By Joseph Milosch
The decal of a woman is on the red prophylactic machine in a Chula Vista bar. Across its front someone has peeled her away until she appears to have a head wound, partially encased by her undulating hair. The precise manner someone took to cut away this decal has produced a sculptured look.
The wound point is at her hairline. It widens, pear shaped, and leaks over her face. Red ink is blood that follows the curve of her lip. Blood falls in drops from her chin. Gathering into a stream flows across her breast, drapes off the tip of her nipple. The even line indicates the carver has practiced. Raising my hand, I cover her with my arm’s shadow, and listen to the silence in this shade less place where light puts the dark image of a man on the floor and wall behind him. What metal absorbs my blood heat in this hour when the air holds the human odor?
What lightless fragment follows me as I move in the community of these men? They are cruel because they have the power to be, and they go bald from the middle out showing the starkness of their core. They fear their own emotions, and can’t piss in the company of other men. They destroy the objects of their passions, and carry the motionless current of this woman’s breasts on the edge of their Buck knives.
I think of my hometown in Michigan. I think of community picnics, the farm women walking without escort, walking with voices as cool as man dug lakes, and the grass sprung back in their silhouettes. There, men sat in maple shade drinking liquor less punch, talking of wives, children, whose son had the high hard one. While in the fields iron teeth wait to rip the hard and callous soil, and wheat sleeps with its hands over its many eyes, and dreams of the combine’s slow rotation.
Now men enter this room. One looks at her from the corner of his eyes as he spits in the urinal, as he says, “Making room for one more.” Another enters, and looks at her from the corner of his eyes, “You guys better hurry, and I got to piss like a race horse!” As I leave a third enters. He looks at her from the corner of his eyes. Four men fascinated by a mutilated decal are captivated as if she is alive, electric with fragrance, excited in her high heels, her lace dress, and her savage beauty firm in the slope of her back. I know she is alive because no one has added to her defacement.
Leaving this bar, I walk to my truck and lean against its bed. The sun slides behind the top layer of fog. The sun becomes an opaque cup with a blood red rim. She comes to me with her black eyes, her painted smile.
If I could tell her more than it is not violence that drops my heart like a sand bag on top of curb and gutter. It is the men who say, “No harm was meant.” If I could tell her more than once at work a dozer hand re-cut a finished slope. I got in his face. “It is only dirt,” he said. This is not dirt, I yelled, this is the earth. I am not a cook. You’re not a cook. What we build lasts more than twenty four hours.
If I could tell her more than this, tell her I envision the cost of being a woman: to have your body become day in and day out, the receptacle for so much need, so much ill-rigged, hitched up, dangerously poised lust. She would turn her head revealing her scar, exposing a round earring, and we would listen to the wind that lifts her silken curls into the air.
Word count 650