mercredi, juin 20, 2007



Before long someone does settle in across the table, with a pasta salad and a peach melba. The woman wipes her spoon and fork with a napkin that she puts in her pocket, and then unfolds another for her lap, tucking the corners under so it makes a hexagon. She smiles at Adeline. The metal braces in her mouth are disturbing, like visual static. Metal braces on older faces make Adeline uneasy because her mom never had money for an orthodontist when she was young, and she grew up thinking her mouth needed improving. Now that she has the money, she doesn't want to bother; but now, seeing this woman makes her run her tongue across her teeth.

"I'm Sybil from accounting. I don't think I've seen you in here before. Are you from customer service?"

"No. I'm a programmer. My name is Dolores," says Adeline.

"I thought it was just customer service and accounting in here from one to two. Aren't your people supposed to be eleven to twelve?"

A woman who knows the rules. Adeline likes that, "They made an exception today, because of my problem."

"Pleased to meet you, Dolores." She sucks down a few swirls of rotini. "Which problem is yours?"

"My boyfriend."

"Oh, boyfriend problem."

"Yeah, that one." Adeline swallows a spoonful of chowder, and then starts to speak. "We've been living together more than three years. He's a great guy, a little old-fashioned, a writer; well, not really a writer. He's a novelist. I actually love him a lot. He's sensitive and he's loyal. I don't know. Sometimes we take separate vacations, but we're usually together. Sex is good. It lasts forever." Adeline suddenly feels in her belly she is going to tell too much too fast, but she can't stop herself. "He knows things. Like the history of the forklift, and how it changed warehousing. Sometimes he tells me that. That's good. Isn't that good? He was a forklift operator for years, before he changed his name from Ralph to Roger and became a novelist. We always get along great, until this weekend, and we didn't even argue." Sybil is expressionless. The recessed lighting glints off her braces as she slowly eats. "But I'll tell you, he was doing something to me; I mean, down there, like he does. Usually I like it, but this is going on too long, and I pull on his ponytail to see if I can get him to stop, and something very weird happens." Adeline waits for Sybil to ask what, but her silence continues. "I pull on his ponytail and his head comes off."

The pause is heavy, a moment like a balloon that can't shed its ballast. Nothing rises. Nothing from Sybil. Sweet Roger, Adeline thinks. She wants to say, "O woe is me. Oy yoy yoy yoy yoy!" Sybil remains expressionless, and Adeline feels the silence packed with monotony. Tears heat her eyes. A fleck of pasta is caught on Sybil's braces.

Sybil asks, "What is his social security number, please?"

"I don't know, Sybil. Right now I feel like I'm out here, you know, on the edge of nature, with all the smaller shadows. Shadow of the inch. Spoonshadow. The wild minkshadow. Wee shadows. Of a comma. Shadow of the tampon. But I just held his head up and it was still talking. That's impossible. Wrong! But he was talking. Oy yoy yoy yoy yoy!"

"What is his middle initial? His daytime phone number or a number where he can be reached, like a cell phone or fax number?"

"And then his body was walking around with a big, you know? Everything going into the deeps. Down the well. Shadow of the chestnut. Shadow of moth. Pillshadow." Adeline was earnest, but also enjoyed the words she was starting to talk. She could be the queen of shadows. Or King Shadeline. "It was a big erection. You know, shadow of a tiptoe. Dropshadow. Shadow breathshadow."

"Has he done business with D-M before?"

"I need to find something out. What does the red mean? What happens in the blue?" Adeline brushes a tear from her cheek. "And then when I was working, I started seeing it and hearing him."

" Is this a private or a corporate account? Is there an 8oo number? To what address will we send the statement?"

Adeline sees now that the employee is looking into her face as if it was a monitor, and she is waiting for the responses to come up. There is no satisfaction here for Adeline.

(...) Suddenly, rather like a mudball some kid splats against a window, she is hit by the recognition that she has forgotten how many letters there are in the alphabet. She thinks it's an even number -- twenty-two, or twenty-six, or twenty-four. It's in the twenties. Maybe twenty-eight. Or maybe she's wrong, and it's an odd number after all -- twenty-five or twenty-seven. Maybe that's wrong and it reaches the thirties. She's quite sure it's not in the teens. That's too few.

She'll recite the whole thing, she decides, and count them each by one; so, she leans her head back against the car and starts from the beginning. "A B C D..." She gets pretty far, all the way to K, before she has doubts. She sniffs the air. Still something familiar. She isn't so sure about the J. Maybe she put it in too early. It comes after O, before T. O J T P; then she can't remember if N comes first, or M. At least she knows they come together in the sequence, she's pretty sure. M N L U R? N M W...? M O N U R Y...? N U M I N O...? numino? minemony? No. Not two N's. She pushes ahead with it, and knows it's coming to the end when she hits L U W Y Z V X. She's satisfied. X at the end satisfies Adeline.


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