EVERYBODY said you were a good girl. Your mother said so with the inexhaustible tears she shed at your wake. Your father choked it out to each person who looked at their shoes when they shook his hand and drew him into a stiff embrace. Your brother’s pounding fist echoed these words as he worked fruitlessly to secure your dead body. Your boyfriend said these words silently as he pulled you around the neighborhood in his Radio Flyer once you were too weak to walk. At your trial, your lawyer repeated the words two hundred and six times; only after you died did you understand he meant this as incantation, an ode to each of your crumbling bones. EVERYBODY knew you were a good girl but did you?
Did you know it when you were seduced into painting watch-dial numerals and hands in luminous green because your salary would double or did the silk dresses and fox trim fur coat you then bought make you wonder if you were greedy? When you hid a tiny vial inside a loose seam in your coat, ran home, and painted undark on your eyelids and fingernails, did you think you resembled Janet Gaynor or instead feel like a thief? In the factory, as you licked the camel-hair brush to bring the degraded tip to a point thousands of times did you think you were pleasing your manager, or were you thinking about using the stolen vial to paint your lips and feel your heart race as you kissed your boyfriend? Did you feel like a fallen woman? When you lost a tooth and another and then your jaw and your hip bones honeycombed and crumbled did you wonder if you deserved it? The company doctor looked you square in the eye and whispered the diagnosis, Syphilis, and when your wan cheeks heated did you know he was lying or did you look back on the times you let your boyfriend slide his hands underneath your silk blouse, thrust his tongue in your mouth, and think perhaps the diagnosis was right? Your lawyer persisted and won your case after you were wheeled into the courtroom and could barely lift your arm to swear on the Bible. Was it then you realized you were a good girl or was your victory as hollow as your bones?
Now YOU know you were ALWAYS a good girl despite what so many tried making you believe. I know this because I’ve visited your grave. You’re buried in an airtight sealed coffin, beneath 5,000 pounds of soil, and there’s little that remains of your physical body. And yet, when I moved a Geiger counter across your grave, every particle of you left danced and then screamed.