My Name is Jane

written by Christine Unger


The Rat

Standing at the edge of the clearing, the rat was nibbling, whiskers twitched, large mirror eyes blazed with the reflected sunset burning through the blackened trees, the tiny stagnant ripples of the old poolside, reflecting upside down. Everything was upside down. It knew something. She knew something. Rodent teeth took a final bite from the soft tissues of her memory - light flooded through, everything at once, a cascade of image and feeling. Dick, splayed across a deck chair. California light casting long gorgeous shadows across his sleeping body. Only, he wasn’t sleeping. His eyes were narrowed, a mona Lisa smile set like plaster on his face. She, Jane, in the boat, one arm over the side, her head lolling gracefully, Marat Assassiné. Pain flared red, stars flashing in her eyes, the world juddering to a halt as nausea and dizziness overcame her and the world went dark. Floating above her body, she watching poor M, hands shaking, body wracked with panicked inhalations, alternately shoving and dragging the boat across the sand. Flash, now M in China, neon lights in his Jane hair, beautiful, shocked. Flash, now M lying face down in the ravine with Spot wailing beneath the moon. Why, why had he done it. She thought of him as a son. tried to help him. Didn’t he know that. Even now she made excuses for him. He hadn’t meant to hit her. He’d thrown the tripod in a moment of frustration, she’d pushed him too far, too long…

Dick. Bastard, bastard! she’d trusted him, worried for him, put up with his brutish manners, his rough hands, supported his first crude attempts at sculpting, guided his first successes to the attention of her art connections. He’d done the same for her. Hadn’t they been partners. Wasn’t that the deal. Bastard. What had she done to deserve this, this, …she didn’t even know what to call it, didn’t understand the motivation. there couldn’t be another woman, they were together all the time, she and he, dick and jane, a unit, beyond her assistants, family, dealers, his badminton buddies there was no one else in their circle. she’d have known. He’d even come with her for tours. He needed her.

Please don’t show me, she pleaded with the rat. It refused to blink.

It came suddenly, like a car crash. She finally saw it. M waded back to shore as the boat drifted out into the dangerous waves. He looking bedraggled, helpless, beguiling. Dick, pretending to awake, ran to M, wrapping him in his arms, feigning distress and comforting M. In his eyes, desire, relief, welcome. She saw it for the first time, the uncanny similarity between M and herself was suddenly amplified in the peculiar light of sundown, his features melted just enough. In Dick’s arms her doppelganger curved and wept with feminine fluidity, gracile, M. was the other woman. I did this to myself. The rat tilted its head. exhausted. and dropped back into the darkness where it had come from.

Jane’s consciousness shuddered again and again, writhing with the knowledge of her own complicity in this human farce. The little games of dress-up had started so innocently, Jane needed to see the shot, M was built so similarly, it seemed natural to ask him to dress the part, put on the wig, stand in place. Dick, his face behind the camera was inscrutable, but she could see it now. M was her, but younger, vulnerable, needy as she’d been when they’d first met. and as the dress up became more convincing, so must Dick’s desires. She hadn’t seen, she’d actually encouraged M when he suggested a sex change. been surprised by Dick’s support. Oh God, Oh God. The blackness swelled inside her chest, pulling it open til there was nothing but a gaping hole and an iron ball trying to work it’s way through her throat.

It was all there, as she looked into Dick’s cold dismissive eyes It was as if they’d never known each other. Her hands shook and then steadied. The pistol was cold in her hands. too big, too heavy. She raised it, pulled it up to her shoulders with a jerk and aimed as only a southern bell could. Dick gaped. He knew it was coming now but it was too late. bang bang. just like an old movie. Crows protested with that peculiar raspy caw they had, flapped out of the trees then quickly settling back down. Murder. Murder. they shouted. but no one was listening. no one ever listened in these woods.

Jane stood still for a long time, staring into the distant purple hills. The cool evening wind lifting her silver-gold hair. The rat was finally gone, returned to its furtive tunneling in her subconscious. She felt truly awake. truly alive. She pivoted to face his body. It had it’s own black hole now. See Dick Bleed. Bleed Dick, Bleed. They used to joke about their grade school counterparts. The evening light played through the black needles of the pines, spikes of gold shimmering over Dick’s body. The iron grid that had hardened his features for so long, fractured and then melted away in the golden half-light, leaving his face slack. He looked again, almost, like her friend, her lover. What torment had placed that mask over him? Who the hell cared. How could she care after what he’d done. But now, Jane had to be gone too. She would have to be someone else and it wouldn’t be the rat this time. Looking back over her shoulders she saw her great shaggy companion Spot, wading through the pond, tongue lolling, impossible blue eyes glowing. Crouching she whistled her over. "Come spot, Come."