Ms Fury - Milda Jensen
I can’t pinpoint precisely when my life went off tracks. Maybe when I changed schools, since I could no longer bear the classmates’ mobbing and the teachers’ resentment, as if it were us kids who were responsible for their small salaries? Maybe when I signed up for the debate club in the new school, believing that the road to the brighter future is paved with good arguments, and where I met a bunch of characters who loved to argue, whose blood boiled whenever someone didn’t agree with their view? Yes, most likely it was then, because it was there that I met mister Devil’s Advocate, who knew how to twist every argument to his benefit, and even those who never lacked an argument to support their position, suddenly were finding themselves searching for arguments in their pockets, but those had holes. At that time I believed that the future was clear.
That Devil was truly charming. To my defence, I was not the only one who thought so, and therefore I don’t feel that much shame – any woman could be in my position. Other gals of the debate club would forget every word of their well-prepared speeches upon looking him in the eye, while some of the guys, feeling their masculinity endangered, left the club. I, too, caught his eye. I have no doubts it’s because I could find a good argument even impromptu. To forget the argument I prepared, but to find an equally as good one extempore – it’s a rare talent I can be proud of.
My parents were unsure whether they should rejoice or despair, now that I found my calling. I finally had something to do and voluntarily stayed at school after classes, so that I could argue with other members of the club. Whatever I learned there, I quickly adapted at home, and my parents, confused about what’s happening, frequently found themselves doing my bidding. Then they’d be lamenting: oh how manipulative you are, you know that we don’t have it, don’t want it, can’t do it, how come you have extricated the first, the second, and the third from us? But then I’d explain: don’t bring manipulations here, it is only possible to manipulate feelings, whereas I convince you using pure logic, and you agree with me, until you go down your familiar beaten path of emotions. And so until the next time…
One night was fateful. There were open debates – the whole school community was watching us, including our parents. We only learned the topics once in our chairs – and here my rare talent to pull arguments out of the thin air got to shine. After debating on six topics, me and Devil’s Advocate met eye to eye. He threw arguments at me, I threw counterarguments back. We fenced with words like rapiers, played the chess of arguments, turned the opponent’s statements around in tango steps. His eyes sparkled with mischief, my cheeks burned. Audience erupted with ovations. He bowed to me, congratulated on victory, and invited on a date.
Our parents were sitting beside each other in the school hall, exchanging compliments about each other’s offspring. All of a sudden my folks had everything, wanted everything, and could everything, and before I could realize what’s happening we were putting wedding rings on each other’s fingers. That’s the greatest joy in life, is it not?
Apparently not. Who could have guessed. Hear now my sarcastic laugh. I got caught like a fish in a net, suddenly my coldblooded, logic personality was drowned by both parent pairs’ gasps, oh how we’re meant for each other, oh how alike we are, oh how much we’ll achieve together, as Devil’s Advocates, Mister and Missis. But all those joys and encouragements made me lose a sight of something very important: when one gets pleasure out of arguing, agreeing has a taste of defeat. And Mr Devil’s Advocate could not bear being defeated, no way, never, and especially not by me. In his egoistic view, I had to be his assistant, his mommy, nanny, cleaner, laundry maid, cook and the wiper of his butt, and even the tiniest “no” from my side was silenced before I could even give my argument. He imprisoned me by fostering my feelings, and refused to see my intelligence. Any other woman could have found herself in my place – but only I have ever won against him, and therefore only me he wanted to conquer, and there was only one way of doing that: by imprisoning, domesticating, making a weepy puddle of emotions out of me, stealing my ability to think coldly.
I was living as if in a fog. But one night, when he swallowed the dinner that I cooked for three hours while his face was hidden behind “The Daily Inquirer”, and didn’t even say “Thank you”, I started to see the outlines. It’s not this kind of life that I want. This is not my place. This is not even me. Where did the real me go? I started to fumblingly look for her.
I sent a huge stack of CV’s out. Got the answer. “Missis Advocate? You’re THE Missis Advocate, Mister Advocate’s wife? Oh, sorry, no, we’ve already got a person, some greenhorn pretty face straight from the uni, good luck!”
The surname. That damned surname. It’s not mine. It’s like a cage, like a label, like those idiotic writings on the wall “Will from Hayseed was here”, but this one said “This is the property of Devil’s Advocate, do not touch, unless you want to find yourself in mayhem”. How come I haven’t seen it? But now that life and my existence had clear outlines again, now that the fog has somewhat cleared and I started to see myself, I finally knew what I had to do.
I slept badly that night. Maybe nervousness, maybe full moon, or maybe city sounds kept me awake. I got up at dawn. Devil still snored. I found the marriage certificate and our passports – he’s not going to miss them. Made myself some coffee. After a few hours, after swallowing the sandwiches that I made, drinking the coffee that I brewed, without looking me in the eyes that I have painstakingly prettied in the bathroom for half an hour, without saying a word, he left. I wonder if he’ll notice that the floors were not mopped that day. Because as soon as he left, so did I.
I went to one of those who got scared of my last name and said that I want to get rid of it. That I want to break free from the Devil’s den. The sooner the better. The greenhorn didn’t really know what she was supposed to do and how. It took longer than I had expected.
When I left their office it was already noon. Sleepless, tired, but with a small hope in my heart, I went to the Old Town. It’s been so long since I’ve roamed the streets of this city. Always only with him, always only where he has to be, as if I was some accessory to show off. Never alone, never where I wanted to go. I breathed in the smell of linden blossoms and the exhaust gas. I finally had a future again. I will not let anyone take it from me.
The sun scorched. The stomach rumbled. I noticed a cafe in the shade of linden trees, the sign said: “Soup of the day – Italian MINESTRONE!”. I smiled. Finally, finally it will not be me who’s making food and trying to please, but someone will be making food for me while I’ll be sitting in the shade all relaxed and observe the passers-by who have no idea, that soon, so very soon, I will no longer be Missis Advocate, I’ll be ME. And I’ll win my arguments against that damned Devil as many times as needed.
The waiter, dressed in a white shirt, brought me the soup. Sliced vegetables and seashell-shaped pasta floated in the red broth. Grated parmesan on top was melting, topped with a tip of a basil. I was deep in my dreams about my future, so I absentmindedly dipped my spoon in the soup and stirred. I lifted the spoonful of the broth with a piece of pasta and a slice of zucchini, blew the steam away, and put it in my mouth. I was expecting a tasty bliss – and I got it, albeit for a very short moment, as sand grinded between my teeth when I bit into the zucchini. Disgusted, I scooped the basil from the bottom of my plate. On the very tip of it there still was a clump of soil.
Lack of sleep did its dirty work. Instead of thinking logically, that everyone can make a mistake – I am a fine example of it – the sense of injustice took over me, I took that dirty basil and my first dinner in the free as a sign of what kind of life awaits me, if I leave the Devil’s workshop. Suddenly I was bitten by fear: will I disappear in the fog again? Will being free mean eating dirt? That damned basil was after my future and I wasn’t going to give up without a fight.
“How do you like the soup, is it tasty?” the waiter asked with a fake grin on his face.
“Your basil is sandy, grinds between the teeth,” I lifted the basil tip in front of his nose.
“Well it’s not sand, ma’am, it’s spices,” he veered into a dangerous territory. Didn’t know whom he’s dealing with. Not surprising, everyone knows only Mister Advocate, and not his wife, while she doesn’t have a name of her own. “Some peppers, some cumin...”
“What cumin in minestrone? To hell with that, if it’s only spices, then please, eat this basil! Well, come on!”
“Ma’am, maybe you should calm down...”
At that moment, something broke inside of me. Probably that thin string, keeping the mask of humanity and civilization in place. And under it, there was… nothing. My body was a marionette, and FURY took control. The logical mind was still not properly awake after living in a fog. It just opened one eye and observed the scene. Here my body stood up and took the plate. The waiter was explaining something, but I didn’t quite register what. In a swift movement, my hands threw the soup on his white shirt. He shrieked. Stumbled. It was not enough for FURY. Now both hands lifted the empty, greasy plate up and lowered it down, right to the waiter’s head. Bonk. Small orange drops spread around. Up, down, bonk. Drops. Up, down, bonk. The plate slipped from my hands, fell down on the pavement and crashed. It ringed in my ears. The waiter howled. Someone jumped at me from behind and held tightly, dragged me away from him, put me on a chair still in a strong grip.
“Police, police! Call the police!”
The waiter was pulling his shirt off, haha, he won’t be able to wash it clean again, try to guess how do I know that, guess, who washed and ironed, washed and ironed Mister Devil’s Advocate’s shirts, day in and day out, like in some serfdom. Ooooooh, the pretty boy got some burns, well, he should have kept his tongue in his mouth and not appeal to emotions, this is one of the biggest mistakes of argumentation, don’t they teach that at school anymore?
The police have arrived. Questioned the waiter, the restaurant guests, the passers-by who saw the incident. Found my purse, hanging on the chair. Opened it and started emptying it. Keys, wallet, phone. Handkerchiefs, sunglasses, lipstick. Passport, passport, divorce documents. The policeman whistled and turned to me with a huge grin on his face.
“Well, Missis Advocate, what’s going to happen now?”
Fury subsided and went to rest. My mind was waking up and making plans for the future.
Thanks to this dishonourable bout of fury, Devil’s Advocate won’t obstinate too much and will agree to divorce. He will even be happy to know that I won’t carry his name.
Devil’s Advocate will probably represent that dense waiter in court, and probably for free, too.
I can ask the state to assign me a defence. But I can do it myself. Oh, it’s been a while since I’ve argued like a real human being. Besides, I must win against that devil. That other one as well.
The future was clearly shaped. I will be free. There will be no prison – real or metaphorical – in my life.
Milda Jensen works in IT by day and writes strange stories by night. Genre: short story.