‘I’m conducting an experiment for escape.’
A man broke into my flat last month and hostaged my baby. I wasn’t careful and hadn’t locked the metal gate to my home. When it happened I was in the kitchen making food; the next thing I knew a stranger was standing at the doorway with the baby in his arms. The child wasn’t crying, she didn’t know what pair of arms had picked her up, she thought they belonged to a friend. The man didn’t have a bad look, no, not at first, he was only ordinary. I said to him, please, set down the child, if you do, I’ll be grateful, I’ll do anything.
The man replied, “I’m here because your baby is mine. If you want her back, you’ll have to hand over your innocence.”
And I looked at him, puzzled: “But what do you mean?”
“Word is that you’ve built the best family in the neighborhood, that you’re a good person, and that your innocence soothes people.”
“You’ve heard wrong, mister. I’m merely who I am, nothing more. Please give me back the child. I’ve only been a mother for a short while.”
“I will, but only after you’ve surrendered your innocence. Now I want you to turn off the stove and come to the living room.”
Seeing the baby captive I killed the fire and departed the kitchen. He moved the coffee table and closed the curtains. He sat on the sofa and placed the baby next to him, his hand on her small nape, and after a sharp silence he said, “Strip.”
My baby’s eyes were bright, a shining black, and they were watching me. I wanted her back, terribly so. I’d been building all my life up to have her. Now she was finally here, her teeth all white and complete, sitting next to the strange man. She lifted a dimpled hand and pointed at me and called me mama, tilting her head to look at the man. I stripped. When I was down to my housewife’s underwear, the man said, “More.”
I asked, “Why are you doing this?”
“For a very simple reason. They say you’re good, but I think you’re just fortunate. People like you don’t know how much you’re hurting others. I’m here to prove that you that you don’t deserve your innocence. Don’t stop now. I have your baby. Just do as I say.”
“Do you not fear the law?”
The man arched his eyebrows and said, “Law? What do housewives know about laws?”
“If I obey, will you return to me what is rightly mine?”
“Yes, because I’m a man of my word.”
A new face crept in, an ugly and leering mask. His eyes glittered. I stood in shame, the baby watching.
The man took out a cellphone and said, “Put your hands to the side. Let go and relax. I like good bodies, I like good pictures, and I’m going to take some so that you can never report me or run away.”
Then like a false king he commanded, “Lie down and spread your legs, arch them, yes, right, this way, up, higher, wider, let me converse in silence with your cunt for a minute. It’s like a dragon fruit.”
Then he started stroking himself, fondling, soon his eyes grew misty and he unzipped his fly. The meat rocket was pink and wet and shining. His hand followed the shaft up and down, up and down, pumping. My baby watched. He was jerking faster and faster and then a sudden explosion of wet sap flew up and landed on his lap. He smeared some onto my baby’s thigh.
His face was once again ordinary, a common face anyone would see on a busy street. “You can wear your clothes now. But I’ll be back tomorrow. And remember, I have the pictures, so you know what to do.”
After he left, I cleaned my baby and cradled her until she fell asleep in my arms.
The man came again the next day and did the same thing. The same singular fun on the sofa with my baby beside him while he watched my dragon fruit cunt like it was an extremely interesting episode from an eighties drama. The soap opera continued for a month, sparing the weekends. I watched him, observed his face, hands, feet.
Now and then he’d utter things like, “Sex is a part of true art,” “I bet you love to play.” This happened until one afternoon I grew angry and lifted myself up at the elbows with my breasts like two round pats of dung drooping to the sides. I snapped my fingers twice and said, “This is lame. Come on, if you want to fuck, fuck properly, all the way, like a man. Don’t just sit there masturbating like some circus freak. That’s really not the way to own a dick. Give me something real.”
Then I got up and strode right up to the pervert and straddled him, putting my cunt onto his dick.
And now I said, “Is this the innocence you want? I’ll teach you how to be a man. And by the way, you’ve got it wrong, evil isn’t difficult to learn at all.”
A look of wide-eyed shock came into his face as he pushed me off of him. Hastily and unsteadily he stood up, his pants dropping to the floor.
“So you’re ready to go now, huh? Why so fast? I haven’t had enough, I want more. You want babies, don’t you? I’ll give you one for free.”
And like a savage I flew up and clawed his chest and thrust my tongue into his ear and we crashed onto the floor. I pulled the belt loose from his jeans and stood naked with my hair flying wild, whipping his bare back over and over again.
Then I stormed into the kitchen for a bottle of cooking oil and poured it onto his ass cheeks and with two greasy fingers I shoved them up his shit hole. I thrust them in and out and wondered if my fingers would ever be clean again, until he yelled out, “Rape!”
I spat back, “You asked for it!”
When I had enough I took a matchbox from the altar cabinet of the Mazu goddess and I went up to his face and lit a match. I squat over him so that my cunt was only inches away from his eyes, and I grabbed his hair and lifted his head and I shouted,
“Now smell my hole!”
He peered up at me with a bruised look and watched the flame. Then I shouted again, “Apologize to my cunt!”
“Now call it mama.”
“Get up and wear your clothes now,” I said, as I blew out the match.
Whimpering, he rose and dressed himself, his head lowered.
“Give me your cellphone and wallet,” I said.
I smashed the cellphone against the wall and it shattered into pieces, then I checked the wallet and took the twenty bucks in there. Then I opened the door and threw out his wallet. The man scrambled after it to pick it up. He fled down the hall and disappeared. I banged the door shut and leaned my back to it, sliding slowly down the rough, painted wood, tired and spent. That was when the baby started to stir. I sat there, motionless, watching her cry.
My wife had been acting strangely. At first she didn’t seem out of the ordinary, no, we spoke about everyday things, like the baby’s diaper rash or what to have for dinner tomorrow night. We functioned as usual, I went to work early every day and came home late, the company was undergoing asset reconstruction. But when I came home, the curtains were shut. Then, even on good bright mornings, she kept them shut. She had always liked how the sun’s rays meandered through the living room of our two-room flat. She said it was like we were goldfish swimming in a bowl.
Once in the middle of the night I woke to find her gone from our bed. I went to the living room only to see her lying there, naked on the floor, her legs arched and opened to the sofa. Taken back, I asked her what was she doing. “I’m conducting an experiment for escape,” she said. I took a blanket and covered her but she clung to me. Her lips were swollen and febrile as they sought mine, and we made love like we never had before.
Then last Thursday I came back to see her in the kitchen with a pile of dragon fruit on the dining table. She was eating them, digging into the seeded meat with a metal spoon, and her fingers were bandaged and sticking into the air like two stiff mummies. I asked her what had happened, what was wrong, and she said her fingers were broken. We must go to the doctor’s then, I said, but she started shivering and weeping and the dragon fruit meat spilled out of her mouth as she said,“No, I can’t, my fingers are permanently damaged, they are dirty, they are polluted with evil, no doctor can mend them, they are no good any more, I’m no good, I can’t protect the baby, I can’t understand her body, I don’t have a body, the baby must be ten years old now…” Tears were pouring down her face and soaking the front of her blouse.
I called up a psychiatrist and brought her to the hospital. They checked her in and the doctor declared it postnatal depression. She thinks that broken fingers will stop the child from leaving her side, he said. There was nothing to do but to wait for her to come out of it. She stayed there for two months. Every weekend I’d bring the child to her. She’d sit in the wheelchair like a mannequin, the child laughing at the sparrows darting from tree to tree. But she saw nothing. Her eyes were as unapproachable as two lonely planets.
Then one day I left the child with the neighbors and I went to a jewelry store and bought a ring. I went to her and I said,
“Let’s get married once more. I had been too busy with work, I had forgotten you and left you alone with the child.”
She blinked when she heard this, as though she remembered something, and when I took her hand and removed the old ring and inserted the new one, a sad smile spread across her lips and the tears fell from our eyes.
“I love you.”
We looked at each other as we did years ago, when we were young and the days around us felt weightless. We both knew, from then on, that things were going to be fine.