Five Deaths of Evatima Tardo, the Immortal
The first is snakebite, sudden thrust and tear, and the small girl holding her hand up to the light after, spreading her fingers wide for the doctor — I’m going to die? But it doesn’t even hurt.
The whole family packs their things and heads north. Evatima rides the train on her mother’s lap. She sings the songs she has been taught, she rustles the petticoat of her fine skirt. She watches the world outside the window, she watches it flutter past like butterfly wings.
Her mother says, when she asks, we’re going to our new home. To our new life.
It is cold in the new home, a cold like she has never known before, and the moon is so small and so far away.
She is sixteen years old and she will never be called beautiful.
On the stage, they will give her rattlesnakes that strike her, needles that stab. She will show the audiences the empty wounds, the way she showed that first doctor, it doesn’t even hurt.
On the stage, they will call her the immortal, they will call her the world’s strangest woman. They will never call her beautiful.
She stands outside the new home, in the cold. She tilts her face to the sky, watches the snow fall and fall and fall.
The crucifixions will be her most popular act, she will say she loves them, the horror on their faces, but they always come back, she will laugh and smile and sip from cups of tea that are lifted to her mouth.
They will say: Does it hurt?
I’m fine, she’ll say. I’m happy.
I have never known a moment of pain.
The last death is the one that sticks. They will say she died from love. They will think it is love that puts a man’s hands on a pistol, that pulls the trigger, that stops her beating heart. He will kill himself after. They will call that love.
Mourners will go past her open casket, touch her for luck, her face, her shoulder, the fair bridge of her collarbone.
Across the street, church bells will be ringing.
Across the street, voices will rise in song.