed with me all day. Glad you let this one come out.

JB said...

i also like that "the woman" can not stop the healing. powerful.

Anonymous said...

this is good. really good. and beautiful. keep it coming. healing balls up inside these bones.

cecily said...

if this is what procrastination leads to - then please procrastinate some more!

I appreciated this piece. I like the way you personify your internal enemies. Graphic, gritty, and so powerful.

And hey - farm girl and proud, what can I say?!

Angela said...

thanks, janna. alright, i have to confess... i have this guilty sensation that i stole that popcorn image from someone. i have no idea from where, or even if i really did, but i really like it and i'm not actually sure it's mine. *blush. blush* i hope it's mine. that would be really embarrassing.

cecily, there is a huge part of me that belongs in overalls and a floppy hat. i just don't let her out much.

#1. thank you.
#2. i'm trying.
#3. hey. i like you.

Angela said...

what i want to say is not what i get to say.
i know. I know.