My Turn

It was my turn.

by Carolyn L Burke
Tue Apr 4 1995

I'm sitting in a room darkened just a bit without the light of day through a window. The chair is rather hard and stiff without cushioning and my eyes adjust slowly. There are others in the small room, the nearest of which has smelly tangy breath forcibly blowing across the space between us. He is hungry for me.

And included amongst this almost circle of chairs is the boss.

I can feel the weight of betrayal in my heart. The fight to stay seated with dignity for my approaching death is the hardest I've ever fought. My face remains all but motionless. Only he will be able to read the subtle signs I can not cover. Perhaps that is his one greatest skill, that of knowing a person behind their mask. I hope with all my heavy heart that this is not so. And I know it is. "Sit still elegantly without a flinch," says my heart to me. Do not run. There is nowhere to go from here.

I sit and watch. He is talking with the man before me. They discuss something I am not informed about, issues of import to both. To the boss, the issue is a sliver of his world and yet an indication of its health. One man's dinner is another's life, and yet to go without dinner long enough - to even think that he might - is sufficent to cause the most civilized of men to fight another. It is no different here. Tensions grow as they come to the heart of the matter.

And ease again with his smile. And now to me.

He looks my way, directly at me with eyes burning. I see anger in them, and disappointment. I know I will die shortly. He sees me. I notice for the first time as my mind races for safety that I am the only woman in the room. I should feel the flattery of having been allowed to come at all - to face my death as a man. And I do. Perhaps this keeps me from turning my eyes away as he pierces deeply into my soul. He has noticed the signs I cannot hide. He courts my heart now, prying where only a lover can go .. into the depths of self-knowledge. He knows.

I try to keep my breath steady. I haven't yet said a word. Nor has he. Only seconds have passed - the last few I will know.

"Is it true?" he asks with an old-world bluntness. God how I which it were not. But I am here and dignified. I tell myself, so loudly I am surprised they cannot hear also, to stay and die with their brand of honour.

"Yes," I reply to him without flinching. I am managing to die well. Quivers of excitement coarse through me. Has a lover ever made me feel so alive, I wonder. And he must know for sure, as he watches and sees the shiver, that I must die. I have betrayed his trust - betrayed him.

The others in the room vanish into nothing as his energy coarses through me longer and harder. I know I am only his now and they will only appreciate his strength. I try to be as calm as any of them would have. Still my blood races.

He holds up a picture of Beckett. I can read a story in his face about the man in the photo. He is telling me something, that I as a woman was not responsible for what I had done, for what had happened. His eyes draw me again to the photo. "You are a whore. Don't worry anymore."

I looked at him sharply then, revealing insecurity, fear finally. I didn't understand. I tried to keep my head held high as I watched him raise his hand. Emptyness filled it. Here was my opportunity to run. I chose with all my being to live and yet, I stayed instead - ready to die. It was the most important decision in my young life.

"Jesse," his voice boomed. I jumped inside but with his eyes behind me, I don't think he caught it. I would die bravely.

Through a recess in the wall off to my left, I could see Jesse enter. Long black hair loose down his back, the indian held in hand a tiny gun, perhaps a pistol. Finally my reserved control broke and I jumped at Jesse, startling him. The tiny gun ended in my hand. Flipping it around to point first at the boss, and then quickly at myself, I muttered, "No, not Jesse." I thrust the gun into his still empty hand. I gasped, "Only you."

A look of surprise crossed his features. And yet with a beautiful fluidity of motion, the gun's journey continued on, though it remained firmly in his educated grasp. The muzzle forced its way quickly between the thick flesh of his body and his elbow to peer out behind him. Two quick shots bolted out coldly killing a fellow I had only briefly noticed. The slender black fellow slumped and his partner, another black dealer sat up in full, almost military attention. He had moved on as planned to his next order of business.

The gun sailed gently back to Jesse, who had a shotgun in replacement already, and he pocketed the small deadly object. I almost fainted. I hadn't run, and I wasn't dead.

As eyes in the room focused on the boss's disappointment at this sudden death, the fear eminating from the still alive dealer drowned my own panic. With an almost calm, once again sitting in that almost ring of chairs, I took account of my situation.

The photo meant something more now. If I can embrace that a woman is not responsible for the comings and goings of business, in this man's world, then I may live freely. Can I accept this though? I had braved the possibility of death at his hands successfully, and with opportunity to fail. All women are whores in this man's world. Beauty, sex, comfort. Not responsibility. Could I live with that? I could have died with responsibility, and now instead Beckett would. Would he ever understand that in hell, only the demons have power?

I wanted to tell the boss, to insist, that to hold me responsible, that I am capable of being trusted, that indeed it was me who broke that trust - my betrayal and not Beckett's. I wanted to stand in the twentieth century as a citizen of the enlightenment. And yet, the code of honour that I had embraced - his code - bore no resemblance to this end. And I chose to sit still awhile longer as a whore with only the brave heart of a man, hidden.

A note to anyone reading this: I dreamt this two nights ago, and woke out of this dream into a morning of sunshine and happiness. This is not a true story. It is a bit of my mind teaching me about loyality, codes of honour, trust, and commitment. And my dream was exactly as I have written here today.

Carolyn's Diary
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