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Justice for Desdemona

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Writing at Anaverna

 

Iago’s whispers shouted to Othello. He swiped at the web spun by the harem of Iago’s spider colony in an attempt to free himself. The filaments were airy and had hardly any weight to them. Yet, they were pliable and clingy, making them more of a challenge to remove than one might initially realize.
His fingers combed through his hair. He held them in front of him to asses how many he had caught; only to see his hands empty. He could still feel the netting in his curls and pulled with greater intention, but they would not release. He washed his face with imaginary water and checked his web free hands again.
Her lavender tea tinged breath floated over their bed and he siphoned it into his lungs. The stabs, produced by the slurs from the arachnids, animated his hands once more. They shook as they formed the shape of her neck. They would choke the lavender breath  out of her until the voices of the spiders subsided.
She’d pulled the duvet up to her chin in subconscious protection from the cold and smell of fly carcasses. Her fingertips gripped the damask even as she slept and pinned the amulet of hardened bread crumbs that Othello had given her for their anniversary.
A hard shelled seed buried deep within Othello’s ventricle popped at the seam as a memory of her holding his head in her lap surfaced. The spider web filaments knitted around the memory as he stood over her. Othello’s hands cradled her neck and his thumbs gently stroked a comforting rhythm before pressing in so hard that his lips curled back and he grunted with the effort of pushing a cork into a wine bottle.
The amulet bounced and crumbled to the floor. She writhed with effort to free his hands from her neck and left moon shaped fingernail prints on his wrists. His eyes blurred with fly guts merged with her struggle and spurred his attempt to focus as he tried to make the circle smaller. Her eyes opened wide and a spark from her lash flew onto his forehead burning a hole through his smear cloaked third eye.
Her face appeared to turn upside down. Or had he turned upside down? Othello shook his head violently; the spider webs still gripped his hair and the fly entrails still held to his eyeballs. The burned hole seemed a portal and a thousand disconnected dots appeared in his mind. They came alive and sounded like houseflies. He cupped his hands to his ears. Desdemona gasped a full breath and rolled out of the birch wood bed and began to crawl away only to run smack into Iago who’d hidden behind  her dressing screen.
As the seed in Othello’s aorta sprouted open and the net fell away, a whisper escaped from it’s husk. A whisper so loud that it drowned out the lies of the spiders and their feast of flies and his hands came away from his ears. He studied them once more.  This time in horror regarding what he had just done.
He turned to find Iago grasping Desdemona’s braids with the proud smile of having duped Othello. Iago offered her up to him. Othello paused, his vision still dotted, and he tried to connect them all.  His third eye tried adding them up.
One dot for the deceiver who’d spat in her face. When she’d anguished over the assault, Othello recalled how he’d left her crying in the bed and gone off to play music with the perpetrator. The shock of the cruel treatment had sent her packing and he felt nauseous as he recalled how he’d helped her load her cases onto her mount before grabbing his guitar. After three days, he’d missed her nurturing and weakly apologized. She’d forgiven him; seeing only the buried seed in his heart.
One dot for the warlock who she’d begged him to protect her from;  fearing some calamity to come. Othello had belittled her fears until she thought she was mad and sought counsel from a gypsy woman deep in the forest. Once he had her convinced that she was merely paranoid and broken, he forced her to spend her birthday celebration with the frightening dot. And when the warlock dot burned their house down and killed her black wolf, Othello never admitted to wrong.
She’d choked back the harm until the toxic fluid it produced plugged her veins and she retreated to her ancestral land. He’d defended the dot rather than Desdemona. For, having seen them together, the warlock dot knew that Othello had secretly abandoned Desdemona  for a spider with the mind of an abacus, the breath of a dead fly, and a spawn for whom Othello diverted funds from Desdemona to support.
She’d battled the many dots of his harem on her own and had lived with the swords in her back and roses in her eyes for a decade as the blood seeped out drip by drip.
One dot for his old friend Iago whose ego boosting campaign convinced Othello to strip Desdemona of her wings. Othello’s need for admiration was further satisfied by the attention from the spider girl and her offspring. Iago; the warlock dot, the spitting dot, the spider dot and her progeny had worked in tandem to fracture Othello’s devotion to Desdemona.
Desdemona supported Othello with love, devotion and true admiration; which were no match for the emotional manipulation employed by the rotten dots.  It had worked so well that it had finally pressed the seed so far down into Othello’s heart, that he hatched a plan to throw Desdemona away. He became addicted to the dark cloak and low frequency vibrations of the surrounding the dots.
For a long time, the seed’s existence had kept him from having the courage to get rid of Desdemona. Her constant supply of love kept him buoyed and he sucked up hers
as well as that of the sycophants. As Desdemona isolated herself further, he built a secret empire with Iago, his spider girl, her spiderling, and the other dots in the harem.
Othello moved towards Iago, the skin of Desdemona’s face stretched back from the force of Iago’s grip upon her braids. The thousand dots lifted their eyelids and the eyes peered at Othello as he stumbled towards them. Desdemona observed a mask of Othello’s face, still attached by one ribbon. The mask slipped all of the way off and hung at his neck by the other ribbon. Othello grabbed it and tried to tie it back on.
The whisper of the seed; the spark from Desdemona’s eyelash, the whole in his third eye that it had left, Iago’s stench-y smirk, the foul breath of the spider-girl when she laughed at him, and the thousand eyeball dots symphonized until Othello was on his head.
He lunged for Iago. Iago released Desdemona’s braids and scrambled out the door with strands of her hair tickling his arms. Looking over his shoulder, he ran straight into a stone monolith that had just been wheeled into the alley for placement at the temple. The workers, resting temporarily, watched in horror as Iago’s forehead split wide open with the force of his attempt to escape.
Othello dragged Iago’s unconscious body to the river and finished him off. He’d secretly hoped that ending Iago would convince Desdemona to stay with him until he’d consumed her every drop of blood. Once in the water he tried to wash himself clean. The grating voice of his spider girl drilled pinholes into his head and could not be drowned out even under the water.
Desdemona pulled herself up from the floor using Iago’s left behind staff to steady herself. Once upright, she wobbled forth to her table and dressed her wounded throat with myrrh. It’s astringent sting released a floodgate of tears and the swords in her back clattered to the floor.
Her intuition had told her to be ready to defend herself after she’d seen Othello’s mask tip to the side on the night of the full moon.  That night she’d awakened from a nightmare and confronted him about the spider girl from her dream. He scoffed at her ridiculous accusation. She picked up the bone handled knife, a gift from her father, that she’d hidden behind the dressing table after the dream. With it, her hands still slippery with oil, she cut the name tags from her garments. Crafted by her mother, embroidered with her daughter’s name: Desdemona. She sawed through them with the blade.  Then dipped her hands into a bowl of gold leaf flakes left by the scribe and the shards stuck to the remaining oil of myrrh.
When Othello returned from the river, he kneeled at her doorstep sobbing. His recognition of the damage the twisted dots had achieved in his life, the cascading feelings of how he’d been blinded by those intent to tear him from his love made his head fall heavily from his shoulders. She placed her left hand on the top of his head and her right hand over his heart. He welcomed her gentleness and realized the value it had given him through the decades. The seed blossomed and it’s foliage flooded the corners of his body, soul and mind.
His robe was soaked and the gold flecks that still clung to her hands were transferred onto it leaving a wing-shaped imprints over his heart and a gold crown on his head. With the strength of a wounded bird, she pushed him backwards into the sandy street.
Othello landed on a nest of scorpions. The mother and her pups all stung him multiple times until their venom paralyzed him. His hands had gone to her handprints as he’d fallen. He was unable to move them in order to clear the bile that had collected in his throat and now seeped out of the sides of his trembling mouth. As flies collected on his vomit, his hands remained on the golden hand prints. The flies crawled into his mouth and nose and filled him with their offspring until he could no longer breathe.
Desdemona turned from him, pulled her door to and locked it.  She pulled on her nameless garb and removed the key from the locked door. She placed the key on a carved wooden chain and hung it from her waist. Her butterfly wings pulsed themselves back into existence and she opened her window and flew. When she finally reached the sea, her wounds were nursed with seaweed by the nymphs. The gulls shared their fish with her, the crabs pushed the sand into the shape of a pillow for her head. She slept with her feet in the sea and a pair of newborn dolphin calves covered them with their bodies to keep her warm. Mother earth held her for forty days and nights until she grew strong enough to love again.

 

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Iridescent Veins

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She stands at the rim of the Western side and I stand at the rim of the Eastern one. We give one another the signal to plunge. I’ll not jump to the Western side in order to bridge our gap and she’ll not jump to the Eastern precipice. Instead we both jump into the heart of the chasm.

Like the macrame trimming a Brazilian hammock, our veins protude from our toes, fingers, and belly-buttons and form a fringe that spans the Grand Canyon. They weave together in a basket pattern where they meet. The ones from our belly buttons form a matrix so dense that it’s more like a cord than a basket and it wraps around our waists. The veins are so long however, that we are able to move about as far as we like independently.

We embrace tightly as we reach the center with benign nothingness below us and descend. A cape made of catclaw acacia and stream orchid appears around our shoulders. Both of our heads fit through the neck hole of the cape and it falls around our shoulders. It fills with air from the velocity of our fall but it does not blow up to cover our faces. Rather, it forms a parachute and buffers our entry into the water.

We float down with the current until we are finally washed upon the rocky, sandy banks of the Colorado River. We stay in the embrace for a while with the wet cape clinging to us. We don’t check the cord for we know that it is intact. With our fingernails we pry pebbles and reeds from our dangling networks of veins and bounce the ends of one another’s canyon-lake-water soaked hair in the other’s palms as we slosh along dragging the veins behind us. We switch from from hair bouncing to vegetation cape pulling to encourage the water to let go.

We emerge from the canyon and are lying in the hallway of the house that dad built every night and weekend for three years after working forty hours a week at the Air Force base. We didn’t live there as toddlers but in this moment we are three and four and a half. Giggling and awake at 5 am on Christmas Eve waiting for Santa Claus. The shag carpet itches our cheeks. The canyon flower cape has dried and we play with it.  She puts it on her head and pretends that it is her very long hair and flings it over her shoulder and cocks her hip out to say, “Look at my fabulously long hair.”  She takes it off for my turn and I put it around my waist pretending that it is a poodle-skirt and we subconsciously reach for a jitterbug twirl position. When our fingers are secured, we twirl one another like the grown ups do.

We distract ourselves from the anticipation of opening our gifts for as long as we can. Finally Mom calls us trying to sound happy.  But, she is wringing her hands in her night gown. The anxiety of what cruelty Dad has planned to ruin our joy courses through the cord. Our heads go back into the neck hole of the cape and we shuffle towards our stockings hanging above the brick fireplace that Dad built.

Any joy experienced by anyone for any reason other than his exhaulted greatness is a threat to his existence. Any autonomy cannot be tolerated by the pathological jealousy of the narcisisst. He takes the Christmas Candy from the coffee table and places it on the counter just out of reach of our tiny hands.

We look at Dad asking permission to take down the stockings. He doesn’t see the riparian cape and shoves our shoulders apart so that we can dump our stockings out without tripping on one another. We dump out the oranges, lip gloss, pecans and macadamean nuts and kiddles. We are 8 and 9 1/2 now. We immediately turn to the giant boxes that are under the tree and Mom gathers up the stocking stuffers and smiles but I hear her voice crying in my head and associate it to this particular smile. I had prayed a hedge
of thorns around her before school a few days earlier as the Bible says to do. I hadn’t heard the preacher mention that it was for those whose spouse needs protection from straying.  I had only heard the protection part.

We are excited to open the large boxes but notice that Dad is especially excited about it and become suspicious. His joy is never celebrating our joy so we know something is up.  We hope that we are wrong and imagine they contain go carts or a accordians or giant puppies or a canopy bed.

They instead contain another large box that has been nested inside and so on and so on like Russian Babushka dolls. We finally reach the smallest box and it is the size of a watch box.  We look at each other thinking, “Oh my Gosh, he bought us some beautiful jewelry!”

We open that box and each find a newspaper pouch. We unfold the layers of newspaper forever until we finally reach the middle. Each middle contains one nickle and five pennies.  Dad howls with glee and we look at one another confused and throw them on the ground turning to the other gifts. Mom exhales.

We open the Lincoln-Logs and Lite-Brite set. Mom is waiting for Dad’s cue to tell us to go to the carport for one more gift. We find our bicycles with banana seats and Monkey handle bars.  Hers is pink and white, mine green and silver. We hike up our gowns and ride them in the front yard until Mom makes us go in and get dressed.

In my forties, one day after therapy I was able to piece together some of an old memory that had sent me there. But it was my sister, Kim, who named the culprit. I called her to discuss the memory from my session. I asked if she remembered when I was three and Mom and Dad went to Memphis for the weekend.

They left me with Dad’s mom at the second family farm in Mena, Arkansas. They left Kim at Grandma Irby’s in Morgan; near Mayflower, Arkansas.

I recounted my memory. “I am floating above myself and see the back of my hair. I see the geckos on the screen door and I see myself walking past a man who is smiling at me but his smile makes me feel afraid.” Kim says, “It’s Carl.” Grandmother Davis’ abusive boyfriend. She describes him just as I see him in my memory. We talk about the hole Dad still had in his chest from where Carl had kicked him with his turkey toed boot for trying to pull him off of his sister when he was about seventeen.

Kim begins to describe my memory as if it were hers. She sees Grandmother Davis’ house. Sees her funnel me past Carl’s creepily smiling face and into her bedroom. She sees her hoist me high upon her bed with the flowered bedspread. She describes her opening the giant filigree box filled with every colored rhinestone imaginable adorning her costume jewelry collection.

I take over narrating my memory of how she allowed me to play with the jewelry and how it seemed that soon after I must’ve passed out. We wonder aloud if they’d drugged me and we recount how Grandmother Davis always gave Dad tranquilizers when we were growing up.

“Honey,” I say, “that is not your memory.” “How do you know this?” “I have never spoken of it, the geckos, the jewelry, the bedspread, Carl, and you were never there.” “I never knew who the man was.”  “How did you know this?” “You were at Grandma Irby’s house. You were eighteen months old.”

We become confused and try to figure out what just happened. She recounts it again and this time remembers seeing Mom and Dad drive off and leaving me there.  So small.  She sees the memory too as if she is floating.  She can see the back of my head and describes
me walking past Carl just as I see it in my memory. I see them removing the clothes from my limp body and Kim throwing her head back and wailing as Grandmother Irby tries to find the source of her fit. I see a concrete floored structure that I don’t recognize, then my three year old self alone and peering into a bucket of water.

It was as if she’d astro-projected there.  The chord of veins had reached for 140 miles that weekend.

We pieced together that must’ve been the time when she would not allow Grandma Irby to remove her clothes to bathe her that night while Mom and Dad were away. Grandma Irby was distraught that she’d had to put her to bed without a bath and recounted
the story many times over the years. She would say that Kim had a temper and would explain how she had become unglued the moment grandma had attempted to remove her dress for a bath. She had to let her sleep in the dress that night because Kim
had screamed  herself purple. Grandma Irby said she snubbed (her word for sniffling as a toddler does after a long cry) afterwards for almost an hour and there was no explanation for her behavior.

 

On the contrary, Grandma Davis had not even attempted to bathe me before returning me to my parents. My mother told me many years later that when they’d come to pick me up, the top of my hair was caked with mud as if I’d been ground into the dirt head first. They took me to the doctor. Not long after, Grandmother Davis shot Carl fourteen times for trying to rape her and she was sent to the Benton State Hospital for shock therapy.

I’ve sold the stratavarius; the one that belonged to Carl and that Dad had sworn to be the valuable kind. I’ve burned the flowered bedspread that I found in the chink-log cabin at the farm in Paris, Arkansas. I’ve stomped the rhinestones from their casings.

 

My sister’s veins are black and white and filled with stained glass windows, Bibles and church pews. Mine are gray and filled with tree branches, moonstones and feathers. But where they weave, both sets are iridescent.

Back at the shore of the canyon we see a turtle with a tiny bird on it’s back.  The bird has a twig of mesquite in it’s mouth and does not fly away when we simultaneously bend down to look at them.  The sun warms our naked butts peeking out beneath the cape. The sand cakes our vein fringe. I am the turtle with my home on my back.  She is the bird with the twig for her nest. I carry her now. I scream purple now. I astro-project through the iridescent vein cord now.

We notice some stained patches on the pile of veins behind us. Splotches, the color of congealed blood.  We don’t want the stained pieces any more and pierce them with tiny straws. She pierces the Western edge of each stain and I pierce the Eastern edge and we
both blow bubbles through them with so much force that they finally become iridescent again and sparkle like the Eiffel Tower does for five minutes every hour on the hour when it is lit with golden glittery lights in the Paris night.


 

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