The Woman Inside Me
I woke up more than once last night to consider what was going on inside me. Three men are walking out along a point of land toward a drop-off. Two of them are leading a young woman between them, their hands above her elbows. She is dressed in a long white T-shirt. There are blood stains on it located just below the curve of her belly. Her hair falls about her face. She stumbles. The footing is unsure, but that’s not the reason she’s stumbling. It’s a garbage dump, and it is night. Depending on your understanding of the world, at some point you realize they are a death squad and that they are going to execute her. She is thinking about her two-year old daughter, who is probably sleeping warm with her grandmother. That woman has scooped the child up close to her. The child sleeps but the grandmother cannot. The little girl has been told it’s just for the night. Her mother feels the blood dripping down the inside of her leg. Everything hurts. She sees the child’s face, her baroque lips and curled eye lashes. The men drop back. She picks her way forward. Barefoot, stiff, unsteady, docile, not thinking clearly because of the prolonged strangulation that was part of the raping. So she would mimic sexual excitement. She reaches the edge of the garbage cliff. She catches them off guard and bolts forward, jumps over the edge, falls, pushes away with her bruised legs to maintain her descent, until at the bottom the collapsing wall of rot and refuse overtakes her and buries her underneath , saggy baby diapers and soiled toilet paper left unflushed because the plumbing in this country cannot devour used toilet paper.
She lies still, holding her breath. A few shots land around her but miss her. She hears the cries of rats who then also lie still. The three men with skin as brown as hers and speaking the same language, decide, “Vámanos a la chingada de aquí,” Let’s get the fuck out of here. We’re not going to ruin our shoes going down there.” They fire a few more rounds from their beat up black market M-16s at the spot they think she must be. But the ammunition is expensive, and they stop shooting. “Let the pigs eat her,” they say. They walk back to the pickup, vowing to do it differently next time.
“Kneel,” says one of the men. They stand in the light of the pickup’s head lights. But she turns around instead and faces him. The T-shirt is soiled but still shows the round of her breasts, a place particularly soiled where they have grabbed and pinched her. There are blood spots at the place just beneath her belly. She pushes the hair out of her swollen, bruised face and looks at them. With her tongue she wants to touch the loose tooth, but can’t. The extra two men have come to watch, drawn and attracted to this final stage of the raping ceremony, the consecration of the punishment of women by men. But she is already destroyed. The man pulls the shiny Smith & Wesson .45 out of his belt. He holds it up in both hands, brings it down leveled with her forehead, at her soiled, waiting, non-reacting face. He mumbles some words of absolution for himself. “Vaya con Díos!” The shot makes the shooter jump. It knocks the young mother and labor organizer over backward. She lies on her back. The shirt has risen enough to see the dark hair between her legs. The blood on the inside of her legs. “Whore!” one of them hisses.
I roll over and throw my leg over the woman I live with. My weight and closeness do not interrupt her sleep. She is warm, and smooth. It is the place I feel most at home, the most protected. I have no energy left to ponder the woman’s last thoughts, her last image. Instead, I have her again run for the edge of the dropoff and leap, crash down through the soggy cardboard and pig shit, down through the rats and Styrofoam steak package bottoms, rotten vegetables—those that have not been found and eaten by the poor and the pigs. But again, the bullet sends her reeling backward, and I turn again, rolling my shoulders under so that I don’t pull the covers away from my love and lift my leg over her again, careful not to disturb her.
I try to fall asleep but wake up again, urging her to leap. But she never can. When they have you, there is seldom anything like escape. Only hopelessness and the on-rushing moment of one’s extinction. That is the moment and image I flee from, but it has a life of its own and keeps returning. “Wake up, and see my face, see the moment of my nakedness, my helplessness, my abandonment, see me with my mouth open and the dark stump of my tongue they have cut from me. See me again as he raises the gun, lowers it, and takes my life. Do not leave me and my tongue for the pigs! Swear you will visit my daughter!”