Synonyms

Today the newspaper published photos of soldiers posing with the mangled remains of Afghan suicide bombers.  The paratroopers posed for photos next to the Afghan police, grinning while some held — and others squatted beside — the corpse’s severed legs.  The photos made me think of one of her last journal entries which was bookmarked with a letter handwritten on silly glittery stationery.

 

[Month and day unreadable] 2012

Amy knocked on my door.  She didn’t say anything, handed me a pink letter and left.

Dear neighbor,

I was doing pretty good in life until the man I loved hurt me.  At first I thought I hated it and then I thought it wasn’t too bad and then I thought, wow, I like this.  But by that time he was gone and I couldn’t get him to come back to me.  So I tried to find men that would hurt me the way he did.  You’d think it would be easy, but as it turned out, it’s almost impossible.  For the most part, men just want to fuck you their way and to be left alone with their beer and pizza.  You really have to do a lot of pushing and shoving and bitching and complaining to get them riled up.  Then they leave and never answer your calls.  Not one would raise his fist and punch me on the face.

I posted an online personal seeking a “woman beater.”  I got a lot of funny and concerned responses.  It never occurred to me that people would not take the ad seriously.  Someone suggested I pay a boxer to kick my ass.  Many sent abuse hotlines and shelter addresses.  Mostly, the post got flagged and removed.

I bought special FX make up at a party store.  Turns out it’s pretty easy to simulate a bruise.  It was fun at first but the novelty soon wore off.  It just wasn’t comforting for very long.  Then John showed up at my door selling bread.  I got lucky. Very lucky.

I didn’t mind my neighbor’s judgmental glares.  Your contemptuous looks.  No one ever wants to come over and hang out.  You came to dinner once but never again.  I wanted you to know I was a good cook and a cool girl.  I guess we make everyone uncomfortable.  My face made you uncomfortable.  Right?

I’m not pretending that it’s not there.  It just isn’t a big deal to me. At this point, a pimple on my forehead would be more upsetting to me.  My bruises are make-up I don’t put on myself. I never told you this because I didn’t want to confuse you more, but looking in the mirror gives me pleasure.  You’re thinking I should have the courtesy of covering my face with cake makeup and giant sunglasses to spare people the awkwardness of not really caring when society tells them they should.  I guess I’m writing this letter to let you know that I won’t.  It’s your problem, not mine.

One woman’s shame is another’s triumph. So spare me your synonyms.  Pain is pain, but it’s not always bad.

Sincerely,

Amy the neighbor

P.S. You’re always welcome to dinner.

***

Something bad is about to happen. The birds don’t chirp, they sing bass; a hopeless lament. They’ve been waiting for this war.

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