Three short rings, two long have gained the
GRAY-HAIRED GIRL admittance—her shadow and her shadow's shadow
lurking, locked outside—while she whose refuge has been ferreted
greets her guest with quiet diffidence, unprepared to play the role
of cloistered confidante.
I just freaked. I mean I flipped out
totally. Things were going great; next minute WHAM. It's
like that doorbell sent a shockwave through my
conscience; really bugged me. It was Greer; I'm almost
positive. Since we broke up, he's been weird. And even
weirder since my getting-it-on with Phoebe.
Amy smokes, her Pall Mall glowing in
the studio's semi-darkness like an ember, shedding
red-complexioned highlights on the threesome: Amy,
Zahra, and Zahra's decoy—its features painted on, limbs
posed in a natural-seeming posture, an authentic-looking
wig secured by a kerchief.
Am I queer? I mean, I did it with a
woman and I liked it; Phoebe's sensual. She takes
charge, lets me relax. Ordinarily, I'm high gear.
Amy hesitates, apprehensive about her
Is this nasty? Should I clam
my yap. Christ, you've got problems worse than mine; I
should be lending you an ear instead of rambling
on and on about my sex life.
Please, continue. I have time
enough alone—too much, too many thoughts unshared. A
mind in solitude is the Devil's favorite playground.
Fighting tears, her eyes awash for no
apparent reason, Amy looks askance, directs her somewhat
bleary focus at the dummy.
How bizarre! I just mistook
this silly manikin for your double; your alter ego? Like the way I
feel with Phoebe. We're two halves who make one whole.
Does that sound crazy?
Zahra reconsiders the static
figure's semblance. Heretofore its lifeless presence
has been pointedly ignored, as in disdained, as in
avoided, something troubling or offensive having stirred
associations she despises:
imagining straw in place of plaster
wooden sticks not metal struts
clothes rent by wind and rain and sun
in lieu of stylish holes and tears
envisioning umbrae cast as swooping crescents
sharp as sickles
raucous caws emitting ridicule
black-winged scythes forewarning doom
with the effrontery to alight
to claw at pseudo-flesh
whose human pretense hints at pathos
stirred by vulnerability...
Yanked from her reverie, Zahra
Thought I'd lost you for a second.
What I meant to say is maybe you and I are mirror
images. Like we're toying with extremes so we can
overcome our fears. I think I'm straight, then sleep
with Phoebe; she convinces me I'm gay. You think you're
gay, then sleep with what's-his-face—Franchone...
False! I mean, I slept, but that
cannot be called improper.
He massaged you, didn't he? 'Laid
on hands'? Which made you wet, I'll bet.
Amy's imputation triggers Zahra's
staunch denial—which she restrains lest innocence
plead itself too loudly.
It made me... calm. But...
Same as me. And you felt creepy
afterward; right? I mean, I came—you know, had
orgasms?—but that doorbell ringing... picturing Greer...
anticipating what he'd think... was like my conscience
tapped me on the shoulder with a sledgehammer. So I
split. I hauled ass outta there, not one word of
explanation, bee-lined home and took an extra-long hot
shower then headed over here.
Zahra weighs the truth of Amy's
pivotal allegation, citing Homa (more analogous) whose
affections, sorely missed, compete with up-to-date
sensations roused by touches unsolicited:
all too well revisited
through these days in isolation
through these sleepless nights of introspection
doubts and fervent prayers
his hands tattooed upon her consciousness like the sword
that slay her sex drive
till the wound, obliquely palmed, showed signs of
Zahra's privates serving notice of recovery
reviving urges unfamiliar in their hetero guise and form
to woes already ample...
She holds the pack out; Zahra shakes
her head, considers the habit odious—an opinion Amy
ratifies with resolve.
You're right; I'll quit.
She stows the cigarettes in her
purse, then notices Zahra's pre-packed luggage.
Zahra tracks the path of Amy's
I'm leaving, yes.
That bastard Pistol! You don't
have to. Duke's in charge here. Pistol's mean. Well,
maybe not mean but unsentimental. Duke would never throw
abused your hospitality. I have placed you all in
danger. He who hunts me hates like ice on a broken
tooth. His threat draws near.
The sooner he shows the sooner we trap him, call the
cops, cue Immigration, who will haul his ass on back to
wherever he's from, the Middle East. You get a brand new
lease on life. Don't spoil things now. Give the plan a
chance. Two, three days more; okay? Sit tight.
With Duke's permission.
Hell, he gave you that already!
Alright, fine. You just stay put. I'll go and ask.
You'll see; Duke's cool. And DON'T YOU DARE go running
off. I'll fetch him back; you'll wait. Agreed?...Agreed?
Zahra, disinclined to have her
death-row stint protracted, views this heartfelt
exhortation as superfluous. Why forestall? Her sentence
just, her crime condemnable, to delay her execution is
to compound dereliction with abject cowardice. Faith,
defaults... and with Zahra's grudging nod, Amy takes her