The Paris Review

I Want a Reckoning

Usually it is a woman who asks the question—always the same question. She sits near the door in the last row of the auditorium, where I have spent the last hour talking about what it means to have been kidnapped and raped by a man I loved, a man with whom I lived. He was a man who, even before the kidnapping, had already violated me in every way you might imagine, especially a man like him. Someone else in the audience asks what happened to the man who did this to me, and I explain how he got away, how he is a fugitive living in Venezuela, raising a new family. This is not the ending anyone expects.

Now the woman has a question, always last. She raises her hand and when I call on her, she stands and speaks in a clear, assertive voice: “What do you want to have happen to him, to the man who did this to you?” By “this” I know she means not only the actual crime that the man committed, but also all of the therapy, the nightmares and panic attacks, the prescribed medication and self-medication, the healing and self-harm. “I mean, you probably want him dead, right?”

, I think. “No,” I say aloud. Her expression crumples; she looks confused. Everyone in the audience looks confused.

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Cover: courtesy of Francesca Colussi. Pages 40–69, courtesy of Robert Hass; page 70, © 1998 by Fred Viebahn; page 73, © 1996 by Jock McDonald; page 77, © 2007 by Miriam Berkley; pages 106–23, courtesy of Francesca Colussi; pages 124, 139, courtesy of