Broad Street is excited to share an excerpt from the lovely Paisley Rekdal’s latest piece, “The Lives of Strangers,” which will be featured in our debut issue. Rekdal recently was awarded the 2013 Rilke Prize for her collection of poems, “Animal Eye.”
From “The Lives of Strangers”
by Paisley Rekdal
It was the third day of Lori Hacking’s disappearance, and the news in the neighborhood was that the police were running groups of volunteers to search the canyon. The husband, Mark Hacking, was regularly on TV now, teary and white-faced. Everyone was suspicious of him, even more so after the evening he was found, crying and allegedly naked, running through the streets. But if there was anything the residents of Salt Lake seemed most unnerved by, it was the possibility Lori Hacking had been assaulted by a stranger. This was far more frightening than the statistical likelihood that Mark Hacking, a tall, athletic bald young man who was otherwise physically unremarkable, had murdered his wife in a fit of rage. Pale-eyed and ruddy-cheeked, Mark appeared both bland and strangely repellant on TV. I thought at the time my dislike of him had more to do with the word “husband” than anything about Mark Hacking himself. Post-divorce, I wanted nothing to do with husbands. I wanted there to be something wrong with Mark Hacking, as much as I also wanted the worst, most exotic scenario to have unfolded: that Lori had been spirited away by a stranger, attacked after taking a turn too fast during her run, or having slipped and twisted an ankle. A stranger comes to help, notes the woman’s slim waist, her runner’s legs. He holds her arm and steadies her, then pulls her to him, murmuring something that she instantly, unconsciously, recognizes as threatening. She starts to pull away. He pulls back. And then everything after.
Night after night, the city and I imagined her killed repeatedly: imagining her bludgeoned first by her husband and then, unsatisfied with this scenario, dragged off into the bushes by a watchful maniac. In retrospect, it’s shocking how much time we spent publicly speculating about the ways in which Lori Hacking died, what kinds of tortures had been meted out and suffered. It was as if we enjoyed it, watching the news each night solely for the purpose of hearing more about the case, talking about it with neighbors, everyone eager to discuss it, to imagine her–bloodied, beaten, even sodomized–as one particularly repellant man hissed to me at the dog park–almost as if she deserved it, this imaginary hell we placed her in, over and over.
It was a death that hovered between two possible men: one the husband, the other the stranger, and our responses depended on whom we believed to be the more real threat. Over the first week, perhaps the news made both men become strangers, to Lori Hacking’s family at least if not to us, as certainly a woman could never have married a man she suspected of being her potential murderer. In the same way, the image of Lori Hacking herself also became estranged from the reality of who she likely was. The story of her disappearance was fueled by the perception of her innocence: news reports continually referred to her slight frame, her childlike appearance as if she were little more than a child, as if to mention the fact that she was a woman who had decided to run alone one morning–as she did every morning–would suggest that perhaps she had not only courted danger but invited it in, that she was an adult who had actively participated in a life in which something so awful could happen to her.