Sunday, March 8, 2009

The Anonymous Driver

by Regina Edelman

Once I watched a show on National Geographic about dolphin life. The narrator dramatically explained that the ocean is a dangerous place to be, but what about danger on land?

The weakest is the first to die, and that man ahead of me is the strongest, at least in muscles. He’d easily kill a woman to satisfy any sick passion he may have.

I scrutinized the size of my trouble. The killer was taller than me by four large palms. He concentrated on the wet ground and carried a small closed black umbrella. He could attack me with that. He put his head up! He saw me! He fucking grinned at me! Calm down. I couldn’t really tell if he saw me and cared for the easy prey I thought myself to be. Did he really grin at me or not? He quickly put his head down again, guarding his steps as he ploughed through the water next to the Delancey Street Bridge. Drops of rain fell again, and with them, doomed thoughts induced me to fear: he’ll see my breasts through my wet blouse, and that'll bring his devil out. Nobody was there to save me but the drivers on FDR Drive who wouldn’t see me, listen to me, or care for me, in such velocity they rushed. Maybe I could climb the road fence and escape that way; I had to be very quick if my fate was to escape my near future under the bridge.

Bad souls aren't the only kind of souls in the park after the rain. I was there in my innocence and my ignorance of nature’s creation, though my soul is connoisseur of how perverse the nature of ignorant humans can be, and I truly believed the man ahead me the most perverted I ever encountered. Sweat seeped up on my skin. To escape, the only way was to go ahead and confront the perverted monster no matter what. I may have to fight to save my skin. I watched the man walking, he and I getting closer and closer.

I’d escaped several times from men running after me, but never from a man ahead of me. I remember a bolt heaven sent to mock my smallness at eighteen.

I knew I was in a dangerous zone, so I walked home fast, turning my head every two seconds to make sure no one was following me, nobody…but then I saw a man coming after me ten blocks behind, walking faster than me, but he could just be a product of my imagination and turn off any street. To validate this hypothesis, I tested my luck and ran.

The man ran too and his strong legs stroked faster than mine. I panicked! I couldn’t be strong then, especially after a beer. My legs shook cowardly and I kept looking back to see how he outraced me, already four or three blocks behind. Only a miracle could save me and I had no idea what to do when that man would put his hand on my shoulder. My brain put all its strength to my heart to go ahead no matter what, total concentration if I wanted to escape from a man in the dark. My strength was no competition for that wild beast getting closer, two blocks, and closer, one, until I could hear the stroke of his legs and his anxious breathing. Only a miracle could save me from his murderous hands, and faith that a miracle could really happen kept me steady on. I ran. A silent car came from an alley. I didn’t shout for help. I thought no one would possibly care for a girl who ran dark streets from a man, a street famous for junkies after ten at night. My hunter may be a junkie. I wasn’t a junkie, I wasn’t. I wished the driver saw the lunatic chasing me. I wished whoever drove the car wasn't more trouble for me, and that the driver could see my true honest simplicity. I was just coming from meeting a friend for the pleasure of laughs and talk about boys. It’s true we betrayed her family’s orders, for her mother forbade our relationship. She lived next door to my house, but we met around town. To follow my friend’s rules, I had to hide from her mother and go the worst way back home to arrive a few moments latter than her to disguise from her mama that we were together. Believing myself a dirty girl, a man running after me as proof of how dirty, and not sure I was the strongest to live, I ran.

Hey! Hey! The anonymous driver shouted. My hunter halted immediately. Stop! The driver shouted again and pushed the back door of his blue automobile ajar, which I entered gladly and sat wearily.

A voice in the dark reached our ears: I swear to our lord god in heaven I just wanted to talk to her!

The anonymous driver glanced to inspect me terrified in the back seat. There’s no need to run after anyone just to talk! This girl is terrified! Anyone can clearly see that she doesn’t want talk to you! I’m going set the law after you right away! Stay where you are, scoundrel!

But my hunter’s legs pumped in the opposite direction and disappeared in the dark. Breathing, breathing, slowly my senses returned to life.


Rocks? It’s a brilliant idea! That’s it! I’ll throw rocks at the man ahead. My arms are strong. I planned, hoping to find rocks in easy reach on the accidental ground covered with water, but I didn’t quite like this miraculous idea. Did I plan to kill the man to defend my right to live? What a strange feeling.

O my goodness! He stopped under the bridge, waiting for me! Whoever ambushes doesn’t have good intentions. O, my goodness! He saw me and waited for me, but then walked from under the bridge with a lit cigarette between his fingers. Strangely, it seemed he couldn’t care less about my existence, and only a few inches before our fatal encounter, the man turned left and crossed above the cars on the FDR, smoking.

©2009 Regina Edelman

Sunday, March 1, 2009

We Only Eat Life

by Regina Edelman

Many living bodies will pass through the bodies of other creatures. That is to say, uninhabited houses will pass in pieces through inhabited houses, giving them something useful, and bringing with themselves their own harm. This is to say, man’s life is made up of things which are eaten, and they bring with them the part of the man which is dead.
–Leonardo da Vinci

I read to Daryl for him to approve my writing:

Yesterday I fasted and went to the doctor for a checkup. My doctor is Chinese, but grew up in São Paulo where I came from, and practices here in Chinatown where I live now. The Chinese markets here display tables full of food propped outside their storefronts onto the sidewalk, and even sell live turtles for soup. I think they’re for soup. I only have vague knowledge of how to cook a turtle, and I don’t even understand eating them in the first place. Once Daryl’s old roommate told me that he saw a party of diners in a Chinatown restaurant cooking a turtle in a pot over sterno in the center of the table. Alive, the poor beast tried to run away from death, which is certain we all know, but closer to that turtle. The poor thing tried to climb the hot walls of the pot, but how could the innocent run from the cowardice of her condemnation? The Chinese party pushed her back down to the bottom of the pot with its water close to boil. They laughed until the poor turtle died. Horrible! Cruel! But is it any different than the killing of cow, chicken, pig, fish, the poor sheep, or how many other lives in other places and times we don’t know of on Earth? It’s not a question of who eats what, no matter what hemisphere. The fact is that we only eat life. The only difference depends on whether we kill in sophisticated form, fast with no crying, or brutally like worms do. The sun, father of colors and lights showed clear and tinted the fruits in the Chinatown market: fresh vegetables covered in spines, green leaves that we know, that we don’t know, strange roots, ducks hung upside-down, chicken feet, testicles, and ribs of cow or pig, intestines hard to define if pig’s intestines or what are exposed for sale in the butchers’ and restaurant windows. Dried and salted strange little creatures like cockroaches are merchandise too in the exotic markets. A scenario in the pasture of man on my way to the doctor’s office on Canal Street filled with children yelling playing running, and old ladies who told fortunes. A shoe repairman squatted on a stool with his tools laid out on the sidewalk, busy with his customers waiting for their shoes. Clumps of men and women played dominos at tables in Columbus Park. Women fed the pigeons in spite of sign plates that read, Do Not Feed the Pigeons, on the park fence. If I was a pigeon, I’d like to raise my family in Manhattan, easy food here, for man, squirrel, rats, and cockroaches.

A fish at least two feet long jumped from a table. He twisted on the hard sidewalk, despairing without oxygen. With a spear, the fishmonger hooked the fish’s head and put him back on the sale table where he belonged now.

Daryl stopped reading and looked seriously at me. “This is beautiful, Gina,” he said. “What are you going to do with this?”

“I’m going to write a novel.”

“You can write a novel. We have a lot of work to do,” he said.

©2009 Regina Edelman