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Girls Need Not Apply

Field Notes From the Forces
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From Mostarghia:

Just a few days before your death you’re determined still to be strong, to be the man of the hour, he who can do everything, always, even have his children forget the war and the concentration camps, the bombs and the hunger, the danger and the fear. Your doctor has come to inform us that you are living your last days, and that you are to be moved up to the floor for palliative care. They want to put you on a stretcher to carry you to the floor for the dying, but you refuse. You insist on taking the stairs, leaning, when necessary, on me. I feel you to be short of breath and feverish, like a leaf trembling at the approach of a hurricane. I like your smell, your silky skin, your boniness, and your lightness of weight. You were never a big eater, and even before your illness you said that we had to feed ourselves like birds, just enough to be able to fly. I see our two shadows making their way slowly along the hospital corridor. The impassive beauty of the flowers brought to the dying seems extravagant to me in this thankless place. You hold to me, as once you held to my translations in all the countries we knew where you refused to learn the language. For a long time I reproached you for this linguistic sulkiness, but towards the end of your life I understood that it was a deliberate strategy, a refusal to accept any social contract. As you lean on me and your breath comes faster, I search for words to tell you how deeply sorry I am for all our misunderstandings. (How to say sorry properly in your language, no longer really mine ever since others, like young wives unseating the older ones in a harem, have come to dwell in me, and to make me multiple.) A strange feeling runs through my entire being. As I adjust my body to better serve you as a support, my left breast slips naturally into the cavity in your chest, there where once resided the lung and ribs that have been taken from you. Gently, my breast has begun to swell, to breathe, as if it wanted to become the organ you are lacking, as if it wanted to complete you, but also to hide itself from the world and to return to whence it sprang. At the same time, in a neighbouring room, the Rwandan priest you chased away the other day because he wanted to convert you to Christianity, is reading the Bible to a dying person in a low and solemn voice: “And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof. And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from the man, made he a woman.” With your rolling Slavic accent, you whisper in my ear: “My rib is the Adriatic coast. That’s where you were conceived. You will conceive in your turn on another coast.” Your face, like that of mystics in a trance, glows with a beatific smile, and I have a sudden conviction that you have always understood everything, all the languages and all the codes you claimed not to comprehend.

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Eliza Hamilton

Eliza Hamilton

The Extraordinary Life and Times of the Wife of Alexander Hamilton
also available: Hardcover Audiobook eBook
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