ENOUGH is a Rumpus series devoted to creating a dedicated space for essays, poetry, fiction, comics, and artwork by women and non-binary people that engage with rape culture, sexual assault, and domestic violence.
The series will run every Tuesday afternoon. Each week we will highlight different voices and stories.
Vengeance: A Fantasy
Julie R. Enszer
Thursday night after Harvey Weinstein lost his job, I was eating dinner at a restaurant in a major city along the eastern seaboard. Next to me was another woman dining alone. I was absorbed in a game of Words with Friends, tired from a long day of work. As I finished my burger, the woman next to me hailed with the waiter. They spoke softly, glancing at a woman dining solo at the bar.
I would like to tell you that what happened next is the diner next to me pulled out her handgun; she pulled out her black, shiny handgun from her pocket, her purse, or her ankle holster. I would like to tell you that she walked confidently to the bar where she had just watched a man sexually harassed a woman dining alone at the bar. I would like to tell you she walked just eight or ten paces, her arm outstretched, that gun in her hand. She aimed and shot him down. Bang, the first shot right to the head. He wilted to the floor as a splatter of blood hit the mirror behind the bar and all those open bottles of spirits. Bang. Bang. Bang. Three more shots to the torso, not for him, but for every other man in the bar who was watching, for every other woman who has been harassed while she was just trying to eat dinner in a public space and could not say or do anything to stop it.
Those shots announced power, revenge, righteousness. We women were not going to sit in bars any longer trying to eat dinner while men insisted we give them attention, while men said sexually inappropriate things, while men leered at our bodies and touched them. Bam. Bam. Bam. We were not going to take it anymore. This woman just put everyone on notice. Everyone in that bar. Everyone on that block. Everyone in the country. Everyone around the world.
Then, she looked down. The body didn’t move. She shrugged. She looked at the woman he had been harassing; she was in shock but relieved. As she was about to speak, as the words thank you formed in her mind and started to pass her lips, the gunwoman said, I’m sorry that happened. I’m sorry I didn’t get here earlier. The gunwoman said, Finish your dinner. The food here is tasty. She put the gun back in her pocket or her purse or her ankle holster. She walked back to the table next to me. She smiled. Carry on. She said to me, to everyone in the bar, to everyone who was listening. For a moment, the whole world had ears. She said, There is nothing to see.
I would like to tell you that is what happened that night I was sitting in a restaurant eating dinner alone. Though that story is not exactly the truth. The woman dining next to me told the waiter that the man sitting at the bar next to the woman dining solo was harassing her. He was touching her in unwanted ways. Our waiter was just a spit of a man; he may have been strong, I don’t know, what I know is he went to the manager, who was a large man. Tall and thick. He walked over to the bar. Quickly, decisively, he walked the man, that harasser, out of the bar. He then apologized to the woman and told her that her dinner was on the house.
Then the waiter came over and thanked the woman next to me; next, the manager came over with gratitude as well. It was a good response, the kind of response we women might want. Quick. Decisive. It exemplified the actions of responsible bystanders.
Then the manager said, These guys, they should know if they cannot control themselves when they drink, they should not go out. They should just stay at home.
The consequences of aggressive masculinity barely had dissipated when excuses began. The woman next to me, the responsible bystander, nodded. She murmured something not quite assent but neither disagreement. She and I looked at one another. We knew that she changed the conditions of public life for the woman at the bar. Still, if I am honest, I wished she had pulled out a gun.
My dog emits static electricity. Tiny volts course through her fur. My father says she’s cursed. She says it is a dog’s reason for being, to be pet. But I’ve seen our dinner guests reach out to touch her when she’s belly-up, then they retract their hands in horror. And I’ve seen my dog smiling at them with her corn cob teeth.
Every morning I paint a new layer of super strength super glue on my body, all over, and it dries like a sunburn, bubbling, translucent, but it cannot peel from my flesh the way a burn might. Instead it hardens, a shell, and every movement pulls new hairs from my skin, but pain is the price charged for safety.
There is a lizard, the Texas Horned, who shoots blood from her eyes to keep the men away. Only the reptile is known to abuse her defense, to empty her body of blood until she is a pile of scales. People might point and think a snake has shed her skin but our lizard deserves martyrdom. She died for his cause.
My friend told me you were asking for it because I never purchased a whistle made for such dogs. And so afterwards I bought that plastic phallus and I looked at it every day. I knew that even were wet fingers to intrude on my insides, I could not get myself excited enough to blow.
An amphibian, the Hairy Frog is her name, which makes me think she doesn’t get much unwanted attention, anyway. But when a hand reaches for her rubbery thighs in the dark, it is all she can do to break her own toes, press the bones through her skin, and use the shards as claws. And once the fight is done, her feet are left holy as some religious experience. And I know that the other frogs say to her, who is going to want you now, hairy little frog.
He said, let me buy you a drink, and that is the peacock fan of the homo sapiens, its indigo rich enough to afford the espresso martini. I accepted the drink and then the bar turned watercolor and my body was on autopilot, because my mind was not there. Perhaps it is the defense of the woman to leave her self unattended.
The French Guiana rainforests are home to a race of termites, a lesbian colony, who live in peace until their fetishizers come for them. In this case, the young send the elderly on suicide missions, to surround their home, and upon contact, the old bugs explode, dousing their attackers in poison, and the adolescent termites wave, goodbye, grandma. And I look at my grandmother, teetering on the brink of sleep, drooling pointless saliva, and I think, if only.
I woke up and threw up. My insides, neon bile, painted unfamiliar carpet abstract. I watched his tumorous body, heaving with slumber under a force field of linen and it is a strange thing, to watch a complete stranger sleep. My confusion was secondary to the pain that blossomed in my gut; the ache that flowered between my thighs.
We might take cue from the sea cucumber, who for better or worse, expels her organs to ward off those eyeing her from the ocean’s gloomiest corners. We might learn to secrete our gummiest parts, slick with fluids, blushing with blood, to repel those who call us, hey beautiful. Were I to get coffee with Ms. Cucumber I would ask: is it to show him you are ugliest on the inside?
Before he awoke, I climbed atop him and considered my options. I could have dropped the pillow over his face, but the male human is stronger than his female counterpart. So instead, I prepared him by licking his length, grazing the satin skin with my teeth to remind him I was only animal. And I pierced myself with him as he snored, because humans invented justice; an eye for an eye.
Most interesting might be the opossum, who, as you know, plays dead when approached by her predator. It might work for her, but when I was stretched across his altar, thick with sleep, he didn’t let my stillness stop him.
today’s word is vajazzle
you see it for the first time online
another unknown source telling you
cover your cunt
this time with stones
spell out your lover’s three initials
hot-glue gems in the shape of a heart
add glitter for pizazz
it doesn’t surprise you
this private part of you has been public
knowledge for years
a territory explored long
before you understood it yourself
the boy in high school French
who turned to you
you asked what for
his reply Asian porn
the girl who wanted proof
your vagina wasn’t sideways
the Asian fetish blog a stranger made
bikini-clad-you next to Easter-Sunday-you
at brunch with friends
your arms around their waists
the night you waited
in a Walmart parking lot
to be driven to some party
where a white frat boy announced to the room
Asians have tight pussys
made a circle with his thumb
as if to tell you
everything’s gonna be okay
the first time you shower at your beloved’s
and he tells you the more time
you spend down there with a razor
the more time he’ll lick your pussy
as if that’s all you ever wanted
all you could ever want
for you to be adored
you in a towel wet hair clinging to your neck
left wondering wanting
how best to adorn yourself
how best to remain under someone else’s gaze
HOW TO BE AN ANGRY WOMAN
be a bitch, it’s a churchlike dedication painted bubblegum pink: high gloss low light beer-stuck and concerted hard and fast, fat bass, based on a myth He told about us snot-nosed platform boots, andro-chic dick chick with a scuffed pseudo-philosophic sickness, bearing my stigmata but I won’t be nailed so He coughs car exhaust, globbed thick spit garbled I have nice tits don’t you know, I have a nice ass don’t you know, I’m a slut tart dime piece cunt don’t you know, spread the gospel of nice tits and thick ass bend over backwards and forwards, get pegged for an overly-concerned nail-biter, flake glitter polish on my low gloss lip, sweat-glued to my seat, wild ride hard and fast down the sidewalk side-swept beat hard and fast walk quick to cut corners silent snarl and tucked tail strangling my bark.
be a slut, fuck the opposition, gimme a fat lip salute and an anthem for leg-spreaders, bald eagle, barren by choice, gimme a deaf ear to bullshit: hear no evil, there no evil; find a way to wear the evil: short-skirted, pinned-up, put-down, propped-up, put-out, lipstuck, sequined shut, but I’m not His belle chose, I choose the night-steeped warrior walk: gag the dirt-cheap chatter smattered with whatsthematterbaby, what matters is the calloused “heel, boy” rubbed-raw brains of feather-pillow dames taking it all like champs, boasting missing buttons, grinning gapped-toothed Venus Victrix, prizefighter split lip swung hip nip slip, take a hit, hit back, snap back, get back, make way! gimme space! where’s the evil? there’s the evil: in the eyes of the goddess, neon pink sign, straight-outta-the-ocean-foam, naked and brave dressed for battle, stretching decadent between the Elysium of mortal thighs, kiss-red mouth bleeding love wanting pain stretching wide.
be angry, squawk don’t squeak—the meek don’t keep blabbering yammering bitching moaning groaning, going-on-and-on-about-who-knows-what in that shrill shrewlike mewl—in the back of the pack it’s the package you lack and a voice you have to sign for—sitting around shooting the shit everyone’s laughing but you: thumb bit raw meat, cinnamon and iron, slut deserves to die for the quarter inch of thigh and so do I, lie back take it slow—not too fast, make it last: gotta kill the bitch just like Dad! here I sit on my fists rings wrung tight, spiteful of fat tongues dripping proud words of the wise rulers of the land, crowned by your mothers (or did you forget the ichor spilled on your behalf?) sons of goddesses now thick-jointed slow-witted Titans stumbling, making war, devouring light, hanging by every stop sign, bellies bulging self-satisfied onanists, fed groomed housed by blabbering yammering bitching moaning groaning going-on-and-on-about-who-knows-what, so speak first like Gaea, speak last like Penelope, give your hysterical Yes! and steal your lyrical Yawp, gobble every syllable. don’t swallow. spit.
No, I Do Not Want to Connect with You on LinkedIn
Of all the washed-up terror prodigies in all the Underworld—
I’m gonna need you especially to stay the fuck out of my iPhone.
______So you’re still king of that shot-up little roach house on Cat Piss Ave,
still hung up on that time I didn’t let you stay my dearest
threat? Look at you. So mad you’d @ anything.
______Wanting me taken down, taken out. Lolol, rage-cake. You tried.
In the years since I was last light-starved, hell-bent on your half-cocked lure
I have kept the moon on all night in my own way,
______by listening, by not forgetting it is there. Small witchery.
And by the way, your shit is not a secret. This here is girl country.
Trust me when I say we know all about your kind in our ranks.
______All you motherfuckers make it easy—you wear the same shitty face.
Rude to the end, you missed my victory scene. I wore blue lace
& wolf spit, I sang torch songs, I was carried up into the trees by waves.
______The moon knew me. It took my side. Duh, I thought, & I gave you the finger.
One day, I woke up such a force, I watched your name fall
right out of the language. Did you feel that?
______How you are now girl dust? Shipwreck? Bone muck? Ghost?
It’s only in another life that I could be damned
back to hell for your half-look, that I was
______ever your jilted bride, sweating it out
Aqua-netted in a farm field down by the interstate
under a goddamn willow bower, eye-deep
______in a rabble of no-account drunks.
You once thought to make me afraid, to consider
what that might do to me. I think now:
______how unimaginative. To kill a tree, any asshole
can hammer a ring of nails into the trunk.
Already, you don’t know me, & one day
______I will be even stranger, one day I just may fall
to my knees in church to say Reverend, my God, what
were Eve’s other choices & I trust you will not
______be there as my witness. I admit I once believed
I could be anything, & didn’t you say to me then “That’s true
for some people”—? When I was seven, a boy slapped me
______& I was punished for “inciting violence.”
So it began: when I bled, I thought I deserved it.
I wanted one brightly colored warship; I wanted
______a grief with my name printed right there on it.
To have & to hold—there is, after all, a difference.
Before anyone fucked with her, Eurydice was just a woman walking alone
______through a field of snakes. It’s late now, much
too late to hold us back—you know that—
pay attention this time when the hiss of our names
______ribbons off, white flame against the dark.
Rumpus original logo art by Luna Adler.
ENOUGH is a Rumpus series devoted to creating a dedicated space for work by women and non-binary people that engages with rape culture, sexual assault, and domestic violence. We believe that while this subject matter is especially timely now, it also timeless. We want to make sure that this conversation doesn’t stop—not until our laws and societal norms reflect real change.
We received over four hundred submissions to our initial call and will not be accepting additional pieces at this time. We may reopen for submissions at a future date. We also must acknowledge that the submissions we received overwhelmingly came from white, heterosexual women. While we are actively assessing how we can do better in our next call for submissions, we also believe this points to systemic inequalities that need to be addressed: who has access to healthcare and to therapy, who has been taught to speak up and who has been taught to be silent.
Many names appearing in these stories have been changed.
Visit the archives here.