Marcus Angel – Women Really Do Run the World
Getting shot’s probably not the best way to begin a story, but here goes. Streetlights. The glint from her golden earrings. The flash from her muzzle and then I died. Even as I type this, I still can’t believe it. But in the end, what I saw with my own eyes confirmed what I’ve suspected all along. Women really do run the world. Perhaps they always have. I’m willing to bet they always will.
Ever since I first laid eyes on her twelve years ago, Anna Marie’s held the title as the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen. This includes actresses, pop singers, and fashion models. None of them could hold a candle to my Anna Marie.
At first glance it didn’t even make sense why she was working for a start-up company to begin with. She looked like she belonged on one of those housewife shows, lounging on a beach, or shopping along some strip of sun-blasted boutiques. The way she carried herself. Her height, her posture, her figure, it was ridiculous. As if she trained her whole life to win every pageant she could. Anna Marie was a stone cold stunner and she didn’t even know it. Or maybe she did know and just didn’t care.
Back then, Anna was always so bubbly and free-spirited, the type of woman who’d get out of my car in the middle of an intersection if she spotted a frozen yogurt cart on the corner. I’m not saying I like unpredictable women, but I confess there’s something about her that I found superior to myself in so many ways. How she never seemed to care about the future. That freedom, that spontaneity, I thought it was because she was fearless. I respected it. She was amazing.
Her association with me was a bit of a mystery in the beginning. Just to be clear, Anna was never officially my girlfriend, but someone who preferred hanging out with me as opposed to everyone else…in the beginning. Sure I made her laugh with my observations and blundering blithe. But back then, I was grossly overweight. I turned my back on religion and I barely had a social life because I didn’t drink or smoke weed. And more importantly, I had no direction in my life, no clear or concrete goal. No purpose.
Women like Anna have a way of changing all that. You can’t be with someone like her and have absolutely nothing going for you. I realized this the first time I pushed her away. My dumbass had “caught feelings” for her and I had the brass to come out and tell her that I loved her. I told her that face to face. She smirked and shook her head and told me that it wasn’t love but lust. I was completely embarrassed and promptly walked away in the middle of that conversation. In hindsight, I do think I should have stayed and played it out.
Next came that fog of awkwardness and uneasy tension, the emotional roller coaster cliché to CW shows. I’m talking about the dramas where the entire season could be ended with one conversation. For the following few years, Anna and I would toy with each other, each trying to make the other jealous. We’d go the extra mile to outdo each other in our work performance, each trying to rise above the other in terms of station and pay grade.
During this time, this dance, this arm’s race of love and hate, I lost over a hundred pounds. I joined a gym, worked on my cardio, and indulged in a period of enlightenment, soaking up philosophy on matters that were otherwise foreign to me such as astronomy, romanticism, identity politics, and cultural diversity.
Anna also progressed. She went and joined a military boot camp for women. I should have expected no less. Every weekend it was something new with her. Skydiving, swimming with sharks, shooting at the gun range. I even heard she started taking MMA classes, which really burned in my chest, the thought of her grappling with other men. Could never look at UFC the same way again.
And of course, during this time Anna was rarely without a man. One after another, they came and went. Buying her flowers. Picking her up for lunch. I’d sit there in my cubicle and just take it. She knew how I felt about her but still, she’d parade them about and act like nothing was wrong. It hurt so bad. Not just that she was going out with other men, but the kind of men they were.
All of them looked like they played for the NFL. All of them looked like a million bucks, sharp and suited, impressive cars, edgy cuts, thick beards or tatted up with that bold “it’s all good” charisma. They all had the same low bass-heavy voice and barely showed any facial expressions. They were cool, hip, and exuded an air of confidence. The complete opposite of who I was. No matter how much I bettered myself I could never be them.
For years I had to listen to Anna brag about her penthouse parties. She started appearing in music videos and even modeled designer dresses at the Met Gala. The MET FREAKING GALA! She was living life in the fast lane, so far head of me that I couldn’t keep up. I want to say I stopped trying but that wouldn’t be true.
The thing is, I honestly believed Anna was putting on an act, a bold front for her club bunnies and the socialites she cavorted with. We were in our twenties. She was a sexy Colombiana who could get any man she wanted. Of course she’s going to run the town. But deep down I felt I knew “the real Anna”. I was there for her before she donned the skin-tight skirts and heavy eyeliner. I saw her cry. I heard her regrets. I listened to her speak so passionately about why she wanted to live each day to the fullest. I knew about her family, her sister, her upbringing. I knew the real Anna Marie.
Then…after three years…Anna up and left. I didn’t have all the details, but from what I gathered, she found another job on the west coast somewhere in Silicon Valley. And even though she was never officially my girlfriend, we never kissed or hugged or anything like that, we weren’t even on speaking terms when she left, but still, it felt like one of my best friends had just died. I went into work the next day and was like, “now what?”
I know that might sound strange, but the mere presence of her was like a drug that stimulated me. Once she was gone, there was a deep void in my heart. I had withdrawal symptoms that left me somewhat depressed. In the three years that we worked together, I’ve been attracted to no one else. This woman really was the center of my universe, the source of all my ambitions. Truly, she was.
But one day a couple months after, I woke up and had that Parker moment. I looked in the mirror and realized…I really am one impressive looking dude. In the midst of progress, it’s difficult to see how far I’ve come. But I really had transformed over the years.
My columns now averaged over 30,000 readers. Three of which were circulated nationally and were up for awards. I used to weigh 378 pounds and now I was a solid 215. I could run. I could fight. My confidence was through the roof and more importantly, I reconnected with our heavenly father, reading the Bible cover to cover. It shifted my priorities and taught me to put my faith in God, not people.
In the two years following her departure, things had certainly become turbulent when it came to culture in the U.S. As a Millennial with some amount of intelligence, I felt responsible for what was happening to my generation. They called us Snowflakes. They said we were lazy and entitled. They said most of us were still living in our parent’s basements, that the institution of marriage was on the decline.
But there was a silver lining, a beaming ray of light penetrating the dark clouds. That ray of light was “equality.” The disgruntled had voices. The special interest groups had assembled. Protests and marches galore. Everyone took to the streets demanding to be heard. And what was more surprising was that not only were people listening, they believed. I believed.
But here’s the problem, here’s where it gets a bit dicey, here’s where I’m more or less bleeding myself as I step out into shark infested waters. What social and mainstream media had been feeding us, what they told us about what was happening in the world, it was all just an illusion. It wasn’t real. It was a projected fantasy that they were hoping they could turn into a reality by tricking the masses, by lying to us.
The reason why it worked so well was because people had effectively found a way to silence those with an opposing point of view. Anyone who disagreed, anyone voicing a view that went against the popular opinion was labeled a racist, a bigot, sexist, or a supremacist. Their careers and reputations were ruined. When corporations started firing their top employees based off of mere allegations, people knew they won the battle. Because corporations are empires. Their heads are world leaders. Other companies had no choice but to follow suit or else they’d more or less be browbeaten and boycotted until they submitted to and appeased the court of public opinion.
As I said…this had gone on for some time. As a minority, and worse still, a minority within a minority, I initially felt that I didn’t have a leg to stand on when it came to such squabbles. I decided to make it my goal to expose these tactics and introduce a new theory of soft-core oppression that attacked free speech and essentially, free thought. I felt it would be difficult to do that with a label strapped to my back. So in the beginning, I kept silent and observed.
However, it didn’t take long before I realized that by keeping silent I had only contributed to the symptoms. I noticed the mainstream media had become heavily reliant on statistics, polls, and trends. As a contemporary pointed out, this is a gross misrepresentation of the country as a whole.
A majority of Americans didn’t use social media. Who the freak were taking these surveys? And why the hell were decisions being made on our behalf based off of the subjective opinions of a study group. If 20,000 people were surveyed, that’s less than one percent of the population. It didn’t make sense. And I refused to believe that I was the smartest dude on the planet. I couldn’t be the only one seeing this. So what the hell was going on?
Then, last year I saw a string of sexual misconduct allegations topple some of the world’s foremost figures in the entertainment and political arenas. Good, right? Anyone who abuses others, regardless of race, gender, or orientation deserved to be punished. I had no love for the rich and famous, so screw ‘em. That was my first impression. That was, until I was approached by a man in a parking garage.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. Right away, you think, “oh, that’s cliché. And let me guess, he brings you some secret file that proves your theories and sparks controversy?”
Maybe he was going to do all that. But before he could, a soft spray misted into my face and the man collapsed before my feet. I couldn’t believe it. I must have stood there for the better part of a song just staring, doubting my own eyes, paralyzed, thinking this couldn’t be real. He was breathing one moment, and the next…
Red and blue lights came out of nowhere. Police cuffed and questioned me at the scene. As baffled as they were, one could only imagine my own mystification that gradually became righteous indignation, a journalistic need to launch my own investigation and get to the bottom of what the fuck just happened.
The man had been shot in the back of the head but there was no one else in the parking garage save for myself. It must have come from a sniper. This was New York and our parking garage was surrounded by a multitude of high vantage points. That’s what I tried to tell the police. They weren’t buying it.
I spent the weekend in an interrogation cell replaying the scene over and over again. The man said his name was Terry. That’s what I told the police. Terry mentioned that he had read my columns over the years and respected my intuition.
My intuition? What did he mean? Why didn’t I ask him? Maybe because it was just past midnight and as a black man in Midtown, I wasn’t accustomed to being approached by dudes emerging from the shadows. But what he said after that left me puzzled for some time. He died before he could explain, but what he said was enough. It planted the seed.
Terry said, “What do you know about a feminist group called the Society?’
As he lay dying, even with half his brains blown out. He whispered, “our turn.”
My boss let me take the week off. I wasn’t charged with murder but was a person of interest. The police paid me a visit everyday and my story never changed. I told them the truth as I knew it. But what was the truth? What the hell was the Society? Who the hell was this Terry person?
I Google’d “Feminist Society” and found all sorts of special interest groups. From what I read, the most prominent one was one involving the LGBT community, but not exclusively feminists. It was inclusive of Muslims and minorities, a term rising in popularity called “intersectionality”.
I even went so far as to visit the main branch of the New York Public Library. I passed through Central Park and Union Square, asking every hipster and apparent lesbian about it. No one knew. It felt surreal. And it was stuck in my mind, that this man died and his last breaths uttered, “our turn.”
On a Friday morning, during the police’s routine visit to my apartment, again I asked them about the possibility of a sniper. They said it would have been difficult given the trajectory.
So I said, “what if I wasn’t alone in the parking garage?”
Again, they weren’t buying it. Despite the fact that I had no gun residue on my hands, the fact that I never even held a gun before, the fact that cameras captured me standing in front of Terry while he was shot from behind, they were still convinced I was the killer.
Yep. Law enforcement.
I went back to the crime scene, scoured the parking garage and couldn’t find a single clue. The “Society” angle was bugging me. For weeks, I was obsessed with it. I must have published over 50 articles with theories about some underground feminist movement. Given what I was seeing in the news, it wasn’t too far fetched. But still…at the time it was only me speaking about a feminist agenda that was on a swift and efficient rise. When I bounced opinions off of my colleagues, they all thought I was jaded and paranoid. I couldn’t blame them. Maybe I was.
It may have been due to the PTSD of witnessing something so traumatic, but I wasn’t about to subscribe to that idea just yet. Sleeping was difficult. Even in my half sedated gaze, I kept hearing Terry’s last words. “Our turn. Our turn.”
“Our turn. Our turn! OUR TURN!!!”
My eyes opened. I had fallen asleep with the TV on, as per usual. At around five o’clock in the morning, CNN had replays of a political convention in Detroit. What I saw…it sent chills down my spine. It may have been because I was still groggy and the rest of my apartment was pitch black, but I could have sworn I saw someone standing in the corner of the living room.
A figure dressed in black. My mouth opened to scream. I tried but what came from my throat was nothing short of a flat croak that sounded like nails dragging along dry wood.
I swear I wasn’t going crazy. The figure, dressed in black, darted across the room, wiping by the TV. He opened the front door and left, slamming it with a bang as loud as the gunshot from the parking garage.
I got up and whipped on all the lights. I was drenched with sweat but couldn’t decide which was colder, to leave the shirt on or take it off. What the hell was happening? Was I really going crazy?
“It’s our turn! Now it is our turn to rise up.”
The TV. The convention. The woman standing at the podium leading the chant was none other than our first female presidential candidate to ever win the nomination for a major political party. Everyone was cheering for her as if victory was right around the corner.
I stood there baffled, cringing with fear and frustration. But it was in that moment that I was struck by an epiphany. I couldn’t articulate it just yet, I couldn’t craft it into words. At that point it was only a theory but something told me that it was in my best interest to attend the next convention, to see this political candidate up close and in person, and hopefully, to get a chance to speak with her. Maybe she could have helped.
The next day I had lunch with a colleague. I intended to bribe her for her access pass to cover the upcoming women’s rally in Louisville, Kentucky where I knew the presidential candidate was scheduled to speak. And there…in the midst of my promising some favor I’d probably never keep, in walked Anna back into my life.
“Oh my God!”
I literally said that out loud. Anna Marie. She was exactly the way I remembered in my dreams, the twinkle in her eye, the sun caught in her raven hair. I swear I must have seen doves fly out and all of traffic lights stop at once as she crossed the street. It was weird but my mouth watered. She was smiling at me. She was heading my way. It was clear that she was coming, specifically, to see me. I wasn’t dreaming. It was real.
I stood up and waited for her to go first. She didn’t. She just smiled in marvel as if…because it’s not like we were on the best of terms when she left. I remember sending her this long emotional text wishing her well and she only responded with ‘k’. Now there she was, projecting such adoration.
“Why are you still so weird?” were the first words out of her mouth after three years.
Completely flabbergasted, all I could do was burst out in laughter.
I introduced my colleague and soon after, Anna and I were strolling alone down memory lane. It was also actually a hiking trail called Memory Lane, a brick-paved walkway in Central Park where artists gathered to paint.
I asked how she’d been, keeping my questions vague of course. She was keen to my wits in the past. Any attempt to show how much I still loved her would’ve no doubt put me in the same sinking ship that was now dredged up by her spellbinding visage. She told me she was doing well, making six figures and traveling the globe as a brand-marketing consultant.
It was strange but I was genuinely pleased. I used to dream of how our reunion would go and for some reason I always pictured her on a warhorse on the other side of the battlefield. She always said she wanted to get into advertisement. To hear she had accomplished her goals, I was genuinely proud of her. Couldn’t stop smiling.
“So what brings you back to New York?” I asked.
“Wait, Marcus! I want to hear about you! What have you been up to? What’s your latest?”
Do I tell her about the murder? About the PTSD or my obsession in trying to get to the bottom of this supposed Feminist group that may or may not exist?
“I’m still boxing.” I told her. “Yeah. I had my first real match a couple of months ago. I lost but at least I scored a knock down. That’s all I really wanted. Hahaha!”
“What about your writing?” She inquired.
“What about it?”
She fumed through the nose with agitation. Just like before. It was cutest thing, really. I could tell she knew more than she was letting on. It wasn’t difficult to find out about me. She could have just done a search online for Marcus Angel. I think she expected me to be as loose-lipped as before, but I wasn’t. I had grown up and couldn’t help but laugh.
“I’m looking into feminism.”
She was puzzled. “Feminism? Why? That’s not your forte.”
“Culture and observation is my forte, Anna. And a lot’s happened recently that has me seeking to understand the plight of the fairer sex. To be honest, I still don’t even know what Feminism is. There’s no concrete definition. A lot of contradictions. Three or four different waves. Some groups say it’s for the equality of sexes, that women receive equal pay and opportunity. Others suggest Feminism is explicitly about the betterment of women, specifically in terms of education, acceptance, and rights like pro-choice. I even heard that it was segregated between black and white feminists, which I find utterly bizarre.”
“You know it’s more than that though,” Anna told me. “For years, women have been abused, oppressed, and subjected to the tyranny of men. Seen as nothing more than property or objects to cook, clean, and conceive. Not all men think like this, of course, but the men who matter set the course for those who follow. Undue concern for women leads to contempt for them. Maybe. But what’s more important than that is instilling a sense of strength in a woman. Not so much, independence. But at the very least, abolishing the fear of said independence. We’re not victims as the papers would have you believe. We’re survivors. Embattled survivors. There’s a difference.”
Now, it was my turn to look puzzled. Those were some deep words coming from a woman who once shook her ass in rap videos that objectified women in ways that would make Casanova blush. I wasn’t above the idea that people could change. But still…
She caught me staring. With a playful smirk, she reached over and tapped my cheek to turn me away.
“Why do you do that? I used to hate that.”
“Stare at me as the thought bubbles percolate.”
“I’m sorry. I’m just impressed. When I first met you, you seemed so superficial. But perhaps it was my own prejudice. I assumed with that body and that face, and all the dudes that flocking to you like addicts thirsty for a fix…I dunno. I always thought my nonsense and prognostications used to bore the hell out you.”
“It did!” she said, snorting with laughter. “But also, I dunno. I guess a lot of what you said, it kind of sank in. Whether I wanted it to or not. I used to hate that. I’d be in the middle of a photo shoot thinking about your stupid theories. You have a way of doing that. Of entering the subconscious and flipping over tables.”
“To dig through the useless stuff and pull out what’s important.” I added.
“Yeah but there’s nothing wrong with a little trivia here and there, what you call, useless. That’s something I don’t think you ever understood. I know you want to be a Pulitzer Prize writer or whatever. And honestly I believe you’ll get there. But you get so honed in on a single angle that you lose sight of the bigger picture and miss out on what’s really important. No woman wants to feel like they’re second place to a goal, Marcus. We need to feel like we are the goal.”
“Anna, you were. God knows you were. For years!”
“But you gave up on me.”
“I told you I loved you! And you laughed and said that it wasn’t love but lust. Then you brought all these dudes around me when you knew how I felt.”
Her eyes were glossy as she whispered, “If you loved me, you would have fought for me. You would have never let me go.”
I heaved a heavy sight. “I don’t want to sound arrogant, Anna, but I’m not like other men. I used to weigh 378 pounds. I’m six foot three. I was fucking monster. A behemoth. If any woman tells me no, or pretends that they want nothing to do with me, I back off immediately. Especially now when simply making someone feel uncomfortable is considered sexual harassment in the court of public opinion.”
“Yeah, but this isn’t the court of public opinion, Marcus! This is me.”
“I told you I loved you, Anna. If you think that was easy for me, you’re sorely mistaken.”
“Yeah, well it sure looked easy.”
“That’s because I don’t bullshit. I don’t spit game. I tell the truth. I know that makes me sound desperate or snobby or whatever. But it’s who I am. To pretend to be someone I’m not…our relationship would cast off on a ship already full of holes.”
“What if I told you I like monsters…” she said.
And there we were, face to face in the middle of a scenic park under swaying branches and golden leaves. It was déjà vu. Not the first time we were caught in a standoff, lost in each other’s eyes. I wasn’t about to replay the worst mistake of my life. So I took hold of her, wrapped her in the arms and didn’t let go.
I gave my virginity to this woman. I swore to myself that I’d wait till marriage but Anna was worth it. For two months, I spent every night with her. All of my dreams, my fantasies, my wishes came true when I was with her. Her smile, her eyes, her lips, her voice as she exhaled with her breasts against mine. I remember telling her, “I don’t mind dying if it’s in your arms.”
God do those words haunt me.
Two months after our first night together, I was in Louisville, Kentucky for the Women’s Rally. It was held in a lavish theater downtown. Twas strange, to be honest. As much as the Left called for and bragged about diversity and equality, I stood out like a sore thumb. I was the only minority in the venue. Only one of a few men, carving through a sea of long blonde hair. The women stared in awe of me. I was taller than just about everybody. They were polite enough but I could sense an air of caution. I was a man after all. As far as they were concerned, I was part of the problem. They never said it, but it’s what I assumed.
With all the tension when it came to millennial courtship, I wasn’t about to risk getting kicked out by smiling the wrong way or letting my eyes wander. I’ve seen people called out for microaggressions over something as innocuous as “where are you from”. To avoid the risks, I did as all men walking on eggshells did. I gravitated towards other men.
I found a group of thick beards lounging by the PA system. I asked if it was their first event. You know, small talk, to get them to open up and let ‘em know I was a “friendly negro.” Every word out of their mouth seemed programmed and rehearsed. I controlled my facial expressions and acted like it was the first time I heard the current events that they were regurgitating from the news.
Then entered the presidential candidate. The lobby erupted. It was louder than a rap concert in Harlem. I thought the chandelier was about to come crashing down the way trinkets rattled. As the huddled mass of blushed cheeks followed the candidate into the auditorium like the flow from a landslide, my eyes settled on a woman in tight jeans. It happened in a split second and I quickly darted away before anyone could catch me staring.
As I averted my gaze, it was just by chance that I glanced up to the second floor walkway. A velvet rope blocked the stairway entrance so no one was supposed to be up there. But in that split second, I caught sight of a shadowy figure dressed in black with their hand resting on the banister. The figure moved behind a pillar and into a hallway that was out of view. I felt compelled to follow. This damned intuition.
For a man of my height, it was easy to step over the velvet rope while everyone else was distracted. Adapting the mentality of a security guard, I hurried up the steps but not too fast. Dutifully, as if it was my job to go up and check on something.
Approaching a corner, I backed against the wall and peeked around. Five of the most stunning women I’d ever seen were standing in a circle just as a sixth was joining them. They weren’t wearing black robes with hoods as I initially thought. They all looked like businesswomen, dressed in black corporate attire, projecting strong confidence in the boldness of their eyes and the firm posture by which they stood.
I began to slouch, lowering to a crouch, my eyes hooded in suspense. One was black, one was Asian, and the remaining four were white. It was a team. There was no doubt about it. But the clandestine nature, the way they spoke in low discreet whispers with this serious disposition as if they were about to pull off a heist. For all I knew it could have been someone’s security detail but my intuition was telling me, as always, to be silent and observe.
They started walking my way. My heart skipped a beat, it was so abrupt. I turned to go back the way I came but I saw three more ladies, all dressed in black, heading my way from the staircase. They were about forty paces out and in plain view. They could have seen me. They should have seen me. But they didn’t. A pamphlet in their hands kept their attention while I dashed into the nearest room and locked the door behind me.
I found myself now in the middle a ballroom donning the glitz and glamour of old Hollywood. Wooden floors, burgundy drapes, a grand piano, and paintings of old men in antebellum suits, I wandered amidst it all as the sweat accumulated under my collar.
The doorknob rattled. I looked around. There was nowhere I could hide my tall frame except for the piano. I raced for it and slid to my knees like I was leaping over the hood of a car, scurrying to the other side of the piano and tucking into a fetal position against the wall with my head just peeking around the keys.
The door opened. Clacking heels sounded like drops of hail on the hardwood floors. There were nine of them. They entered and huddled around as if they couldn’t wait to get to business.
“How long is it going to take her?” said one with fiery eyes and a bob cut.
“Soon, Scarlet. First thing’s first. What happened at Berkley?” said the ringleader.
The dour mood had soured further. Some put their hands on their hips. Others looked away. Breanne. The ringleader’s name was Breanne.
Scarlet had the bob cut with heavy red eye shadow. I could tell she was fearless and wasn’t about to back down from a damn thing. Breanne had dark hair with dazzling blue eyes. Her voice was naturally loud, clear, and eloquent. They weren’t standing in a perfect circle, but it was clear that they rallied around Breanne.
“According to my contacts, everything went according to plan. The protests and riots got out of hand. You know how the campuses are these days. It’s a powder keg. Once they started setting fires, the police got involved. There was no way we could’ve gotten to the speaker without compromising,” said the black one named Celeste.
“I would’ve gotten to him,” Scarlet claimed. “If we sent a full-fledged sword in the first fucking place this wouldn’t even be a discussion. We gave Celeste a chance with her piece of shit contacts. She blew it. Let me take the first flight out. I’ll kill him and be done with it.”
“Scarlet!” Mandee shushed.
In a flash of caution, Breanne whipped her ice cold eyes around the room in a scanning sweep. I had no idea what the hell was going on. But in that moment, I felt my phone slipping out of my pants pocket. I took it out and pressed record on the camera.
Here, I recorded all nine women. Four had their backs to me. I had a side profile of Breanne and Celeste. But Scarlet…that fierce hellion was facing my way. She looked pissed and it made the hair on my neck stand on end.
“We can’t have you flying out to California, Scarlet. I need you in New York. Things are going to get worse before they get better.” Breanne told her.
“What do you mean?” asked another.
Breanne sighed. “Contrary to the polls, more and more it’s looking like we’re going to lose this one. That big orange clown is going to take the White House. We need to start making preparations for our next phase.”
“We spent millions on Hollywood!”
“What about the incriminating tape from the bus?”
“What about all that crap we planted with the Russians?”
“Looks like the FBI’s sitting on it.” Breanne explained. “Look, don’t worry. I’ll deal with the director myself. In the meantime we have to face the facts. We’ve lost this one. I have to explain what happened to the Twelve Chairs. Some of our senior members…Ladies, all of us are still young. There will be other elections. But for our seniors, they’ve endured so much for nearly half a century. They’ve been waiting their entire lives for this moment, their entire lives to see a woman in the White House and we blew it. We pandered to the wrong groups. Millennials are idiots. And Hollywood’s so blinded by money that they could care less about any standards or cause.”
“As expected.” Celeste quipped.
Breanne squinted. “Excuse me?”
“I said pandering to the minorities and special interest groups was a waste of time. Political correctness, social justice, it’s just a fad. I was against it from the start. We underestimated the silent majority. Whether we believe it or not, it does exist. You don’t oust people from power. You use them!”
Breanne’s lips tightened. “I don’t disagree with you, Celeste, but you’re crying over spilled milk. We cut our losses and continue to move forward. Get rid of all loose ends. I mean it. Nothing’s guaranteed. That’s why we have contingencies. And you’ll do well to keep that ego of yours in check.”
Celeste turned away.
Scarlet was emotional, the frustration apparent. “We have to make this right! We owe it to the Society to make up for our failure.”
“Speak for yourself, Scarlet. I didn’t fail!” Celeste snapped.
Just as Breanne was raising her voice, Scarlet moved to shove Celeste against the wall with a knife to her throat. Celeste was trying to push away but Scarlet was leaning in with all her strength like a defensive tackle. It was scary intense. I thought Scarlet was going to slit her throat the way they thrashed about. Celeste didn’t scream or beg her to stop. Everyone just stood around watching like it was gang initiation.
“You’re starting to try my last nerve.” Scarlet growled.
Celeste smirked and spit in her face. Their struggle intensified before Breanne finally nodded for the others to casually walk over and separate the two.
Then the door opened. One of the men I was talking to earlier had entered with a bewildered expression. Breanne threw a judgmental glance at the other women before approaching the man.
“Oh! I’m sorry. I thought I heard a commotion and figured I’d just check…HUP!”
Before the man could finish Breanne yanked him into the room sliced her bracelet across his neck. It was unreal. I watched as a painful grimace stretched across the man’s face. He dropped to his knees and plopped chest down on the floor as blood drained from his neck.
As calm as she appeared, I knew Breanne was furious. She stood in place for no less than ten seconds, staring at the body before she slammed the door shut and locked it.
“Code 78. Do it please.” She instructed.
Just like that, Celeste immediately shed her contention with Scarlet and took out her phone. The other women started to roll up their sleeves as they huddled around the dead body, checking his pockets, collecting his fingerprints, and snapping photos from every angle. Meanwhile, I was petrified, my heart beating like a kick drum.
“Yeah, is this the stage manager?” Celeste said in a country accent. “Listen here. I planted a bomb underneath the stage. If you heffers think you can come in my county and indoctrinate our wholesome women with your immoral, wicked, and ungodly ways, you got another thing coming. You sum’ of bitches got three minutes to evacuate the building. If anyone dies, the blood on yo’ hands.”
With that, Celeste and two others left. Already, I could hear the panic from the lobby with the opening and closing of the doors. Then, three more women entered. These newcomers were in casual clothes as if they had been part of the audience. They brought heavy-duty trash bags and a utility caddy with cleaning supplies. There was no emotion. They were professionals. The man was still alive and bleeding out. I saw his feet twitching.
Scarlet and Breanne had the man’s wallet. They exchanged a look of disappointment and stepped away from the group, coming closer my way.
“That was Terry’s brother. Fucking loose ends! I knew we should have dealt with him too. We need to burn down this venue. At the very least, this ballroom.” Scarlet suggested.
Breanne nodded, sighed, and whispered, “I’m only barely containing my rage right now. These mistakes are costly. They’re hurting us. They’re hurting me.”
“Then enough with the games.” Scarlet said in fiery whispers. “Enough with the manipulation. Enough with the incentives of wealth and power. I say we move to instill fear in these motherfuckers. The Society is not to be trifled with. A sword once drawn must taste blood before it’s returned to its sheath. The wheel will never be broken.”
Breanne looked as if she was strongly considering Scarlet’s words. The women dragged Terry’s brother away from the door and onto the outstretched trash bags. They emptied bottles of cleaner on him, one after the other. I couldn’t stop staring. The ammonia was intoxicating.
“And if you ask me, I say we start with the Andalusian.”
“She’s still technically an outsider. She still hasn’t finished her initiation. It’s been two years!”
“She’s one of our best operatives. If it wasn’t for her…”
“I get it! But the girls are talking. It’s not fair that we had to kill our men, while hers is still alive and kickin’. You know what kind of message that sends.”
“She’ll do it,” Breanne asserted.
“And if she doesn’t?”
“Then I’ll kill him myself.”
The phone slipped from my hands and hit the floor with a hard clack. My palms were damp with sweat. Just as my eyes widened with terror, Scarlet stomped at the piano bench, slamming it against my wrist and the wall. I shouted in excruciating pain. The jig was up.
I never knew what they meant by “adrenaline kicking in,” but I shit you not, pure adrenaline had kicked in. I just went into autopilot. I can’t explain it. The throbbing pain in my wrists acted as an ignition switch by which my motor skills fired on all cylinders.
One hand picked up the phone while the other flipped the piano bench towards Scarlet. I saw a glimpse of Breanne’s soul-piercing eyes from up close and I swear it was like staring into the face of a lioness, the furl of her nostrils, the rage shaking in the bangs of her long black hair. She ran at me with a quickness and I damn near dislocated my knee trying to pop up to a full stand.
Breanne threw two punches. I dodged the first, but her right cross hit me like a baseball bat. Thankfully I stayed upright with my wobbly momentum carrying me closer to the door. I eventually took off in a full sprint, stopping just for a second to see if I picked up my phone. It was sheer dumb luck. I had stopped just in time to avoid the dagger Scarlet had just flung at me. It struck the wall before my eyes so I said, “screw the phone” and raced for the exit.
I barged out the door, trying my best to remember which way to go. Two ladies were on the ground. Apparently they were guarding the door when I came barging out. Scarlet and Breanne were charging like the special teams from a kickoff and Celeste was dashing up the stairs to my left.
In an act of sheer desperation I leaped over the second floor banister. My foot caught the railing and I plummeted into the lobby, crashing through a foldable table full of bottled waters and white linens. Everyone was in full evacuation mode. And oddly enough, I didn’t feel a thing. I rolled to my feet and kept moving.
Sharp zips passed by my ears like angry gnats when suddenly people started to topple over. Screams screeched and I saw the blood splattered over white shirts and horrified faces. I knew. I didn’t have to look. Someone was shooting at me. I just kept moving towards the front doors until finally I was out into the middle of downtown Louisville.
The police had showed up and formed a perimeter, but by then, I was couple of blocks away. I got in my rental and just sat there drenched in sweat, my body sweltering even though it was freezing cold outside. The state of disbelief was monumental. It felt like an elaborate prank as if they knew I entered the ballroom, as if they knew I was hiding, and they killed that guy just to mess with me. But the police showed up. The theater really was evacuated. I don’t have that many friends who would go to such lengths.
I started the car and drove just a few more blocks down the street. My hotel was historic to the downtown art deco scene, complete with a grand atrium, bellhops, and concierges at every turn. I was so traumatized that I didn’t want to turn my back to any woman. I distinctly remember a team of female basketball players lounging out by the bar. One of them waved at me with a wink and a smile and I must have just stared at her as if she had three heads.
I’ve never been so nervous before in my life. My head was throbbing from a migraine. The pain from Breanne’s punch and falling through a table gradually set in. I couldn’t hear anything. Not the running water from the fountain. Not the ambiance music. Not the scores from the TV set. Nothing.
I remember hunching over in the elevator lobby as I waited for the doors to open. I thought I was about to have a heart attack or a stroke. There was this dense fog clouding my vision, a side effect of the migraine, I thought.
It wasn’t until I sat down at the table in my hotel room that I calmed down and had a moment process. I had just witnessed a murder. My prints were everywhere. I had to report it to the authorities.
I reached into my pocket and there it was. My cell phone.
It was no prank. When Terry’s brother entered the room, Breanne slit his throat with some kind of razor on her bracelet. I covered my mouth in horror as I watched the recording, seeing Terry’s sick and twisted expression.
“Shit man…” I whispered over a clenched fist. Keeping oxygen in my lungs was somewhat of a task. That, and fighting off the urge to puke my guts out all over the carpet.
“Who the hell are you people!?” I whispered.
My eyes darted to the two hard slapping knocks coming from the door and for some reason I looked at the window too, as if someone was about to come crashing in by repelling from the roof. I didn’t have to answer. I came to Louisville by myself. Maybe it was the hotel staff? Or one of the female basketball players coming by to try her luck? More than likely, I thought it was the police. So I hid my phone in a slot by the AC unit before heading for the door.
I remember looking through the peephole and nothing could have prepared me for the stupid panic attack that coursed through my veins and scathed across my chest. It was Anna. My Anna. Anna Marie. The Anna Marie who strutted back into my world just three months earlier.
She knew I was going to be in Louisville but I never told her which hotel. Now, here she was standing outside my very door, dressed in professional black corporate attire, same as those cold-blooded bitches who murdered Terry’s brother. Meanwhile, I stood there, petrified as if my brain tried to reboot.
Next thing I knew, she kicked the door in and it smashed into my face.
I staggered back, gripping my nose as Anna entered with this grim disposition.
“We need to talk,” she said.
I look at the nightstand and rushed for the landline. She charged over and tackled me against the bed. My head hit the nightstand and we tangled up. I double-hooked her arms to swing her off of me, but she did the same and swung me away from the phone. While I had superior upper body strength, Anna was a dancer. She used those powerful hind legs to pick me up and propel me backwards into the bathroom.
We went crashing through the doors like two bears fighting over territory. She kept mumbling something but I was literally frightened for my life. I tried to use the sink to pull myself up, but she pulled me back down. The side of my head hit the edge of the toilet seat.
“STOP!” she shouted as if she wasn’t the one whoopin my ass.
I didn’t stop. I didn’t want to die, not in a bathroom in the middle of Kentucky. I confess, I was fighting her with the same maximum effort I’d have towards a man. Not that it did any good. I was throwing jabs and uppercuts that she parried and slapped away as if she was playing with a toddler. She threw haymakers and elbows that connected and rattled my frame. She was properly trained and I was outmatched. But I couldn’t give up. I didn’t want to die.
I swung for her face, giving it all I got. She caught my arm, pinned it against the sink counter and popped it out of place like snapping a branch from a tree. I must have screamed so loud. The intense fiery pain burst from my arm like boiling acid within.
She put me in a headlock and I was furious. After grappling for some time, I finally took the shower curtains and wrapped it around her head. Hooking her with my good arm and a last bit of strength, I forced her out of the bathroom and slung her across the bed.
She went rolling. I went running.
I heard her shouting my name as I dashed down the hallway but my heart was beating a hundred miles an hour. I ran for the stairwell at the end of the hall. And just as I came within twenty paces of it, two ladies in black pantsuits exited the stairwell doors. They whipped out guns but before they were able to take aim, two shots blared out. The ladies fell and I turned around to see it was Anna with a Glock in her hands, chasing me like a tiger hunting down wounded prey.
I gimped into the stairwell and used my belt to latch the door handle to the knob of a nearby gas pipe. As soon as I did, Anna banged against the door. I never thought I’d be so terrified of that gorgeous face. I limped down the stairs, floor by floor. Each step I took sent shooting pain from my shoulder down to my spine.
Entering the lobby, confusion hit. It seemed more packed than earlier and it was getting late. The basketball team was still there by the bar. They were all staring at me. The two female receptionists were staring at me. The female concierges, the female bartenders, the females with male companions in the lounge…everyone stopped and stared at me.
The elevator chimed.
At once, almost fifty women in this hotel lobby took action. The entire basketball team charged at me with brass knuckles like a herd of bulls. The receptionists had shotguns. The concierges pulled knives from their hair and the lady escorts with male companions were flipping over couches and chairs to come at me.
I’m not lying. I know this sounds crazy. But as soon as that elevator chimed, it was like a dam had burst and over fifty ferocious faces flooded me at once.
I ran as fast as I could for the front entrance but it hurt so bad. I was out of breath. My legs felt like they were weighed down by heavy cement.
A shotgun blast tore into a support column directly in my path. I spun as an eruption of rocks and wood sprayed and scraped into my face. One of the basketball players shoulder-checked and I went crashing out a window, falling at least six feet out onto the sidewalk below.
A group of bystanders gawked as I was writhed on a bed of broken glass and cold cement. I looked down past my boots to see women pouring out of the hotel. I was cringing, clinging to the natural inclination to simply survive. That’s what prompted me to bypass the common sense that would have kept me from staggering into incoming traffic.
In the middle of downtown Louisville, I hobbled across a busy six-lane street as cars blurred by, the wind drift, scraping and tugging me along like a leaf caught in a current. Horns blared and brakes squealed. It was hopeless but I kept going, one step at a time, hobbling, bleeding, and clutching to my dislocated arm.
Then, just as I was one lane away from the other side, I turned with one eye open. The women from the hotel were staying put. They had formed a line, standing abreast in front of the hotel as if…dare I say, they were merely commissioned to bear witness to my execution.
A black SUV with tinted windows hit me dead on. I felt my shins and knees shatter like graham crackers. My organs exploded within. I was launched fifteen feet before skidding into the gutter.
Half submerged in filth, piss, and rainwater…I watched as the woman of my dreams approached and stood over me with the city lights behind her. Anna Marie aimed her gun and fired twice. Once in the chest, once in the neck. My mouth gaped open as my head went limp and slumped over.
Then, she walked back to the SUV entered with Scarlet behind the wheel and Breanne in the passenger side. Don’t ask how I was able to observe this. Just know that I did. The SUV accelerated. Scarlet intentionally drove up on the curb to run over my head. She hit the curb and the right front tire came within inches of grazing me. She missed but crushed my arm that was already dislocated.
That’s the last I remember. I survived, clearly. But how, why, and how long I’ve been out, it’s all still somewhat of a mystery to me. The only thing painfully clear is that the love of my life tried to murder me. The love of my life.
As soon as I get out of this place, I’m going to find her. This isn’t over.
– The Perennial War of Paramours –