Monday, April 14, 2008

Chapter Nine: Evil Thoughts of David

I was roaming around D.C. while David worked on environmental issues on Massachusetts Avenue. I strolled block after block until I noticed Kramerbooks, the bookstore where Monica Lewinksi used to buy books for Bill Clinton.

It fascinated me to think that Monica would drop into this bookstore, buy a volume, and then go over to the Oval Office for literary discussions and cigars, and whatever else she did with the President.

Kramerbooks was a disappointment – nothing but tables and chairs and a small coffee bar. No espresso menu in sight. And no room to write.

A few steps away, though, was the predictable-but-decent Starbucks. The sun was shining on the outdoor café table, beckoning my pen and paper. There, beneath the sun and budding cherry blossom trees, and David mere blocks away, I wrote about a morning not long before when I found myself holding a pair of long pink scissors directly over David’s heart.

Let me start over.

David and I were in the kitchen a couple Sundays ago, fixing breakfast. The sun was shining that day too, and a lone ray streamed through the kitchen window, making a rainbow on the stove.

“Bolero” was playing on the radio as David cracked eggs for blueberry pancakes. I sat at the granite countertop sewing up one of my beloved and tattered, green polka dot socks.

While David stirred the berries into the pancake batter, I went to my sewing box for a needle and thread. And then I saw the long pink scissors in the kitchen drawer.

As I sewed the hole in my sock, I thought of the words my shrink Elizabeth had said to me the week before. I had asked her a simple question: “Why can’t I put David’s affair behind me and just go forward? Why does it take so long to heal?”

Elizabeth gazed at me calmly. Her bright eyes-- and her voice – are so reassuring. “Look, Gina,” she said, tenting her fingertips together, “think about it this way.” Her carefully painted scarlet nails glowed. “It’s almost as if you had open heart surgery a few months ago. You survived it, but now, you are mending. I’m afraid that mending takes a long, long time.”

As I sat sewing my sock, I thought about my heart, mending. That sent my brain into other channels. A filmstrip unreeled in my mind. I saw David. And her. The young girl. I saw the two of them naked. In bed. Doing things I really didn’t want to see. But I couldn’t stop watching. The harder I tried not to see, the more clearly I saw.

It happens a lot lately. My brain switches into pictures I can’t handle. Into places I really don’t want to be.

Like the prison cell, where I sit in my scratchy wool habit with my back up against a clammy stone wall, and the sore on my leg, red and swollen and oozing, climbing toward my knee. The chain around my ankle is rusty and it has turned the skin above my foot raw and bloody.

I cannot explain why I see what I see. Or why I am in places I cannot possibly be.

I just am. I just see.

Sometimes when David and I are making love, I see him with her. Believe me, I would prefer not to.

I finished mending the sock, picked up those pink scissors, and snipped off the green thread. “You know,” David said, “I do love you.” Lately, David has started to say things like that. But his timing – it couldn’t have been worse.
“Come here,” he said, reaching out to me, opening his arms.

I stood and faced him, still holding the scissors. Before I could think what to do, he grabbed me and pulled me to him.

“Just hold me,” he whispered. He squeezed me tightly.

I couldn’t speak or resist him, and I couldn’t put down the scissors. I had them poised right over his back, the tips pointing at his heart.

And there was the film reel again – the two of them between crisp hotel sheets.

The girl was 24. And I’m 53.

My pulse started to throb. My head swiveled. I had the

Razor. Right at his throat.

I am so sorry that I went to see Antonie that afternoon. I should have stayed at the convent with Theresa. I should have listened to my dear sister. I should have weeded the carrots or picked the string beans, as she suggested. Or gone up the hillside with a blanket and a canteen of cold lemonade.

But instead, I made the trip to Antonie’s hacienda.

And there I was, inside his bedroom. With Senora. On the floor. The two of us were kneeling in a pool of warm blood.

I screamed, and Senora screamed. She screamed and cried out, and held her bloody hands to her wide brown face. We tried. We did everything we could.

Still, he died.

Now I am supposed to tell the true story.

Do I even know the true story?

And if I don’t, who does? And if I didn’t kill Antonie, then who did?

Here I sit, thinking about David. His warm embrace. His hazel eyes. When he finally let go of me, there in the kitchen, I still had the pink scissors in my hand. I stared at him. I wondered, does he know what I’m thinking?
Of course not. How could he?

I said nothing. I smiled at him, and he went back to flipping pancakes. I scrambled eggs, and we had an ordinary breakfast.

I love David. I don’t want to have these visions anymore. I want to go forward. I want to be rid of the images that haunt me. Images of him and her.

Images of me, kneeling beside Antonie holding that razor to his throat. The razor glitters like a mirror in my ice cold hand. I hold it against his Adam’s apple, as I so often do, when he forces me to shave him. My hand trembles as I move the razor carefully around the pointy nub protruding from his throat.

I begin to shake. If I could, I would take

an ativan. I cannot.

So instead, I kneel in the convent chapel before the statue of the Virgin Mary. She wears a blue veil and white dress. She has her hands out to either side, beckoning me. Protecting me. I kneel there, and I make the sign of the Cross. I say a prayer.

And then, I am kneeling somewhere else – in Antonie’s bedroom. Once again, it is Senora and me together, and the two of us are screaming, screeching and bloody and reaching for each other over Antonie’s grim white face and severed throat. We are soaked in my cousin’s warm blood.

I would swear, and so would Theresa, that never ever would I hurt

A living thing.

But then, there is Antonie

Lying in a pool of his own blood.

And I am not certain.

Of anything.

To read more of the novel SWITCH, send an email to In the subject line, write the word SUBSCRIBE. You will be added to a list of people who want to keep reading the novel.

No comments: