At one point in history, there was a girl who saved herself from history. How pretty she was is not important. Which of her parents sent her out into the world—inconsequential.
What does matter is that she did the opposite of what she had always wanted because what she had always wanted was going to kill her.
Here, let us explain:
Desire kills many women. It is the disease of her gender. This, her mother did tell her. But only because the girl’s mother had wanted to be a pediatrician and, lucky for her, fell pregnant during medical school and never had to touch a sick child she couldn’t possibly save. Such disappointment and helplessness would have triggered her metaphorical death, which everyone knows precedes a woman’s bodily death.
“Do what I have done,” her mother said, “and you, too, can overcome.”
It wasn’t just the girl’s mother who tried to trick her with history.
When she was fourteen years old, the girl’s anatomy teacher had told her that a woman’s blood holds all of the trauma of the her past, of the past preceding her past. Really, of all time. And, try as they might, physiologists and alienists and etiologists and evangelists had not been able to figure out how to cure the woman’s body of its memory disease. Because of this, the teacher explained, a woman is genetically predisposed to self-destruct.
For the record: The girl, now a young woman, was smarter than the physiologists and the alienists and the etiologists and the evangelists because she had discovered that history was created, not innate, and that it was the world that had injected its fatal ideas into her blood.
The girl, now a young woman, had made this discovery when she told Declan Seeger she wasn’t a virgin. She thought that telling him this would have made him less eager, more understanding. And so afterward, she decided that the beautiful dream from three nights before Declan pinned her down in his mother’s Range Rover, the dream where she and Khalid Montopoalo made love in an electrical storm near Sedona, was her real first time. She decided that Declan Seeger would not write her history, that while memory was beyond her control to modify, she did have perspective—and isn’t that what history really was? A pronouncement of potentially oblique perspective?
So what was the desire that would try to lead the young woman towards her death?
Well, it’s simple.
The young woman wanted to avoid making the world angry by doing all of the things it beseeched her to do, the foremost prerequisite being needing to be saved from danger.
And if she wasn’t in danger?
To get into it as quickly as possible. Climb in like a man into a dinghy, row to the middle of the ocean, burn the oars—set the whole boat on fire, really—do what she needed to do to become as helpless as she needed to become to require saving.
So how did she save herself from the self that the blood poison tried to make her become?
She became a physiologist.
She became an alienist.
She became an etiologist.
She even became an evangelist.
And once she became all of the things that had told her what she would become, she stopped becoming things altogether and bought a yacht, and she steered that yacht into the middle of the Gulf of Mexico where, one day, she sighted something obsidian cresting against the divine intersection of sea and cloudless sky. As she sailed nearer to it, the spot grew larger and less abstract. At a distance of one nautical mile, the young woman knew the spot to be a yacht-sized hole in the otherwise idyllic seascape.
One might have expected the young woman to turn around, to flee the hole because it was dark and unlikely and possessed the unknown, which could put her great success at risk.
But the young woman, who was not so young anymore, recognized the yacht-sized hole as true danger, not the one that the world had urged her to find, and that this was just what she had been looking for.
So the young etiophysioalienevangelist pressed enthusiastically onward, right into that darkness, because she was certain that another woman—young? old? purple? brown? peril is indiscriminate—was in there, and that, having saved herself from herself—from self-destruction, from the world’s fatal ideas and false blood histories—she could teach that woman how to really overcome.
My work has appeared in or is forthcoming from a wide variety of journals, including The Rupture, Jellyfish Review, PRISM international, the tiny journal, Fiction International, Red Rock Review, Texas Review, Chicago Review, and others. My fiction has received a Glimmer Train Press Award for New Writers and been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and AWP Intro Journals Award. A native Californian and former assistant director for film and television, I now teach screen and fiction writing in Central Pennsylvania, where I live with my family.