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Diana Ferraro
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theflag.jpg
Art by Lonni Lees, 2012

THE FLAG

 

by

 

DIANA FERRARO

 

 

 

 

There you are, your bearded face slightly swollen by the lens, answering with your deepest voice to the interviewer that your favorite quality is honesty and, you add, maybe also generosity. You explain then something about honesty, you deploy meanings of selfishness; on television, you convince. It’s nice that we both are public figures, we get to see ourselves in the news, we hear about the last thing we did on the radio, we read our updated biography on papers and magazines; much better than having to ask common friends or to pick up the phone and humiliate ourselves by showing an interest we would hate to divulge.

 I watch the interview while I peel onions, and before you ask, yes, I still cook a quiche once a week and yes, I still wear my old pink apron with torn ruffles. Now the reporter asks you, because your last film has a political edge, about commitment, and you smile; you swore the flag as a soldier, you swore to be faithful to your country and, you assure with your dark eyes glowing with pride, you honored the pledge, and words like loyalty and faithfulness come to your mouth. You say that you have also been faithful to your women, and then you add, unnecessarily, while you loved them.

You are not requested to explain why people can have a lifelong love for their country and not for a woman; the interviewer changes the subject and the speech on belonging is postponed. But the fact is there: you have said that a woman doesn’t deserve the same honesty, the same generosity a country does. For you, honesty doesn’t go that far, nor does generosity. I return to my onions, I chop them, then I put some butter in a frying pan, a spoon of olive oil, and I start frying them. To cook has this type of reward: no matter what is happening in the outside world, you are only concerned with succeeding the meal. Something else has replaced you now on the screen and I switch to a music channel where Sinatra uses his proverbial good timing to assure that love and marriage go together like a horse and carriage, and I light a cigarette; yes, I started smoking again.

 I am prone to conclusions tonight, now that I have seen you in your best shape, giving moral advice. I didn’t quite understand what you had to say about your film and the global warming, the war and elections, and all those issues about which movie directors have an opinion because you know all, as we actresses feel all. I feel now, for instance, that I have lost my usual impulse to kill you every time I see you. I am only using now a self destructive cigarette, you see; no knives, no loaded guns, no arrows, no sword, grenade, atomic bomb or poison.

 I poisoned a quiche once, but you didn’t notice; you only thought I was queer wanting to make love before finishing a meal which ended in the grinder before you could eat it. I had used an untraceable Chinese powder; had I had the courage to let you eat, you wouldn’t have shot your two last bad films, your kids wouldn’t be ashamed by the failure and your finances wouldn’t be on the down slope. You wouldn’t be obliged to these interviews either and I would have a new question to answer, about your premature death, the terrible loss for all those who loved you, instead of being asked about how do I compare myself, your favorite foreign actress and long lasting wife, to your new Erika, Sheila or Daphne.

I have to say, tonight I saw you happy, fulfilled, so maybe you were right asking for a divorce. I can tell the right story now, if someone asks; the magic was gone, you were not in love with me, you loved someone else, you switched the flag, migrated to a foreign body, put in place a new set of spies, agents and soldiers, became loyal to the new homeland --I cannot remember her name, that was kind of six women before the last one. You must know that your flag was waving here in my body, your country, for a long time; I had it half mast for months, and finally, defeated, I lowered it. You said flag and I had an epiphany. My anger is gone.

I will eat my quiche, with a tall glass of merlot, maybe two. Then I will go to the white bathroom and fill the tub with hot water. I will undress and, naked, I will carefully step in the tub, sit, and lie, not caring if my hair gets wet. I will then cut my wrists and I will not fail. Yes, you will hear the radio, watch TV, and read the papers. Later, you will have to answer the questions, but words have never been a problem for you. You will see the pictures of my body dipping in what will look like a beauty bath of red wine. Will people see your flag hugging the coffin at my funeral? I would appreciate that; an American, post-mortem, if not your wife.

Images, images, inner images, I will not dwell on them. I will go instead back to my flaky dough, butter, flour and cold water, slowly stroking what feels like grains of sand, coarse sugar, pure life to come after a few minutes in the fridge. The onions shine in the pan, brown as caramel. Sinatra rolls, all the way, and soon it will be the tale of his way, as I find mine, pouring the onions, cream, spices, and beaten eggs into the mold covered by the dough. While the quiche cooks, I drink my wine, making a toast for those who don’t lie. I crush basil leaves and smell them, just for the pleasure, because they don’t belong with onions.

 

 

 

Diana Ferraro is an Argentine bilingual author with several books published in Spanish. For a decade she spent many months of each year in Richmond, Virginia. Some of her work in English has appeared at Foundling Review, Danse Macabre, Midwest Literary Magazine, Palabra Literary Magazine, Ink-Filled Page, The Other Room, The Acentos Review, The Linnet’s Wings and in the anthology Off-Season. Her collection of essays The Americas Dream: Essays on Continentalism, her first novel in English, The French Lesson, and Old Wars, a novella, have been published as e-books at Amazon.com. She lives in Buenos Aires.

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