I was riding the subway from downtown Toronto to the west end, on my way to the airport, though I had no luggage, no ticket, no passport. That familiar obsession about missing my flight had begun to take hold when he popped into my head, already in bondage, tied to a chair, so I couldn’t help but imagine what I might do to him. He deserved to be punished. He’d raped his teenaged wife. He had beaten her persistently, for months, maybe even years, I couldn’t remember t
he details. The girl had been interviewed on the radio that morning, her voice a monotone, cut off by a lively translator. I was struck by the translator’s voice. It was strong, not the voice of a victim as this Afghani girl had been before she came to Canada as a refugee with her mother and her young sister. It struck me again that without the violence they never would have come to Canada. She had appealed to the Afghani police for help and they’d said, it’s not that bad, he hasn’t cut off your nose, your lips, your ears, you’re OK, it’s only a beating. She fled to her mother’s house, far away from her husband’s family, and that’s when he came for her, him and his brother in law. The husband had a gun and she’d thought, oh no he couldn’t shoot me, he wouldn’t do that, then everything went black, the translator said. He’d shot her in the face.
The rest of the program was about reconstructive surgery in India. Many surgeries. It was reported that half her face had been blown off by the impact of the bullet – an eye, her nose, one side of her jaw, half her mouth and teeth. She faced more surgical procedures in Vancouver, which was where the little female family had been settled upon arrival in Canada.
He struggled inside his bondage, staring at me defiantly. I turned my back and went for a knife. When I turned again, with the knife hanging loosely from my right hand, I saw his eyes widen. He began to sweat and tremble. I wanted to say something to make him aware of his punishment, but I found no words. There were strong men, one on either side, holding his legs apart, tying them to the chair legs. His arms were shackled, held tight against his torso. As I moved forward he began to babble in his language. He screamed and begged. I told the men to gag him. Nothing in his mouth, I said. Just gag him. The noise was getting on my nerves.
You have no right to protest after what you’ve done. My voice sounded distant, like a foghorn. I took hold of his genitals. You’ll never rape a woman again, I honked. Something in me savored that moment, even though I hardly recognized my voice. I sliced them – first one, then the other – and let them drop onto the concrete floor. There was a lot of blood, and a fishy smell, like something rotten washed up on the beach. The terror had disappeared from his eyes.
Water! I hissed. We’re losing him.
One of the men doused the prisoner’s face with a bucket of cold water, but he hardly reacted. He was already somewhere else. I went for his penis.
I’ll cut this off too, I shouted, just to make sure you do no more damage with your God-given genitals! But it was too late. I let the limp thing drop. He was already unconscious.
I looked up. The passengers across from me stared into their cell phones as the gray tunnel flashed by behind them. We were approaching my station. I rose and grasped the metal pole to steady myself as I stood by the doors waiting for them to open. The train shuddered to a halt. I exited and walked down the platform to the escalator feeling a peculiar sense of frustration. All that blood and stink and cruelty backed up in me. It would have been better to throw him into a soundproof cell and slam the door. Let him starve. Let him scream and whimper all he wanted before he rotted away. I stepped off the escalator, pushed through the exit barrier, and walked out onto the street where I was immediately blinded by the late afternoon sun. I took sunglasses from my purse and looped them behind my ears. Everything had a rosy glow, but I still felt rotten inside, as though my breath could slay a dragon.
It was a seedy neighborhood. The air smelled of cigarette smoke. On the corner outside the grocery store there was a sharp aroma of weed, and a couple stood there shouting at each other. The woman had a cigarette hanging out of her mouth. She had dyed black hair, too much makeup, and she was defending herself, shouting aggressively at her toothless guy. He cackled and hopped back and forth like a child who needed to pee. An unlit cigarette dangled loosely from the fingers of his right hand. They both smelled of alcohol.
What do you do with all the rot? I just felt like getting a gun and shooting them, shooting all the yapping dogs and drunks and rapists and gunslingers and drug-dealers. I was thinking seriously of how I could get a gun in Canada, not easy peasy like in the U.S. We have laws. What will I say when they ask me why I need it? Self defence? Target practice? Oh yes, I go out in my garden every morning and shoot soda bottles. Something like that.
When the alarm woke me I flung out my arm and groped for the damned thing and silenced it, then I lay in bed remembering my dream until it was all clear in my mind and the rotten feeling was gone from my insides. I turned on the radio to hear the morning news, a habit of mine before getting out of bed each morning. The sombre voice of the newsreader reported on the discovery of a nine-year-old Muslim girl, gang-raped to death by Hindus. Over a period of days. It happened so fast, the story out before I could reach across the bedside table to turn it off.