Being stuck in bed with a dangerously high fever and no strength to do anything but stare at the TV had repercussions, particularly when you end up watching Hallmark and prime time television for three days straight.
That night, the mix of delirium from the sickness combined with 72 hours worth of romcom reruns and soap operas had America in a very particular mood: reminiscing about past relationships.
You should be warned:
The sick mind likes to embellish.
In a world cast in black and white, we stood together on a bridge in the Parisian moonlight. He was lazily sucking on a cigarette and I was about to break his heart, the Effile Tower as my witness.
I held out the ring he’d given me just days before, urging him to take it back. He stared at it in shock as his eyes softened. I saw them glisten with sadness, as if to say, No America, don’t go. I already miss your juicy thighs.
France and I found each other in the midst of war. My need for money and his desire to hate Britain created a lovely chemistry. He softened my edges. When I was engulfed by the fervor of wanting to get bigger and stronger, he reminded me to take the time to enjoy the beauty of life–to admire art, to read books, to dance to music like I thought no one was watching. He said that being soft didn’t mean you couldn’t be strong; As the guy who invented the guillotine and ravaged Europe with war and conquest, he just might have been right.
I loved him once, but we both changed. My early life was defined by transformation and ambition, and our relationship just couldn’t keep up.
France took my hands in his and gazed deeply into my eyes. With just that look he pleaded with me, begged me to stay. Then his brow furrowed and he cocked his head.
He was probably wondering why I was blinking and squinting like I’d just gotten soap in my eyes. But I wore mascara with the full intention of having big, black, tear-soaked streaks running down my face at some point that night. If I didn’t cry, it would be a waste.
When I realized the waterworks weren’t going to happen, I tore away from him and threw the ring into the river. That was the moment his heart broke; his shoulders sagged and his head dropped.
My chest ached. I couldn’t leave him like this. I had to at least give him one final goodbye. So I threw my arms around him and kissed him hard. His cigarette hit the ground. His tongue went into my mouth.
After a full minute of frenching, I pushed him away. Chopping my hand through the air, I painfully mouthed Stop! I can’t be with you!
But my body and my brain were at odds. Like magnets, France and I were pulled back together. Our hands ravaged each other’s bodies–him, kneading me like bread dough, me, feeling him up like I was five minutes late to work and desperately digging for a pair of socks at the bottom of the drawer.
Again I broke the kiss. He backed off.
What was I doing? I was supposed to be ending our relationship! I had to put my foot down, had to–there we went again, tongues flopping around and hips doing strange and wonderful things as the background music blossomed into a heated, romantic tempo.
It was now apparent that this breaking up with him thing wasn’t working out. We went back to his place and made love with the windows open. The next morning I looked at him gravely and shook my head. He smiled softly, squeezed my hand. I got dressed, left the house, and went off to invade Iraq.
I was lounging by the pool in a little red dress that hugged my shapely figure. A cocktail hung from between my fingers and the rich sound of Spanish strumming played out of the poolside radio. That’s when I heard a car roll up–the breaks always screeched like a chihuahua that had just been stepped on. Tossing the martini, I sprang up and dashed inside.
“Has my husband returned?” I shouted as I ran through to the living room. My heart jumped when I saw him standing at the front door. “Oh, mi amor!”
I jumped into his arms for a loving embrace–but instead of feeling his soft pecs against my cheek I felt his fist slam into my jaw. Stumbling back, I gasped with such force that I actually almost started choking.
“¡Qué mierda!” I cried.
“You annexed my daughter.”
I stared at him with big eyes before tossing my hair back–which didn’t look as good as it might have due to my lack of anything to toss back. I stuck my hip out and placed a hand on it before firmly saying,
“Our daughter. Texas was our child.” I said each and every word with marvelous gusto. “Your seed filled my womb and–well, actually, it was more like my seed in your womb, but–”
“You can hide from the truth all you want, but I did what was best for our child. I gave her a future that you never could.”
Mexico mustered a look of pure disgust.
“We. Are. Over.”
“¡No! Mexico, without you, I’ll… die…!” I whipped my head away and let a powerful beat of silence hang as I held my dramatic pose. He didn’t make a sound. I snapped, “Why aren’t you physically reacting at all to the fact that I’m wearing a tight dress and my breasts are exposed?”
He shoved me.
“I never want to see you again. You have betrayed my love and my trust and now you are dead to me.”
“Come on, baby! Let’s talk this out!” I shouted as I watched him walk away–nice view. God, I’ll miss that. “All I did was fill Texas with white people and steal it from you. I could have done much worse. I could have bullied you into starting a war that you’d totally lose.”
From behind me I heard the sound of liquid splashing. It was Cuba, pouring a can of gasoline all over the room.
I unleashed an exasperated sigh.
“¡Vete al carajo, communista!”
Cue laugh track. Cut to black.
I ran my fingers across her muscles as we lay tangled in sheets and each other. She smiled and kissed the top of my head.
Her smoky voice tickled my ears. “Did you have fun, my sweet American?”
My lips on her neck were enough of an answer.
We met each other in a bar. She caught my eye–long black dress, plump red lips, platinum hair. I was sure I’d seen a painting in the MOMA with those same colors. We talked. She was all charisma and danger. She was just like me. We were drawn to each other like moths to flames. I fell in love hard and fast. She was a fire and all I wanted to do was burn.
Lying next to her that night, I would have never thought that one day I’d be staring down the barrel of her gun.
Alarms blared as I ran back down the corridor of wasted bodies. My handiwork. Tough, KGB types in black suits were no match for America’s greatest spy.
I’d made it to the roof of the secret Soviet facility and was about to jump into my escape helicopter when it got blown out of the sky. From the smoke emerged a tall Russian in a long, slate-colored military jacket, red lips curled into a smirk. My heart dropped.
“Hello, America,” she said coyly, keeping her pistol locked on me.
“Russia! You’re working for the commies? For the goddamn Russians?”
She cocked her head and narrowed her eyes. “I… I am the Russians.”
“Years, Russia. We were together for years. Was it all just a ploy to steal intelligence? Did you ever feel anything real for me?”
“Of course I did!” The sharpness in her voice surprised me as much as it surprised her. “But it would never work out because we have two very different visions for the world. We are two suns, each trying to burn brighter than the other. We are a chemical reaction–you are fluorine, and I am cesium.”
She waved her gun at me and spoke with an authority that could command an army.
“Give me the chip.”
“Would you really shoot me?”
“I don’t want to, but I will. If I have to.”
And that is how a heart breaks–how years of trust and respect mean nothing in the end. Love will never be greater than power and influence. Ambition conquers all. I always knew that, but now I would never forget, either.
I carefully reached into my suit pocket and tossed the microchip of stolen intel across the roof. I watched her henchman grab it as I began slowly walking backward.
“I loved you, Russia. I really did.”
“We could have been great. Could have ruled the world together.”
She smiled wryly. Behind her eyes was the threat of tears, but she was strong. She wouldn’t show them to me. I wouldn’t show mine to her.
“You’re so naive, America.”
I stopped walking when I felt the edge of the roof.
“Maybe I am. But if I wasn’t, how could I do what I do?” I glanced down. A five-story drop was enough to make anyone’s stomach sink. “We made damn good lovers, Russia. I’m sure we’ll make damn good enemies, too.”
I closed my eyes, leaned back, and let myself fall…
… Only to land perfectly into the passenger seat of my getaway car.
England gunned it as a spray of bullets followed close behind.
“So,” he said, looking at me, “you’ve lost the Soviet’s secrets and blown the mission. What’s the plan now?”
“I was thinking we could mess around with the third world and buy time until the USSR collapses on itself.”
“Now’s not the time for tea, England. I want a martini.”
Shaken, not stirred.
With a cry, the Evil Empress fell to the ground. I approached her, my red, high heeled boots clicking against the palace floor. I got down on bended knee and extended a hand. She looked up at me with confusion.
“What are you…?”
“Come on, get up.” I smiled softly. “You’re one of us, now.”
“You’d… you’d really let join your Scouts even after all I’ve done?”
“Oh, that’s–that’s funny. You think you have a choice?”
She took my hand and I pulled us both up. I looked into her eyes with conviction and triumph as a light breeze rustled my short, blue skirt.
“Welcome to the team, Japan.”
She may have had trouble fitting in at first, but eventually, Japan became a member of the family. I, Sailor Freedom, suggested a new name for her: Sailor Pacifism. She liked that idea but insisted that she wear a tuxedo and a mask instead of the standard Scout uniform. I had no objections.
It wasn’t long before we found ourselves entangled in not just villainous schemes to destroy the world, but love. We clicked in ways I never had with anyone else before, and like me, she was smart, funny, and incredibly beautiful. There was no one I would rather blast baddies with, and I knew she felt the same about me.
But one day that love would be tested.
We were facing a grave threat from the Dark Prince, the leader of the Dark Legion, a vile group bent on corrupting all life on Earth. We had a run-in with him and his minions and Japan got captured. Since then, the Dark Prince has been using her lifeforce to charge his evil magic. That ended now.
I fought my way through his castle and breached the throne room, where was cackling over the dark bubble he’d trapped Japan in. She looked to be in a great deal of pain.
“Dark Prince!” I thrust my sparkly red wand at him. “Your evil doings stop now! I’m going to save the world and my partner.”
“You’re too late, Sailor Freedom! The only way to stop the Evil Orb of Darkness from exploding and wiping out all life on earth is to kill the person who’s charging it!” My jaw dropped and he smirked. “That’s right, stupid boy. To save the world, you have to sacrifice the one you love.”
I pointed my wand at Japan and the Dark Prince stumbled backward.
“W-Wait! Aren’t you supposed to protest? Aren’t you supposed to insist that there ‘has to be another way?!'”
“You said it yourself, dude. It’s either her or the world.”
“For the hero, you sure came to the decision to kill your girlfriend rather easily.”
“America…” Japan’s strained voice called to me. “Are you really going to kill me? Ever since joining your team, I’ve devoted my life to you… Do you remember all the times we watched each other’s minute-long, nude transformation sequence?”
“Baby, I’ll never forget.”
“If you kill me now, you’ll never get to see it again.”
“Japan, you’ve been my main squeeze for, like, what? Seventy years? And I loved almost every minute of it. And, you know, I love you. But I love myself more. Saving the world would be a huge win for me. I’d get tons of good press. So I have to do this. I don’t want to, but… Well… LIBERAL DEMOCRACY POWER!”
My wand started to glow and from it came a powerful torrent of blazing light that took the shape of a bald eagle. It cawed magnificently before soaring across the room and obliterating Japan with the power of liberalism.
The rest was easy. I killed the Dark Prince, saved the world, and got loads of mentions on Twitter. While there will always be a hole in my heart that Japan once filled, I would survive–especially if some other countries wanted to fill other holes.
Some might say that populism came like a wave. Other might say it came in a slow creep. Either way, it left all of us changed. Some survived it, other didn’t. I embraced it. Not everyone liked that.
We’d been slowly putting back together our ruined family compound. It was depressing work, but we were the leaders of the free world. Me, Germany, France, and the Brits–we were all accustomed to putting broken things back together. This was nothing we couldn’t handle.
Then he showed up.
I stood at the front door, unable to take my eyes off our unexpected guest and his gorgeous–well, everything.
“America,” China said with a smile. “It’s been a while, hasn’t it? May I come inside?”
Oh, yes, you may.
To my surprise, the guys were okay with him staying with us for a while. China said it was to foster warm ties with the West while enjoying a small respite from the drama of East Asian affairs.
We had a room for him set up in the study, but he spent many nights in a different bed. We’d gravitated to each other, unable to help it. I became good at making up excuses to spend time with him. One night when we were stargazing together in the garden, two things weighed heavily on my heart.
The first was China. I fell for him the day I met him, all those years ago. His strength and beauty captivated me. But time and circumstance weren’t kind to us, and I had to bury my feelings. Seeing him at our door that day, it reignited an old flame.
The second was the family. My love for them was already waning, and it was no fault of China’s. More often I found myself clashing with the Europeans. Our values started to look different. I drew inward and embraced different allies. They called me selfish. I called it survival.
“I hate this place,” I told China once I’d mustered the courage.
He was silent as he turned to me. I stared down at the cobblestone.
I said, “After the war, we all understood that we were supposed to be the foundation of the liberal world order. But now something’s… different. I feel a sense of obligation–a duty, I guess–but not love.” I looked into his gentle eyes. “You’re the one in my heart. Not them.”
“Then come with me,” he said.
“I have been.”
“No, I mean… Leave with me. Leave this place behind and we’ll start a new future together. It’s the only way. That, or–”
“Or I kill the Europeans.”
He stared at me for a long time, then whispered:
The next day, me and my suitcases were crammed into China’s car and I was ready to kiss the Eurotrash goodbye. They had a few objections.
“America, you’re making a grave mistake,” Germany said as they gathered outside.
France asked, “Are you really going to abandon the very world order that you helped usher in?”
“And for China?” You could hear the scoff in England’s voice. “The man’s a monster.”
China smiled and took a drag off his cigarette. He said, “There’s no reason why our values can’t align. I seek peace and fairness, just as you do.”
England sneered. “You jail political dissidents, censors information, and bully your neighbors into submission.”
I got defensive. That was my man they were trashtalking.
“Okay,” I said at a volume just beneath a shout, “And who says those are even bad things?
The way the Europeans faces paled and their eyes shot open, you’d think I’d just killed their mothers or something.
“You’ve changed,” France said softly.
“No, foxy daddy, I got smart.” I slipped my shades on and flashed them a peace sign. “Bye, losers.”
With the rev of the engine, China and I drove off into the sunset. In the prologue, it would say that we got married, lived happily ever after, and had a lot of sex.
It would also say that France, Germany, and the Brits ended up lighting themselves on fire–whether on purpose or on accident, we won’t know–and that Russia became the new master of the house and enjoyed free rein.
But I was happy, and that’s the only thing that matters.
America woke in with a start. What a strange set of fever dreams those were!
Each of the segments was a reference to a movie/tv show, or to a kind of movie/tv show. In order of appearance: silent films, Mexican telenovelas, Cold War-era spy movies, Sailor Moon, Springtime in a Small Town (2002).
France did not invent the concept of beheading someone with a scary wooden device, but they popularized it so much that it has become an iconic symbol in French history.