chapter twenty: speaking
an excerpt
from GIRLY, a novel by Elizabeth Merrick

(it's Button again:)

Time is not happening, and then it is happening. When it is not happening it is like those layers of cellophane in different colors stagehands put on theater lights. Thin films of color one atop the other. Yellow: my husband, waiting for me. Three distinct versions of him; one Elmer wrinkled and bent, gray hair, smoking a cigarette on vacation; one strapping, a grown man, watching me leave him behind; a third, his chest still whippet-lean, a boy’s, lazy, turning his eyes sideways from me, turning his eyes to what his friends think is the true prize. Cyan: the true prize that wasn’t—Violetta: the white-pure girl who he married first, cyan the moment he takes that vow, cyan her murderous inability to stay alive, cyan the rows of slicing, perfect lilies banking her casket. (Any fool knows when you layer all the cellophanes together you get pure white light. Death light, everything light. A shimmering, a brightness.) Red cellophane, magenta—is it red?—the color I know. I knew red by the time I was seven, blood covering my father, covering the steer he’s butchering, red on me helping him. Red twenty years later, the color of the tiny cross on my nurses hat. White, red, one is murderous, pure, and the latter is the color of death before it settles, death ready, a stomach full, of stench, of life.

I lost Elmer two times before I finally married him. I lost him two times before he died. I was not about to lose him through the ether but there was really no choice, that telephone rang and there was no choice a’tall.


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