Unwed by Shavahn Best

The gas station attendant askedHow is a pretty girl like you not already married I answered that it must be because of my temper or my hairy legs or because of bulging variscosities from oxygen-starved years of smoking cigarettes, being pregnant, working for hours on my feet and bad genes But I want to go deeper without ever having to mention my most immediate family because even I am superstitious though I trust the universe with my whole being

It could be because of my communist grandfather who built all the roads in Idaho and Washington before spending sleepless winters on the muddy floor of the tent he shared with his Catholic wife and four children because no one would hire him and then he molested his eldest daughter decades before propositioning my best friend

It could have been my other grandmother who put her freckle-faced red-haired toddler step-daughter into a box in the fire place for too long before her grandmother pulled her out and carefully dressed her excruciating melted body for months after while the girl’s American Indian logger father who may have been a Bella Bella a Tillamook an Umpqua or a Puget Sound Salish Nisqually, Muckleshoot or a Straits Salish, Lummi or Sooke though he never talked about his people before nor after he took the fall for his wife who also put the girl who would one day be my mother into a phone booth night after night to wait while she danced for sailors coming back to shore after the war

Or it might be because of my falling out teeth with tarnished fillings turning to acrid reminders of too much sweet junk poisoning childrens’ bodies and silver and gold mined from far away beautiful lands like Salgado’s Brazil or Mandela’s South Africa where mammoth pits clawed and ravaged by years of betrayal no longer resemble what any creator deemed only cheek checks with rifle butts where explosions routinely bury the living and death is simply collateral to ensure the sparkling twinkle of a gem’s set on a single finger

So tell me in the midst of madness when violence against a baby’s tender flesh is even remotely possible by mothers and fathers in the presence of such things as great love and art when my guilt is not penance enough for this weight can you ask me a different question?