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336 pages, Hardcover
First published June 8, 2021
We were all over each other. We kissed like animals. We knocked into my stupid liquor shelf and it wobbled and in particular I noticed the Rémy Martin on the shelf. It had belonged to my parents and I never touched it or let anyone else touch it. But in the near future, I would let him drink it. Afterward, we were practicing a few yoga positions together, downward dog into crow jumping back into chaturanga, when his cell phone rang. His breathing was heavy but he clipped it somehow: Hey, honey. Yeah, no, don’t sweat it. I’m gonna bring home a pizza. Yeah, coming right now. Okay, love you. He smiled as though nothing had happened. It wasn’t that he was cruel but that he was tipsy and the moment didn’t call for being strange or for acknowledgment. I followed his lead. We laughed some more about some things and he said, Well. And I said, Bye. And he said, Easy, girl. I’m going.
If someone asked me to describe myself in a single word, depraved is the one I would use. The depravation has been useful to me. Useful to what end, I couldn’t say. But I have survived the worst. Survivor is the second word I’d use . A dark death thing happened to me when I was a child. I will tell you all about it, but first I want to tell what followed the evening that changed the course of my life. I’ll do it this way so that you may withhold your sympathy. Or maybe you won’t have any sympathy at all. That’s fine with me. What’s more important is dispelling several misconceptions — about women, mostly. I don’t want you to continue the cycle of hate. I’ve been called a whore. I’ve been judged not only by the things I’ve done unto others but, cruelly, by the things that have happened to me. I envied the people who judged me. Those who lived their lives in a neat, predictable manner. The right college, the right house, the right time to move to a bigger one. The prescribed number of children, which sometimes is two and other times is three. I would bet that most of those people had not been through one percent of what I had. But what made me lose my mind was when those people called me a sociopath. Some even said it like it was a positive. I am someone who believes she knows which people should be dead and which should be alive. I am a lot of things. But I am not a sociopath.
After we returned to Italy, I worked as a waitress at this café on La Dogana beach in Maremma. Every day this bald man with one of those cartoon guts came in. Every day he ordered the linguine con vongole. They made it the best there. And every day this man, Carlo, would ask for extra parsley, but he wanted me to sprinkle it on top right there in front of him. Some days he was my only lunch table. He didn’t act untoward with me, unless you can count him wanting the parsley sprinkled tableside, and the way he would watch my hands. I used to apply clear polish every other day because I was conscious of Carlo watching my fingers. Joan, do you understand? There are rapes, and then there are the rapes we allow to happen, the ones we shower and get ready for. But that doesn’t mean the man does nothing.