Bradleysburg (8)

Tina sat on her bed, the sage green sheets pushed aside for her comfort, listening to her mother berate her father in the next room. She wished she could go to work, but Mel’s was closed for the funerals.

“I ask and I beg and I plead with you,” her mother hissed, “but you just sit there, you lazy, lazy piece of shit!”

“Oh, fuck off, Doris,” her father grumbled.

Tina reached for her iPhone and slipped the earbuds in, hitting Shuffle and letting Beyoncé drown out her parents. She closed her eyes and wrapped her arms around her knees.

She hadn’t seen Ray since stealing his four-wheeler. He hadn’t called her or stopped in the Pizzeria. She had not been to church for weeks. She wasn’t going to the memorial service today because Ray would be there, watching his dad speak. Fuck Ray.

The first time he hit her, they had just had sex for the first time. He hadn’t expected to lose his virginity when they went to her room and started playing cards on her floor. She had tricked him into it, he said, had offered herself to him, had taken advantage of his naïveté. She laughed, then, thinking about how eagerly he’d squeezed her breasts and how quickly he’d come, even with the condom she’d taken from her nightstand drawer and rolled onto him. He finished so fast that she hoped he might be eager to help her climax afterward, but his accusations began almost as soon as he withdrew. Her laugh enraged him, and he slapped her.

None of her boyfriends had ever hit her before. Some had yelled, called her bitch or slut, but never that. She was naked and suddenly scared.

Her fear startled him, she thought. He recognized what he’d done. His turnaround had been immediate, tearful and sincere, words of scripture flowing forth as he asked her to pray with him. They held hands, kneeling by her bed, and he begged the Heavenly Father for strength and love. They were both still nude, the condom hanging loosely from his limp penis as he spoke tearfully of Christ and forgiveness.

And she had forgiven him, thinking of how he held doors open and pulled chairs out and wrote her letters that came in the mail complete with bad teenaged poetry. She thought of the Reverend Morris, his warm smile and trusting words. Taking this sweet boy, full of innocence and God, and offering him her body… She felt ashamed then, and she prayed, too, asking the Lord for the strength to be virtuous, to keep Ray in her life.

They played their parts in the months to come. He, the chivalrous man saving the damaged girl; she, the eager pupil learning the Scripture at his feet. They did not have intercourse again, she having decided to avoid future confrontations by offering only blowjobs and handies, which he accepted without complaint. He struck her again, of course–when he caught her smoking weed, when she blasphemed–but she convinced herself that such suffering was penance, that Ray was helping her.

The attempted rape changed that. His violence stemmed not from a desire to bring her to salvation, but something selfish, something condescending. She saw her true self reflected in his eyes then–as a slut. As someone he could fuck and punch and violate in whatever way he wanted because she was less than a person.

He’d heard the rumors, like everyone else. He pursued her anyway, because he wanted to see how close he could get to the edge of lust and still pull back. And he hadn’t pulled back. Desire got the better of him, and he loathed her for it. Loathed her, so he used her.

Tina saw the last several months for the cruel joke they were. As much as Ray hated her, she hated herself for being fooled, for chasing respectability. More rumors would start, if they hadn’t already. What would the next man expect from her?

She took out her earbuds and let her parents’ rage wash over her until she thought she would drown.

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3 Responses to Bradleysburg (8)

  1. jessecrall says:

    I saw your comments on Facebook regarding women characters and I think you’re putting too much worry into it. Always treat your characters as humans and focus on their very specific wants/needs/anxieties/strengths independent of gender. Even if you think of Tina’s worry over slut-shaming, dig deep into more basic wants. She wants what? Love from her parents? Acceptance from them? A connection to a lover? Respect from friends? If you think of her in these terms rather than “as a woman, how would she respond?” you’ll create a real person without cliched markings.

    Not that I see this in your work. What you’ve written so far is incredibly compelling. I’m just trying to give you a way of looking at your creations in ways that lead you beyond stereotypes. You wouldn’t worry about how to write a “male” character. You simply write a person who happens to be a man because men are such varied beings. Even a guy who WANTS PUSSY or WANTS TO BE FUCKING TOUGH does so for reasons that women share: a need to impress, to feel in control, to fill some sort of void caused by anxiety over their body or shitty parents, etc. Women are the same. I think of the girls in, say, my 8th grade class. Sometimes yeah, they’d band together and behave as a clique but individually, they were all different people with a range of personalities, responses to adversity…Even if Tina does express a behavior typically associated with girls/women, think about why she does so and dig at it. You’ll probably unearth insecurities/desires/strengths/weaknesses that have nothing to do with gender. Other characters will objectify her, sure, but as an AUTHOR you want to paint her as a person at her core. Not that you haven’t already. Just don’t over-think whether your character has a dick or a snatch.

    • semiblind says:

      Jesus, that kind of solves everything. I got some feedback after the last Tina segment that suggested her sexuality seemed more masculine than feminine. This worried me, which is one reason i’d left her alone for a little while. Those folks weren’t saying I had fucked up, per se, but that I needed to somehow provide psychological context for her actions. I worried that I might make her justa victim, which I don’t want to do.

      Your remarks are so spot-on and simple that I feel like an ass for not just *knowing* how to do this. Thanks for cutting through my bullshit so swiftly.

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