BECOME A FAN OF SEEING RED! Just click on that little red button with the white heart, and you will start getting alerts when new installments appear!!
The HuffPost has revolutionized journalism by taking over the news business. Is fiction next? My new novel, Seeing Red, is being serialized three times a week on the Huffington Post. Here's the latest installment of the book. (Catch up with previous chapters at "Seeing Red on the HuffPost!")
"Sins Bleed Pink in the Kitchen Sink"
Ronda staring. The young doctor has carrot hair. Eyes like a September sky. Face full of freckles.
At the window, lace curtains the color of oatmeal flutter up from the sill. The breeze carries spring air, the swell of budding trees, warming earth. After this, after all this talking, she promises herself she will go outside, she will take a long walk, she will get some fresh air.
Inhaling, Ronda sniffles. "Yes. Of course I am. I guess I just don't really feel like talking about that right now."
"Oh. OK." Silence. "It's painful, I know."
Silence. Dead silence. Dead, except for Ronda sniffling. Ronda's head so full of congestion that she feels as though she's drowning in her own phlegm. All she wants to do is lay her oversized head down on a pillow and fall asleep.
"So what do you feel like talking about?"
Ronda shrugs, clears her throat, pulls a wheezy breath into her mouth.
"I guess the divorce, I mean, now that it's final and all, I..." She goes quiet.
The breeze stiffens, lifts the curtains higher. Outside, it buffets the big oak tree. Tender leaves, still not fully unfurled, curl in the wind.
"Oh. Well. For one thing, I keep thinking I need to get a job. Something to do. To make money. But then. I knew I would."
"Yes, of course. Any leads on that?"
"No. Not really. I mean, because I haven't been feeling so great, I haven't really begun to look. The asthma's been bad."
"You're seeing the doctor?"
"I've been twice already this week. He started me on prednisone. He says it's a combination of bad spring allergies and...more anxiety than usual. And hormones."
"And so, you haven't been able to look for a job."
She is nodding her head no. "I haven't been going out at all. Except here."
"So you say you're worried about the job? About getting a job?"
"I am, I go over and over things, a lot. Not so much during the day, but at night. I make myself sick worrying. I lie there, staring up in the dark. I can't breathe well, so I'm awake. And I feel like I've got to try to...to sort things, you know, figure things out."
"Like the job?"
"Yeah. I lie there at night, thinking about how hard it is to get a decent job. How I'll never get one."
"It is hard. Not impossible, though."
"No, but after so many years..." She shrugs. Saying this makes the tender space behind her eyes sting, the space where tears collect. Swallowing, she feels the knot, the knot she's got lodged in her throat all the time now. "Sometimes, I'm talking to people, telling them I want to get a job, and I...I just feel ridiculous. I mean what must they think? I haven't got a bit of experience doing anything except being a mother. A wife."
"But that's not all you've done. You've been dancing now for how long? Three years?"
Ronda stifles a chuckle. "Four actually. Yeah, I do have the dancing. But that's my hobby. I haven't seen too many job ads out there for flamenco dancers."
"So you lie there at night, staring at the ceiling, feeling stupid, wondering if you will get a job?"
Pause. "Yes. I worry a lot...I mean I've got enough money now. And the house, I have the house. It's just I get frightened that at some point when I'm older, I might not have enough to live on."
The thought, even now, tightens Ronda's stomach. She stares at the doctor, her eyes as blank as blackboards.
"Is that all?"
"Is that all?"
"I mean, is that all that frightens you? The fears about finances?"
Ronda sniffs. Turns. Crosses one leg over the other. Thinks, oddly, of her mother. Marie. One of her mother's all time favorite sayings was 'Money isn't everything, but it sure helps.' And her other favorite saying was something she said, endlessly, in her Abruzzi dialect. 'Those who have gunpowder, shoot. Those who don't, stand on the sidelines and watch.'
"I guess other things scare me too." There are lines that draw down around Ronda's mouth, lines like ropes and now those ropes are attached to cement weights.
"What are the other things that frighten you?" The doctor's voice softens to a near whisper.
Ronda's mouth is as dry as a paper bag. She reaches for the glass of water that sits on the table to one side of her chair.
"Oh God, I don't know. I look at my life and I..." she shakes her head. "all I see is a kind of scary hollow. A black hole. Lately in the mornings, I have been waking up feeling like I'm being swallowed. Like I'm caving right into the hole."
She sees it. A hole with silk edges, folding in on itself. She looks to the window. The lace curtains form a complex shadow, make a pattern of sunlight that quivers on the wide-planked floor.
Ronda sees this pattern and the word that comes to mind, quite automatically, is, 'filigree.' That she should think of that word is most curious, because she isn't even sure what the word means. But she has heard it before. 'Filigree,' she thinks. 'How pretty.'
Sniffling, she begins. "I don't want to be alone." She mutters that last word, and her voice sounds low and gravelly, a sound like the ocean makes scuttling over stones near shore.
"Are you alone now?"
"It depends on how you look at it."
"Tell me. How do you look at it?"
Ronda draws in a long breath, supports her face with one palm. "Well, with Ben out of the picture, and Jack off at Vassar, I guess I'm alone." She shrugs. "I just have to face up to it."
"Face up to what?"
"That it's just me now. And that's how it will be."
"Well there's Jesús. But Jesús is..." Ronda inhaling, pausing, coming to a fork in the road, having to decide whether to proceed.
"Jesús is what?"
"He's around on weekends but..." Ronda's shoulders rise and then fall. All of a sudden she has an image of herself: her whole body, sheathed in the thinnest sheet of glass, a layer of glass that threatens to shatter.
"But Jesús is what, Ronda? Tell me about that.'
The weights there at the corners of Ronda's mouth, they get heavier. Her words march out in a single tight line. "Jesús is Jesús. He's very busy. I'm always telling him he should leave New York and move up here to the Berkshires but clearly that isn't what he wants to do. Or he can't, because of the music. He wants...all he really cares about is playing guitar, every waking moment. I know he loves me, as much as he loves any human being. It's just..."
Ronda bites into her lower lip. It's chapped, and a dry crack is forming in the center.
"It's just? What?"
Ronda's face dips. She sighs, and the sound coming from her lips is not unlike that of a balloon losing its last bit of air.
"I know he cares for me. He does. He makes me feel very very special. But I want more."
"More attention. More of his time. And, and now, in a couple of months, he's going back to Spain, he says he has to. For a series of performances. And to cut a CD, two recordings actually. He'll be gone most of the summer. I had wanted to go too, at least I thought I did at first."
"So. Why don't you go?"
Ronda raises her eyes to the red hair, stares at the way the sunlight crowns the doctor's curls at the top. "He said I could come, but I don't know if it would be such a good idea. It will be the middle of July when he leaves and probably I'll have Jack home for the summer. And..."
"Jesús says he'll be really busy. It wouldn't be anything like a vacation for him and me. He'd be working all the time, rehearsing and visiting his family."
"So, how does that feel to you? His leaving for the summer?"
Silence. Ronda's chest is empty, her eyes fill. She coughs. Her eyes are blinking. The title of a song that Jesús plays surfaces in her mind. "Como el agua." Like the water.
"I know he's got to go. But it feels so..." Her chin sinks. Blinking won't work, won't stop the tears now.
"It feels so...?" The doctor leans. "What?"
Ronda breathes in, holds her breath. "So soon."
READ THE NEXT INSTALLMENT OF SEEING RED on Tuesday, March 1, 2011. To read all previous installments, go to "Seeing Red on the Huff Post."