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An Average Woman’s Story

By Piper Davenport

Her story:

After I found an old record, Sunday strolled through my life free falling, while the rainy mist abandoned me until tomorrow morning. Mama's voice was on the record player, they called her Billie, and I called her Mama because she was a part of me. Listen, now. Mama sweetly called for her man, whose eyes I saw in the back of my head. Her breasts sighed as my side slowly rumbled and shaked; Shakespeare's newest lovers arrived five hundred years too late. I wanted him to stop looking in my window--I don't like this. My face turned sour red and I softly cried. My legs were hurt badly. I hurt very badly. I told Mama, “This don’t feel good.” But she’s under the table; her voice sweetly called on the record player, like a butterfly kiss from the sky. The nighttime was a coming out party for the heathens with their devil music but I like to listen anyway for my salvation.

Mama whispered words in my ear to make him disappear and then she died too. I cannot decide between the two. Mama came back; softly cried as she realized what she always knew, this one was a keeper. I walked over and pointed at my great-grandmother’s record player. I thought of Mama and told myself, “She’s staying right there in the moment. What about you?”

The siege of silent music, an empty note . . .

I looked around the room to imagine what she must have felt all those years ago. A record is pulled out; it is dusted off gently and her voice pulls me away from reality. Mama's gasp turns into the sound of a calling, far away and not from here. She had a saying for what I was going through: it was called bitter pleasure, and that it will not come again, that might actually save me. Mama, please don’t leave me. My voice began to trail off. Over and over again my voice begged her to stay. I know what you were feeling, Mama. I do. But Mama was a liar. She said that he was leaving and not coming back. She was wrong. I looked outside the window. I think there was someone trying to come in here and he won’t leave me alone. I would only admit to Mama that I was scared. My hand reached for the telephone but it was silent. That man appeared above my mirror through the window, I whispered to the air but no was listening. He kept coming back to hear me play records. Coming back to an empty table with Mama and me.

His story:

You followed her around. You had suspicions about this. You told yourself about a woman who haunted you when she moved into the abandoned house next door and saw you in the mirror because someone had forgotten to tell you where to go next. You longed to escape from the city. There were days when you sat so close to the windowsill that you could see the hairs on your body. You were claustrophobic in the outside world. You hated being around others. You found out these things by reading the newspaper and listening to the radio and hearing what people said about you but that was at the end . . .

You come and step on the grass. You could not find yourself. No one was waiting for you when you left jail except the trees and then you could only sing lullabies against whispering leaves. Some snot on the corner of your nose fell onto your shirt. There was a growing irritation between your legs. A baby fly you squeezed in between your two fingers died on its way down to the grass from the swat of your arms. In that space between heaven and hell your stomach pried open loose bowels to make room for supper. A good meal promised satisfaction, and nothing else, unlike your mother who left when your father’s money ran out or unlike another woman who moved away when you started peeking in through a bedroom window. So you took as many leaves as possible to cover the pain of being soiled, and like the disappointment of a Halloween evening without children, the experience was only half-fulfilling. The woman moved inside the house; you guess no said anything about you or didn’t care. Moved toward the broken telephone so that you pulled yourself away. Now was the time. This one won’t get away like the others, who found out about you before you could come inside. You open your window; one of the hottest days of the summer and there was no air conditioning in the home. You look down at yourself and ask, ‘What should you do?’ The woman’s breasts, should you eat them? The woman’s face should you destroy? The flesh inside you said no, so you did nothing but waited until the terror gripped her face and then disappeared again.

Their story:

They first met when she had a flat tire and he pulled over to offer her a ride in his leaf-soaked car. He told her that he would give her a ride as far as she was comfortable and that made her feel better. But then again, she trusted his handsome face. She thought she had seen it somewhere before. She did not know that he had been following her around. She did not know that they were in the city limits until they see a graffiti-laced sign on the side of a skid row building. “I can’t read,” he had breathed between the gin bottle on his lap covered in paper bag memories.

He had asked her to read the sign to him. He liked the artwork. Artwork? She thought to herself and slowly shook her head. He said that it was appropriate for all of the ghosts, ghouls, and witches they passed on the street. She’d watched him with a slow smile that had become warm and sleepy after he told her the truth about himself: that he knew more about her than anyone else. He told the woman her name, almost like a game, almost like Rumpelstiltskin and she looked at him quizzically. That was an ironic guess for a first time encounter between strangers on a rainy night like tonight she said, more to the car window than him. He said his mother claimed to have seen one the night she gave birth to him. Seen what? A leprechaun. She chuckled nervously. What happened to your mother? She left when his family ran out of money and he’d been chasing her ever since.

Later that night . . .

He trembled as he touched her breasts, longing for more. He got out of bed. Her naked body registered feelings of complacency. She watched him as he put on a hat, no clothes. The hat: black, felt with no feathers but the man had wanted to sing. A familiar tune played on the record player about a man and a gun. Breakfast with a silver reflection; mirrors with a broken spoon looking back at a bloody plate. His nose was bleeding but he wondered if someone would hear them, would hear her screams? Would the people driving down the street see them? Once again he felt overshadowed and a little paranoid.

She wanted to leave; she was not thinking about him. His mind raced along tree-lined streets looking at black, angry faces walking to school, waiting for the bus outside the window and then, a car floated by. She begged him to let her go but he knew what would happen and he saw in his mind the rage she had for him, the sharp sting of a hand around his face. And then those words: I know a secret. You’ve been following me and I’m going to tell. The last thing she felt were his hands now around her throat. And then, she was quiet.

There were voices far away inside his head when he said that. Telling him about distance and sorrow. Not one of them was Mama though. Someone had been violated. That he knew was true. He guessed two people died that night. Or three. Who knew? Mama, where are you? A woman, a child, a ghost, a devil, a pair of eyes was looking out, waiting for you to return.

(C)opyright 2008 Piper Davenport All Rights Reserved

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