Dangerous for Girls
by Connie Voisine
It was the summer of Chandra Levy, disappearing
from Washington D.C., her lover a Congressman, evasive
and blow-dried from Modesto, the TV wondering
in every room in America to an image of her tight jeans and piles
of curls frozen in a studio pose. It was the summer the only
woman known as a serial killer, a ten-dollar whore trolling
the plains of central Florida, said she knew she would
kill again, murder filled her dreams
and if she walked in the world, it would crack
her open with its awful wings. It was the summer that in Texas, another
young woman killed her five children, left with too many
little boys, always pregnant. One Thanksgiving, she tried
to slash her own throat. That summer the Congressman
lied again about the nature of his relations, or,
as he said, he couldn’t remember if they had sex that last
night he saw her, but there were many anonymous girls that summer,
there always are, who lower their necks to the stone
and pray, not to God but to the Virgin, herself once
a young girl, chosen in her room by an archangel.
Instead of praying, that summer I watched television, reruns of
a UFO series featuring a melancholic woman detective
who had gotten cancer and was made sterile by aliens. I watched
infomercials: exercise machines, pasta makers,
and a product called Nails Again With Henna,
ladies, make your nails steely strong, naturally,
and then the photograph of Chandra Levy
would appear again, below a bright red number,
such as 81, to indicate the days she was missing.
Her mother said, please understand how we’re feeling
when told that the police don’t believe she will be found alive,
though they searched the parks and forests
of the Capitol for the remains and I remembered
being caught in Tennessee, my tent filled with wind
lifting around me, tornado honey, said the operator when I called
in fear. The highway barren, I drove to a truck stop where
maybe a hundred trucks hummed in pale, even rows
like eggs in a carton. Truckers paced in the dining room,
fatigue in their beards, in their bottomless
cups of coffee. The store sold handcuffs, dirty
magazines, t-shirts that read, Ass, gas or grass.
Nobody rides for free, and a bulletin board bore a
public notice: Jane Doe, found in a refrigerator box
outside Johnson, TN, her slight measurements and weight.
The photographs were of her face, not peaceful in death,
and of her tattoos Born to Run, and J.T. caught in
scrollworks of roses. One winter in Harvard Square, I wandered
drunk, my arms full of still warm, stolen laundry, and
a man said come to my studio and of course I went—
for some girls, our bodies are not immortal so much as
expendable, we have punished them or wearied
from dragging them around for so long and so we go
wearing the brilliant plumage of the possibly freed
by death. Quick on the icy sidewalks, I felt thin and
fleet, and the night made me feel unique in the eyes
of the stranger. He told me he made sculptures
of figure skaters, not of the women’s bodies,
but of the air that whipped around them,
a study of negative space,
which he said was the where-we-were-not
that made us. Dizzy from beer,
I thought why not step into
that space? He locked the door behind me.
Summer 2001: Another Dangerous for Girls
I, too, remember that summer
what I was doing when I heard the news
I cannot remember.
Chandra Levy went missing,
Five boys drowned by their mother in a Texas Lake,
Aileen Wuornos would be injected.
I know I quit teaching that year
exchanging the chalk for a Bible
that never really helped.
The cold, leather cover cracked
whining as I opened it,
looking for answers I couldn’t find.
I fell in love for always,
one last time we camped Lost Bridge West.
Our beer got stolen and my shoe
melted slowly in the campfire.