The tail of this letter lifts upwards in a small query, a faint hope. Refused
legitimacy or equality--note that its top is firmly stoppered--it puts its
root into the ground, seeking ascendancy through wiles, jokes, the tenderness
of manipulation, the submissive wag of the tail. Marilyn tells me the story
of Jonah, a man who is at first fearful and proud.
Jonah tries to sail away from Nineveh and the Lord himself. After a few
days in the belly of the whale, Jonah wags his tail and bares his belly
before the will of the Lord. But, in her version, Jonah never goes back
to Nineveh. Instead, he sails off into the sunset.
Once they arrive at Beirut, my father puts Marilyn on a strict allowance,
just enough for food and clothes. He's learned his lesson from my mother.
He wants to see receipts and itemized bills. Marilyn begins to have a shifty
look about her. I catch her lying several times; I know she's hiding something.
I tell her I'm clearly on her side so she tells me her secret: she is slowly
piling up her own stash. She calls it egg money.
My father never confronts her but he knows and they wage their silent battle.
For instance, a large T.V. might be delivered to the house.
Marilyn looks helpless. Are you sure he didn't pay for it ? It's not
a mistake ?
The delivery man gives her a small note in my father's hand. It says, encouragingly,
Go ahead, Marilyn, you can pay for it.
Why don't you call your parents? I say. Ask your parents for money.
They wouldn't give me a cent--they want me to send them money, she says
bitterly. Besides, your father has my bank account and my passport.
But it isn't really that Marilyn can't run away. It's that she has nowhere
to run to. She's got one bad knee and two young children and this imbalance
causes her to walk in a circle right back to my father.
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