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  • The Barter, and: Bang, and: Beautiful Night
  • Lisa Linsalata (bio)

The Barter

Right after the rape I went hunting for Phil, this drug dealer I’d known from before, on Beacon Hill, where I’d lived

in a place with no shades and cockroaches that trolled my mouth till I learned to sleep with it shut.

His windows looked in on mine, across cement gardens. First time he came over he gave me a bundle of joints and a wooden recorder. [End Page 85]

He said he’d seen me through the windows would I like to get high and ride his Harley. A biker with a black eyepatch and long hair.

He always brought me presents . . . from sawed-off shotguns to sheet music. The courtly love didn’t last.

In the blink of his one good eye I was wading through Boston’s underworld living like a gangster’s moll. Then I heard

him on the phone, bartering for a debt he owed You can have my old lady. I walked out the door and off Beacon Hill. Hadn’t seen him since.

When I tracked him down, I found him dealing drugs, doing needles. Bad news, but it was protection sold me.


I need to take care of this itch. At the free clinic a doctor takes a scraping, diagnoses the problem.

Before I reconcile myself to the word he pokes me. Four big bangs of penicillin. He tells me to come back in two days for four more. Instructs me to round up all your partners, send them in for testing. I go in simple— [End Page 86]

yeast infection—come out a syphilitic tramp. Eight shots I can’t sit down. Bruising bleeds from hip to ass to bellybutton. Black and blue tutu dancing me and my itch over the edge.

At Mass. General, they spend weeks cleaning up the mess from the misdiagnosis from the penicillin overdose. Hitchhiking home from the hospital I meet him, the man who rapes me.

Beautiful Night

He says he knows me from the bakery and when he drops me off, he asks me to dinner next night. I don’t recognize him.

I’d prefer him to eat with my roommates and me. Too shy, he says. And there’s Daddy’s voice the one that always says, Don’t make a fuss.

He’s nowhere near on time, Legal Seafood is almost empty by the time we eat. Over dinner he asks me what kind [End Page 87]

of underwear I have on, and I could walk home, I live so close except for that voice in my brain. The one Pop would use to shut my sisters and me up, Quit your carrying on.

This guy’s saying it’s late, let’s go sit by the Charles a minute, beautiful night then I’ll get you home.

On the way, he pulls into a package store, comes out drinking from a brown paper bag. He hops in the car and orders me to remove my hand from the door handle.

At the river he lays a blanket on the bank, slamming my head against the ground when I fight. I have syphilis, I scream, hoping this will stop him.

Slow motion as I am moved back into his van as I leave my body

He brags about assaulting a cop, his jail time, as he takes out his knife. I’m down on the floor and he is sitting there on my face, giving me reasons, all the reasons why.

There’s a man in a cowboy hat, looking through the car window. I reach an arm toward him. He watches awhile and moves on.

Afterward, we go to a remote diner, he knows everyone. You have to be buzzed in. And out, like a speakeasy.

In the john I throw up and take stock. No phone, no lock, or window. Just cold tile, sticky and cracked. [End Page 88]

At the table he’s talking fast. He and his brother own a secluded cabin in New Hampshire, he’ll keep me there come visit me on weekends. I take his hand, play along, wondering...


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pp. 85-89
Launched on MUSE
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