Apr. 1st, 2012

ext_20269: (character - Ruth)
[identity profile] annwfyn.livejournal.com
It is a game, of course. That is something Jack Riley taught me, at least. It's just a game. Don't take it personally, because they don't. It is no more personal than chess or poker, for all that we play with life and death and the reward is to live another night, with a slightly better hand to play at the next round.

I don't pretend to be a master when I play. I've watched players who really know what they are doing; Robert de Selby, who sits like a fat spider at the very centre of his web; Father Gabriel Montoya, who juggles knives with a wicked smile and leaves his enemies thanking him when he slits their throat. I'm not that good. I get angry. I make mistakes. I care when I should not. I push when I should hold back and pull away when I need to be bold. I'm still young, and, what is more, I'm both a woman and a Jew in a world filled with elders who remember that that matters. But still, I can play a little. And I play to win. 

What do I want to win? Honestly, not a lot. Security. Space. The right to never be 'oil! Jew bitch' again. The safety to sleep and not be afraid every night that I will not wake up the next night. The status to speak without being afraid of being beaten down. Having a voice is a prize won and paid for with privilege, which is something a breed of spoiled Carthian can often forget; the passionate boys who came of age in a world where every white boy had a voice. 

How do I play for it? As fairly as I can.

This is not to say I won't make my deals, it doesn't mean I won't lie, or cheat, or steal if I have to. I know that I live in a twisted and imperfect world. Still, I have my rules. 

Last night I walked with Alfred Taylor by the ocean. The wind was sharp and cold. I felt as if it was scouring me clean. G-d, that felt good. 

I once thought I would never feel clean again. Lying in Jack's bed, coated in my own sweat and blood, dirty inside and out, I felt that feeling would never leave me. He didn't see it. He touched my hair, complimented me on looking pretty, said that he'd teach me to use that, to be better than I was. I washed myself a thousand times over, but that feeling wouldn't leave me. It was buried in my veins, along with the memories of the men in uniform who gave me my life back in return for caresses. 

But that was a long time ago.

I don't play those games anymore. 

Other females do. It turns out that even dead hearts can twist a little when something that looks like a pretty little girl opens her eyes wide and lets her voice tremble. I've seen the females who do it, playing old men like twisted harps. They play the girl card in this great game of blood and death, and it works well for them. I don't know if it makes them feel dirty, or cheap. I don't know what they see when they look at themselves in the mirror. 

All I know is that I will not play that game again. 

Not every woman does, of course; Charlie; Hetta Barker; Dolly Mix. We don't play that game, and even when I clash with those women, I am glad they are there. 

And when Mr Taylor turns to me I turn back towards him without a smile and we begin to play.


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