A Fate Worse than Death

Yeah, there were actually two different punishments for breaking that taboo. The guy would get killed, and the girl would get a fate worse than death.

Sure, don’t you remember those Westerns? There’d be that lady who gets kidnapped in some battle, and then one day the soldiers bring her back to the Fort, with a couple of cute little Indian kids in tow the camera pays no attention to. Then there’d always be that old battle-ax who’d be sneering with disgust, “I would a’ killed myself first.”

Cynthia-AnnWhich always left me wondering, how do we know if the lady with the babies wasn’t at home the night before, cooking her husband his favorite dish, like a good little wifey in love, with hopes of a fate worse than death?

“Hey honey!! She’d be singing out, “Guess what I made? Corn soup and fry bread! Nothing’s too good for my sweet, little honey man!

But then those damn soldiers interrupt and tell her she and the kids have got to go to some damn fort. The hubby gets real worked up about it, but she tells him, “Don’t worry, sweeteee, we’ll be back in no time flat. They’re gonna lose interest in us so fast, you won’t even believe it. I’ll just keep telling those kids to be sure and blow their noses onto the tablecloths and the furniture, and I’ll leave the diaper off the baby and when they say something I’ll say that’s how we do it, and whatever other “savage” bits I can cook up, and when we go out for a walk and never come back, they won’t even bother looking for us. Hell, they’ll be chasing us away with dogs before we even get to that walk, after the head-of-the-household steps into one of the baby’s piles right after a hot bath, with all his pores wide open.

“So you just look at it like we’re going on a little vacation with the nice white people and we’ll be right back, directly. I promise!! I’ll be home in a half a moon, just in time, and we’ll both be just so ready for all the fate-worse-than-death that we can stand. And nine moons later we’ll get a little souvenir we can treasure for the rest of our lives!”

That’s how she handled it. But I wasn’t as clever. You know that movie, Jungle Fever? I would never watch it. I hated the title. I hated it.

It’s not like anybody ever said that to me. It was the synonyms, the BBC synonyms, and I’m not talking about the British Broadcasting Corporation.  It’s not that they said the synonyms that often. It was the look in their eyes when they were thinking those synonyms. I saw that all the time.

So I just blew that shit off, and not into the tablecloth, where it could have done some good. I ignored it, but that’s the worse thing you can do. It’s like that subliminal hypnosis thing – getting in there real deep, right under the belt, like getting molested all the time, like somebody’s looking up your skirt and whispering obscenities about how nasty you are, a regular BBC Porno Princess, every time you go out the door.  And here you thought you were just a young girl in love.

So that’s the just rewards I got for walking down the street with my, my — all due respects to Cloris Leachman, can I admit it? – with my, my, my boyfriend, damn it. And what I’m seeing is what everybody is thinking. And sometimes they’ll come right out and say it. It’s always just some little thing that will slip, and when it does, that’ll be what it is – one of an endless variety of those synonyms.

And you’re real isolated with it because before you can ever get to the subject, the people in your inner circle, the people closest to you, the people of color, have already explained to you, quite emphatically, how it is that hopelessly privileged people like you can’t ever, and won’t ever, really get things like that.

And it accumulates over time until a perfectly gullible person starts to show symptoms of paranoia. But it’s not paranoia, not at all, it’s all totally real, and then somebody goes just a little bit further, and actually does something, nothing anybody could ever prosecute them for, but while you were there, you knew the intent of that touch. You knew who they just found out about, and what they said ten minutes later. And now there they were, slobbering on you. And this is all before the sexual harassment laws, so you’re really screwed, so to speak.

And this is somebody you’re depending on, somebody you work for in some big-break job that’s supposed to change your life. And it sure does.

I shut down. If everybody thought they knew what it was I wanted, I’d show them! I wouldn’t want anything. It’s not anything I could ever really get anyway.

I never backed down. I got married and had my kids and went through that whole marriage, not feeling a damn thing. (That’s the first time I’ve ever admitted to a reason that marriage fell apart that wasn’t all his fault.)

Was that a fate worse than death? Nah, it was just an imitation of life.

But I’ve regained faith in my fate worse than death! That phrase, ‘in spades’ only pops in my head when it would be extremely awkward, so I won’t say that. Except with my honey, who always laughs at those little jokes. You should just hear the banter around here.

“What’re you gonna’ give me for my birthday?”

“A fate worse than death.”

It’s like in Mary Poppins when those people are laughing so hard, or should I say so lightly, that they’re floating up to the ceiling, and won’t come down till they stop laughing. I can laugh about it! I can’t stop! A fate worse than death?’ I guess that’s assuming right after you die you’re transported to glory. Oops, my head just hit that ceiling again.

I can feel everything!

Yes, I confess it. I do deserve a fate worse than death. Many times over.

What was that melody? “Hey honey, guess what I made?”

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