I’m writing a novel about a woman and the words are stuck. I don’t want to type the sentence that wants to come out. I don’t want to say that it’s normal to be afraid of men, all of them, even the sons and fathers. We’re at risk just walking out our front door.
My window is getting more attention than my computer screen. A small lizard zips by my view. I worry that she isn’t big enough to face the snakes and hungry birds that invade my peaceful property. She’ll get devoured in this world if she’s not careful.
The cursor on my novel page blinks. If I was to tell the honest version of this story I would begin with a small girl and end with a tall girl and somewhere in-between there’d be shattered glass. I blink and revise my description of the lizard, I mean the girl, with a better word. She wasn’t small at first. She was whole.
Later, after the attack, she became hardened. She had to relearn more than speech. The court trial and the pregnancy expanded her. She amplified, unrolled, and thickened. She became unashamed, impenetrable.
It’s then that my fingers lock up again. The truth has been rewritten. Edited. The girl did not rise like a phoenix from that moment and blaze a new path for herself. Instead, she faced the terror over and over every fucking day because the world has allowed him his freedom and the other men have seen this and what is to stop them?
A larger lizard approaches my window and he pauses to study me. He seems to be asking if I’ve seen the other one. The less-big lizard. The tiny-but-never-to-be-called-small one that ran past my window earlier. He’s got angry claws and I know she’s lucky to have escaped him. I worry for her. She’s in grave danger out there. He’s not the only man, I mean lizard, who will use his strength against her.
I shake my head at that lizard and he moves on. He knows I’ll never give up her location. The other less-big lizards will keep her secret too. We look out for each other and at least there’s that.
I type the truth onto my page at last. “She scaled the fence only to find there was another one waiting for her, just across the yard.”
Windy Lynn Harris has been published in The Literary Review, 34th Parallel, and Poor Mojo’s Almanac, among many other journals. She has received two Professional Development Grants from the Arizona Commission on the Arts, which are funded by the state of Arizona and The National Endowment on the Arts.