Nothing could be done now, she had aborted, her brother was dead, all Rich had were his reasons, which didn’t make sense, even to him once he was done. He remembered her beauty. At first he did not even know she had a family, that’s how struck he was by her, she was solemn, tall for her age–still young, much younger than him–and her black skin he romanticized by calling it “onyx,” and he forgot nothing after he bade her goodbye that day and woke in the night hard with desire and the need to pull her to him, realizing then he was dreaming. She happened to be in town the next day, when he also happened to be there, though he rarely went to town on successive days, at least until now, when after two days a third was called for and on the fourth they found a place outside town where he peeled away her dress, nothing underneath, nor did he wear anything there and she smiled when she saw his member rigid, even seeming to move as though dowsing to enter her. Each day after that he came to town and they met out there, as though by assignation, rolling together in the high grass that was warm and layered and a good place to sleep after their bodies were spent, happy, and she told him she wanted only to leave this place, she knew it would be hard if not impossible to get from here to where she wanted to go, where there were women like her who had ambition and desire and sought such consummation. Where is that? he asked, but she didn’t answer, just pointed and whispered, Out there . . .
He wanted to take her there. He was surprised he loved her. A white man was forbidden to love a black woman, even if a black man loving a white woman led to his immediate execution . . . what, after all, had the war been about if not to keep black people slaves, obedient to whites who were taught they were saved because there was a race of people who belonged below their own station, and no wonder, poor whites were so much trash in the sight of those who owned so much land that their only recourse was to denigrate black people so they'd feel better of themselves in front of the mirror. But that was not the way he felt with her. They began to make plans to go away together soon. Then she found herself with child.
Then her brother learned of their trysts, he would not say "love," and for some reason he did not want to admit what was so obvious that no one need tell him more than his sister, who feared him when he got so headstrong and full of hate. She went to a woman on the outskirts of Woolwine who concocted a brew and after several weeks of drinking it down each night–during which time she never saw nor heard from the father of her fetus–the misshapen thing was purged with the help of the woman and that was all there was.
Her brother, she knew, finally, was feigning his hatred of her lover, so he went after the younger brother whose Christian name was the same as that of the president gunned down at the war’s end.
Her lover told her Abraham's name, but he would not tell her his own, nor would she tell him her name as long as he preferred anonymity, believing they would break their silence once they were gone from here and were living “out there.”
Her brother went to town and every chance he had he stalked Abraham through the Woolwine streets, taunting him mercilessly, keeping on him until he reached his brothers and once there was safe until his next trip to town.
Rich told Abraham nothing about the brother or his sister. She came to Rich one day and led him to their place and told him the baby was gone. Could they make plans to leave now?
Rich told her what her brother was doing to his brother. She said he got crazy, he'd get over it, don't worry, and she sought to take the conversation back to . . . Where do you want to go? When? How will we travel? What will we do when we find a place we want to live? Are you sure this is what you want? Aren’t you afraid of being seen with me, of people knowing we share not only the same house but the same bed, eat together, talk and laugh together . . . as though we were one, as though we belonged with one another, as though love were possible between you and me . . . but she did not get back there, he was too aflame, burning with rage at her brother, telling her how close he was to his little brother and what he must do now, namely, make her brother end his crazed mission.
They planned to meet again, but it was too late, her brother was adamant, and so was Abraham’s older brother, so was she . . . She told him she needed him only because she loved him. He lost control, told her she was nothing, nor was her brother, or any of those from whom they came: read Genesis, he said, you know who betrayed Noah, don’t you?
So he left her in the high grass and went to where her brother was stalking Abe, then went to the saloon where Ira and Dave were drinking, and over a drink of his own he told them something about the time (What time?) had come, but that was all he said, simply removing the knife from its scabbard, asking them to feel the blade, but look out, he warned, it’s sharp and will slice you like a kitchen knife through butter in the heat of summer, and then so stunned they could not speak they watched him go, knowing nothing about what he was about to do, though sensing he was going now to do what he did that afternoon, while Abe cowered against the wall listening to the sounds of rage and agony that seemed to come from the other side of the wall but knew full well it was happening just around the corner, at the entrance to the alley.
(17 October 2011)
copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander