We are not terrorists. We have not done this because we wish to terrify or instill fear. We do what we have done in order to bring the truth to everyone, a truth that burns away the lies and leaves only itself. We are no more terrorists than the invisible hand of the market is a terrorist.
This is what they used to call a meet cute, back when movies were made by people like Ernst Lubitsch or Billy Wilder, when movies had plots and dialogue, when life and love had rules, back in the last century. A handsome officer in the Soviet embassy (does that tell you how long ago?) picks up the phone one day and hears a lilting female voice asking him if he can tell her, please, what is Lenin’s middle name. “It’s for my crossword puzzle.”
Mickey and I worked together at Hillman’s Horror House, and maybe the thrill of scaring people was what made me notice him. I’d never thought about another guy that way before, and so when I first got that electric jolt as his hand brushed mine in the changing room, I felt like I might puke. I went to the bathroom, where instead of throwing up I jacked off into the toilet.
You know who I’m talking about. You can see them on Sunday afternoons, in places like Knoxville, Tennessee or Flagstaff, Arizona, playing pool or with their elbows on the bar, drinking a beer before they head out into the dusty sunlight and get into their pickups, onto their motorcycles. Some of them have dogs. Some of their dogs wear bandanas around their necks.
Colonel Rathbone attends my final debriefing. I’m wearing a paper hospital gown that doesn’t cover my ass; I’ve got a breeze where no breeze has any right to be, from the back of my neck right down where the good Lord split me. But despite that I’m sweating, the backs of my thighs sticking to the paper covering the hospital table
When I was six my eyes started to fail, for reasons no one could understand. Now, tonight, in this dark hole, now that I’m a man, I can appreciate how hard this was for everyone. I can appreciate my father’s sadness, how it ate at him and wasted him and finally killed him. Doctors and neighbors also found themselves affected: I was the only child of a dead mother, and my father was already old. At a certain moment in their lives, men and women find a skill for recognizing stories; when I was six, I was too young.
This is a story from the time before she was famous. In the early days, she was known as Leli, or Lelia, a tease-name that had stuck. On her first mission for the revolution, she sat cramped, fists clenched with tension, waiting in the tiny scabship Tinka, out of sight in a radar deadzone. The salvage ship Gathering Moss, which she was stalking, lay like a giant, rusting silver slug in the docking bay.
There are three things Zinhle decides, when she is old enough to understand. The first is that she will never, ever, give less than her best to anything she tries to do. The second is that she will not live in fear. The third, which is perhaps meaningless given the first two and yet comes to define her existence most powerfully, is this: She will be herself. No matter what.
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I was always already a killer. There was no hazy time in my memory before I knew how to target a person’s heart or brain for clean execution. I did not develop a morbid fascination with death over time; I did not spend my childhood mutilating animals; I was not abused by a violent parent; I did not suffer social injustice until finally I broke down and turned to professional violence. From the moment I was conscious, I could kill and I did.