In the beginning we killed each other with stones, with our hands, with a quick shove off a steep enough cliff. We sharpened the stones into knives and axes, which we cleaned and passed down to our children. Along came gun powder and gases and bombs wired into small plastic casings. We added them to our arsenal and laced drinks with glass shards and poison when the standard methods came to feel tiresome. At some point, as has been common throughout history, a great discovery was made by a man with great power: failure to bring life into the world—this, too, could be murder. Considered, you know, from the right angle. It did not feel quite the same, but it opened up whole new avenues for female empowerment, in a trade we men had theretofore dominated. All at once, women were recognized for their contributions. Some required the assistance of doctors, which did not seem quite as empowering, but soon they were murdering in Walmarts or alone in their kitchens, with morning-after pills they slipped into their own bodies. They murdered in the bedrooms of their one-night stands, when they insisted the man use a condom. Often the man, and here I speak from experience, would protest. We had begun to feel outnumbered, bested at our own game. We would say, But it just feels better to bring life into the world. We’d pout as women shook their forefingers at us and unwrapped the condoms they’d stowed in their purses. They murdered in cocktail bars, as they rejected the advances of perfectly suitable men in camelhair coats. We’d say, The most beautiful thing could come of this. They murdered as they tapped their feet in third period precalculus, scribbling notes from the whiteboard and not making eye contact with a single young man dutifully watching them. We’d say, Psst. Hey. Hey. They murdered constantly—ordering lattes and lying in the grass and laughing into the shoulders of other women, and we men, we just couldn’t keep up. We couldn’t believe we had found ourselves here; the world we had known for millennia turned on its head. We are murderers too, we insisted, ripping flowers from soil, scratching our forearms until the skin sloughed off. But the skin was already dead, and we knew better than to brag about the translucent flakes that trailed us everywhere. The women peeled oranges and did not replant the seeds, just to taunt us. They flaunted their athleisure and their sweatpants and the natural deodorant that did not make them smell good or attractive to us. They thought of everything. Eventually, we said, We do not want to do this, but what choice do we have? We killed in louder, more gruesome ways and we hoped the spectacle would make up for comparatively low numbers. It worked, for a time, the papers filled with our accomplishments. Craft store bombed during knitting circle. Semi-truck plows through beach yoga class. Women clutched one another in fear. They called Ubers everywhere. We were sorry about that, but they were thinking of us again, we could tell. Some men, unfortunately, got drunk on that power, the spotlight. They insisted we escalate, they plotted a full-on extinction of women, and while they were at it, of anyone whose gender they could not place, for the sake of thoroughness and certainty. The more reasonable among us reminded them that we did need a few women, our goal here was life. We argued amongst ourselves and broke into factions. The majority of us became defenders of women. We tackle men with knives now, men with duffels that sag too heavily. We escort our women to their Ubers and nail salons. We wait outside bookstores for them and kiss them on the tops of their heads. Whenever we see that rare belly protruding, we rush to open the door, to vacate our subway seats. We stop to coo over strollers and brand-new babies flopping in backpacks. As those babies grow up, we kiss them on their foreheads too. We remind them as they clip their nails and fix their hair and peel their oranges and pore over the precalculus notes they copied from whiteboards, We fought for you. You’re safe here, in this life.
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May 11, 2022
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