by Marie Baleo
“Women shouldn’t drive,” my chauffeur tells me.
There is a word in a foreign language for the art of hiding, a three-syllable birdcall kept in chest pockets like a secret. In the rectangle of the rearview mirror his eyes shine like hot coals and he has no face. In mine, he looks for a fire, but I do not give anything away. I tell myself I’m too good to educate him. I’m not too good. All of my bones are here careening through these streets suspended between his four fast doors and he knows it. Just like he knows how bad we are, how helpless and weak. But not to worry, he’s not angry at me—it’s only natural. “You’re not good at it,” he explains. I sit on my fingers. He wants me to humor him, say yes, yes please and thank you, wants me to accept and say, no, we’re not dangerous, yes, we will partake, yes to you and everything you say, a resounding yes to all the shit born in the void of your mind and thrown at me from inside your mouth. Yes, see me as nothing, by all means. You’d only be right. Me and the other walking lips, the dismembered breasts, the plastic faces with words and fists shoved in them, we fall short of humanity. If we are lucky, alone at times or among the enlightened ones, we can lift the veil of silence and let ourselves be a little larger than nothing. A little more than a pitiful head of hair to be trampled by another, a little more than a piece of something harmed and hindered, squandered and frayed. All the driver gives away now is a pair of black eyes, but of me he sees all. He sizes me up, runs his eyes along the sides of my face, along my arms crossed over my insides. Does he think I could lurch and dig my nails into his eyes? Does he believe I could lace my frail fingers around his neck and scream until he begged for mercy or veered us off the course of safety? Does the buried root of him know who here burns the brightest? Who can make danger?
“You’re right, they shouldn’t,” I say.
Marie Baleo is a French writer born in 1990. Her work was nominated for a Best of the Net award in 2017 and has appeared or is forthcoming in Tahoma Literary Review, Litro Magazine, Maudlin House, Split Lip Magazine, Cease, Cows, Gone Lawn, The Penn Review, Jersey Devil Press, The Nottingham Review, Five 2 One Magazine, Hypertext Magazine, Five on the Fifth, Spilled Milk, and elsewhere. She is currently on the masthead of Panorama: The Journal of Intelligent Travel. Marie grew up in Norway and Lebanon and received a B.A. from Washington University in St. Louis and an M.A. from Sciences Po Paris.