The Death of the Patriarchy


She laid her mask out on the tarp delicately before they arrived home. This was after she painted it with all the pretty features one might expect from a mask. She rouged its cheeks, made the lips into a heart shaped kiss, arranged its teeth in an agreeable pattern. Normally, the lids over the eyes were at half tilt, the eyes underneath alert and seductive, a fixed flirtation. When she bowed they would see her half lids, when she rose they’d see her come-hither invitation. This feature she altered. On this day the eyes were alert, the brows were arranged on a minute tilt, furrowed, angry.

The tarp she laid her mask atop was in the living room, to watch over them as they drank, though it looked out at the city below, away from the men. She would attend them unadorned, with her true face, her waking face. She would face them, this last day of their lives. No one needs to cover a blemish when a blemish is no longer yours to name.

The men would start early, their wives tucked away on their permanent weekend vacations. She set a tray in plain site with the first two glasses heavily poured. This allowed her the time she needed to prepare. Her mask sat on the floor atop the tarp which sat below the table, the couch, the chairs. They’d mistake it for a remodel, if they ever looked down at all. 

They did as she assumed they would, loudly entered, clumsily knocking a thing to the floor, possibly a rack, or an entire table. They laughed and they spit, they chewed while they talked. She could picture the bloat in their bellies, and the rounds of their cheeks, the delight they shared in each other’s private company, to outwit all that were out of earshot, to think their game an endless folly. They didn’t take their shoes off when they entered as they were supposed to, would never notice the slick surface that sat above the typically soft rug.

When she heard the first grumble she arranged the poison behind her. She wanted to pour it before them, at their feet, she wanted her secret to enter the room with her. She liked the risk in getting caught, which is why she tucked the blade behind her naked back when she entered the room. What distractible beasts they were at the site of her body uncovered, how simply they could forgive every change in routine. She did not greet them, yet here she was already undressed. She did not pour the first drink, yet here was another round between two breasts. The dinner was not set, yet the cheese plate laid half eaten. Her face was quite different, but neither could trace their finger and find its past.

She poured for the men, who continued to banter, each darting their eyes from one another to her chest. The head of the house reached for a handful of breast and the woman rolled her shoulder to avoid his grasp.

“Patience sir,” she spoke as she revealed the poison in its clear beaker, “I’ve brought you both a gift.” A grunt was the man’s response, he tilted back and quickly emptied his cup, offered it back to her to refill with a nod. The woman leaned over to turn the mask on the floor to face the men as well.

“Wait," bellowed the master. "What is different about you, girl?”

“Enjoy my gifts,” she responded, straightening her posture to dart her chest forward as she backed away.

She poured herself a cup from the finest bottle in his cabinet. There was a cough from the living room, then the sound of gagging, and though she would have liked to be the last thing they saw, it was fitting that they’d look to each other, helpless giants, each a lifetime away from any craft or skill, each a moment away from whatever cruel eternity awaited them.

As quickly as it takes to pour another drink, toast another year, as quickly as a building is leveled into dust, or a sleeping body is stepped over on a busy street, they slumped over off their seats and released their bowels. It is not a subtle gesture to end a life, not a simple change in look and demeanor. It is a deep breath, followed by a knife plunge, the blade pushed through skin, then bone, then organ, then through bone and skin again. It is the sound accompanied by the blood that a body omits in its final gasp. It is an exhale that feels like redemption, that does not ask for forgiveness, that rejoins a stolen body to the body’s spiritual owner. A moment to rejoice, if only a moment.

Of course she hoped they’d see her mask, angry and scowling, sitting on the floor as they toppled atop the tarp below. Of course she had many hopes, but as soon as she counted both thuds, she only could look at her own wrists, at her own hands, of all the things she could now lift herself up and out from. She made her way to the ornate vivarium, lifted the glass doors to release the snakes who devoured the men in two solid gulps. What fools they were to keep such beautiful creatures as pets.