MAGGIE WOLFF PETERSON

My Desdemona

 

Hitler is the Elvis of psycho leadership.

The tattoos on the shave-head white boys shout it loud and proud. They don’t know what the hell they’re wearing etched into their skin, what the hell it really means. As if they ever cracked a history book in their lives. But it’s bad-ass and it hurt like hell to get it, and that fuels their crazy.

 I stay away from them.

 A Complication.

 That’s the elegant word for something that shits up a thing that ought to be plain simple. Like your brother shouldn’t be fucking your new wife behind your back. Pretty as a daisy, she was to me, before that. Christ, I knew her since we were little kids. It was nowhere in my mind to take a knife to her face before I walked in and found them. Then I had to wreck her pretty like she wrecked mine. 

 It’s interesting how bruises start purple, then turn green and yellow before they disappear, since blood on your shirt just coagulates and turns brown.

 Oh, sweetie, sweetie. My little sweetie. Of course I love you.

 Who wants a dog to lick their face after it eats shit?

 It’s not like I’m afraid of white people. I can proudly claim my own inner redneck. I don’t need to hang a gigantic Confederate flag off the front porch of my double-wide, or scratch ink into my arm to remind myself who I am. I’m just fine on a summer Saturday night with a cooler of beer in cans, and some friends and a cornhole competition in the back yard. With my girl in cutoff shorts, sitting sideways in her lawn chair next to me, with her legs over the armrest and her bare feet resting on my thigh. That’s happiness enough.

 I can barely stand to think about it. 

 Anything taken out of context becomes significant because it stands alone. There’s no cushioning, nothing serving to moderate. But when you know the whole story, what stood alone as an alarming behavior is repositioned as a reasonable reaction. The punishable is reduced to the unfortunate. In other words, something anyone might have done.

 I was supposed to be the smart one. Him, they tracked for vo-ed, but they told me I was “college-bound.” All it took was a little bit of paying attention and reading the books on the handout. As if knowing Shakespeare matters fuck-all now.

 So, my brother comes to see me, and he’s all fresh and smiling, and I haven’t had a decent haircut in months, and it wouldn’t matter anyway because my last shower wasn’t this morning. “How’s it going?” he asks me. I haven’t a clue how to answer him. Should I say it’s going well, it’s going fine? It’s going, there’s no disputing that.

 He’s wearing a new watch. It has faces inside its face. To tell the time in other zones while you’re following time where you’re at. The dials inset in its shiny, mother-of-pearl face are what watchmakers call “complications.” My brother wears his complications on his arm and shows two faces at once.

 But I’m looking swift in my orange jumpsuit and rubber shoes.   

 

 BIO: During the past 30 years, Maggie’s work has been published in The Washington Post, Newsweek and Womens’ Day magazines and The New York Times, as well as regionally and locally.

 

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