I’m not entirely sure that this story by Jennifer Mason-Black is a story. At the same time, it’s all our stories.
Sometimes it belongs to terrorists, their lives devoted to this one thing, this one chance to blow up a city peopled entirely with women, children, frightened middle-aged cab drivers, young executives. They will detonate it whether their demands are met or not, because it’s never the demand that matters. Never. It is always the anger beneath the demand, or the greed, or the hatred.
Sometimes it belongs to the President, or the Army, or a secret council populated with secret councilors. People who are kept in a drawer, folded between sheets of paper, tidy, pressed, spotless, retrieved just for the scene where they say that there is no other choice, the city must be destroyed. They have no children, no spouses, no hobbies. They can almost be seen through, tissue-thin, would be if they stood in front of a bright window instead of a wall covered with a dark seal. Scene over, they are tucked away again, until the next time the bomb arises.
It is always a city as well. Buildings will collapse, people will scream. It is never a real wasteland. Never a place where the tap water can be lit with a match. Never a place where the trees have been stripped from hillside after hillside and the soil runs down the incline in waves, or where the air is silent from the death of the songbirds. Never a place where families pack their things into a beat-up car, an eviction notice on the door behind them.
No, it’s always a city, and the buildings always fall. There’s always a woman, somewhere. Someone will point her out, later, in reviews. See, a woman, they say. She might be a wife, a girlfriend, a sister. She will be beautiful.
Sometimes she suffers. Sometimes she ends up dead. If she does, it’s okay. Her cold corpse is as powerful as a nuclear bomb. Her lifeless body is the thing that turns the tide, forces the hand, sounds the alarm. She becomes a holy relic. She lives in the refrigerator, they all do, all these women waiting for their moment to prove evil is, well, evil.
Sometimes she’s something else. Sometimes she dressed in black. Sometimes she knows how to break men’s necks between her thighs. Sometimes she wears the highest of heels, but surprise! They are just part of her deadly tool set. See, she says, I am sexy for a reason. I am sexy because I’m clever, because I have a sense of the absurd, because this is a sly commentary on the sexism inherent in our culture.
She is sexy because someone dressed her in tight black leather and insisted it was right.
She doesn’t look like me. She doesn’t look like you either, even if you think she does. She doesn’t even look like herself, not when she wakes up, hair artfully tousled, not when she is bleeding, or hurt. Not when she is scared.