CONTENT WARNING: Incidents of sexual harassment and violence.
The men that surround the women’s bathroom remind me of another late-night cadre, three wide-chested all-night watchers moved as one to block my body in another little dress– It is all mixed together– Tonight in the white slinky little number– In the morning Cameron will tell Terese and I, as we three lay interwoven head to foot in his and Kenya’s bed, that the little dress had won me favor in the eyes of Kenya– She had told him I had looked so good like that, and before the night is over she will wrap her body over white stretch fabric in the bathroom, we will kiss with a passion heavy as the heat that wrenched my bare and pretty shoulders as I sobbed against the wall in this same bathroom just an hour before– My wife, curvier than me, and prettier, who dresses like a man when we go out (because she must), wrapped me up around her– Another angelwoman closed the door between the sacred space of women and the men who wait outside, and it all gets sewerwater wet and bleeds together in the place where I sucked desperate on the heavy air and clutched and fell between my woman and the wall, collapsing under memory– remembering the taking of the picture, the showing of the bruise, the beautiful redheaded woman in a hospital gown who curled into a mountain of herself– She did not believe what she had known until she saw the bruise and then could not deny it– And I sobbed and begged my wife “why did they steal her from herself?”
In another hour I’ll be back in this same bathroom, kissing sweet Kenya like she is the first and only air I’ll ever breathe– and we will dance together close inside the pulsating danger in the dark outside the sanctuary of the women’s bathroom– twin targets tied together under all the glowing eyes of waiting men.
I move past, again, on stupid spiky heels– I swat, I push, I dodge the grabbing hands of the around-the-bathroom men– I do not want to be here angry– I have paid fifty dollars to admit my head into this lounge and so I pour the pitcher into little cups already full of ice– I pour and I drink, every time the anger in my belly hollers louder than the music, flushes redder than the dark.
There is another woman in a pretty little dress, unconscious at her table– I see her slumping and I can’t look away– I bite the fingers on both hands– Terese and Kenya try to comfort me– they say she’s with her friends, will be alright, it is okay to look away– Cameron says she’s upright. If she vomits, she won’t choke– when he says it, I notice that I hadn’t even thought it– I had seen her sick with poison and I hadn’t thought to worry for her blood or for her brain.
I feel the hot rapist breath of the world collapsing inwards at me then– I pull my arms away from my lover-friends, away from my wife– I tell them I am going to the bathroom. Alone. Because to show myself I can– And this time when the men grab at my wrists, I raise a fist.
I will be long gone, off and spinning before the anger oozes out of me and into Cameron– before he pulls switchblades from a pocket in the sudden understanding that they have never been Terese in the world out with his woman– that he has never had to notice, before, the mapping, the maneuvers, the defensive plays, the smileandlaugh that might, we hope, go farther than a fist and even farther than a blade to get us by– or get us out– or get us home and in one piece with one another instead of in a hospital somewhere asking to see an upclose picture of some unreachable bruise.
Cameron will tell me later that it all came together for him that night. That he remembers the way that we protected one another. The way we cared for one of us in need.