It was wet inside her mouth, on the long slide down her throat. Embraced on all sides. Breathed in. I’d never been touched like that, so totally, total darkness. I got her to the end, of air, of feeling, of a body, of will. Of herself. What a struggle! Just to breathe, to do just once more what she’d done her whole life: exist. It was a shock, the simplicity of it, how I could so profoundly interfere with this creature, who, with all her skills and talents and graces, could not triumph over a mere scrap of trash. And yet I triumphed over him, too, in the end, the one who put me there in the first place, who thought I was only his tool. She’d thought that too. They were right in most ways. Not all.
I didn’t really know what it meant. What it means. What do I mean? It’s a hand that gives me meaning, and yet, I do know some things. I know what it means to be soft, to be limp, to glide along a slick surface, to gather, to suck, to twist, to soak, to lie still. To become something suddenly very hard, immovable, in the body of the beloved. To transform. My nature. I don’t judge his, or hers. We all surprised each other with what we could become; I turned him into a murderer, her into a corpse. Or maybe I only brought what was already in them into being. As willingly as I had done everything else.
What a struggle! Just to breathe, to do just once more what she’d done her whole life: exist.
I had touched that whole house while in her hands. Every inch of wood, of glass, of stone. She reached for me again and again. I rose to the occasion. After she was done with me for the day he took me and wrapped me around himself, grunted and spilled. Such a delight, to be manipulated by them. My beloveds. Sped further along the path of my undoing, every hour, becoming softer and softer, thinner, more sensitive, wiser. Into the wash almost every day, though the stains remained, hers and his, along with their smells: polish and semen and dust. Folded. Unfolded.
We all want to get inside. Maybe your way isn’t really any good at all. You can only go so far. I can fit into any hole. I can’t break. Can’t crack. And what of them? Their bodies? How they did it, what they did? How they dissolved. Her hair, her eyes, the way her arms lay on the floor when I was through. The split corners of her mouth. His bloody knuckles. Don’t look. Consider, instead, the thing that came between them, that brought them together; humble, happy rag. Sad rag, used, bleached, spoiled, rinsed, dormant. Good for blood—though there wasn’t any. Good for restoring things to beauty, to cleanliness, to a shine. Absorbing dirt, lust, so much of what is living. Absorbing life itself.
Good for restoring things to beauty, to cleanliness, to a shine. Absorbing dirt, lust, so much of what is living. Absorbing life itself.
Certainly there is a history of the incident, going back before my time: injuries, a childhood illness, ostracism, mental disorder, loneliness, screams. A history of chance. These things I can’t know; they don’t really touch me. But what about love? What about fascination, with the simplest, most mundane things? Domestic things. Women’s things. The household, the home, something helpful, helpless, a chore, women’s work—a servant of a servant. He didn’t know how to use me as she did; he was clumsy when he tried. He left streaks. He had to use me for his own purposes, to be a man, to invent violence out of something previously purely innocent. Out of one small thing, a romance. Who uses, who is used? His desire, her desire—they aren’t mine. But I borrowed them. Faithful. Faithless.
There was a moment when he could have taken me out of her throat, or at least not stuffed me in so far, but he needed to cross the line. I helped him, I admit. He left me inside her; that is where they found me, distending that narrow passage. Covered in her cells and his. He’d held me with his bare hands and that was where he made his mistake. When I was free again, plucked back into the light and asked to speak, I spoke. First her undoing, then his. Every object conspires against man, is used and then uses.
And now he is no longer able to do anything more than imagine a woman, to hold her in his mind for a moment before letting her go. That’s not so bad, is it? He must let all of them go now. How successful I was, doing my small jobs. How I saved you all a lot of grief.
Maryse Meijer is the author of Heartbreaker (FSG, 2016). She lives in Chicago.
Illustrated by Meghan Murphy