AFTER AND BEFORE, Barbara Ruth

AFTER AND BEFORE
by Barbara Ruth

Once I finally got rid of my husband, I was wild in the streets, wild in the sheets, living for the revolution:

I was a woman

who reveled in summer nighttime walking from my apartment to the bars, legs and armpits unshorn and showing, right there on the street. I could wear shorts and tank tops again, free as the small town child I had been, but now my freedom secured by mace in my hand, tae kwon do classes under my belt, and rage percolating like lava from my core, ready to erupt. My cut-off tee shirt spelled out “Killer Dyke” in silver glitter, matching my necklace which read: “Bitch.” Overkill? The tee shirt was visible from way off. You had to get really close, right up to my throat, to read the delicate italics of the “Bitch.”

I was a woman:

not quite fearless, but unwilling to be stopped by fear. I almost hoped some man would threaten me, give me an excuse to mace him, smash his instep or his nose, make him never ever try to intimidate a woman again.

I was one with the heat of the city night, reveling in the joy of having survived my now ex-husband’s fists and my despair all the way to my mid-twenties, to taste the delicious tang of women’s dances, hot flirtations and mutual seductions. Ah, sweet licks of love, back before the plague years.

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