|The Many Incarnations of Ruby Red [tentative]
||[Jan. 8th, 2012|02:59 pm]
Notes: Unedited, unfinished|
I hope you're not too far away to hear the bullet echo
and to know it's your fault
Ruby can’t tell if it is raining or if she would like it to be raining.
She is settled on a headstone and squinting quizzically at the sky with an open mouth; forecasting the present, ingesting bombs. She clutches her mother’s dear-john-sorry-for-the-mess letter and a cigarette, all three of which are dissolving under the weight of the wet, wet monsoon reigns of funereal actuality. Black umbrellas – supposedly – cover the wailing multitude of mourners/grievers/sideshow-sightseers clustered around a rather fussy pine and steel fixture with a high gloss finish – be sure to put coasters beneath your drinks, loves - [re]presenting their good friend/beloved sister/casual acquaintance Miss Virginia Jane Redding.
Every guest is swathed in black; Mama Redding had made certain that they would be, going so far as to stipulate the presence of a burly black suit at the door to turn away those who failed to meet the dress code. Some had thought it harsh:
She was my daughter, crissake!
Well, it was made very plain on the invitation, ma’am. Sorry.
It was specified in Virginia Jane’s scratch paper will, after all, and what the dead want, the dead get.
Ruby lowers her head so that she can watch the mourners, sinking to the bottom of their deep black sea, and she notices that there is one who stands out against the undulating ink stain: like a cherry bomb in a coalmine, an exclamation point of a woman with her face obscured by a red, red velvet hat. Ruby cranes her neck curiously: her mother had a hat like that.
Drawing in her knees and a lungful of soot, Ruby un-crushes Virginia Jane’s suicide note to inspect what damage the rain has inflicted upon the ink. Only it turns out there is none, likely because it is written in pencil.
My sweet little Ruby, edit this when you get a chance? Thx. Love, Mama.
She creases it into a new conformation, makes a squinting calculation, and flicks it into an imaginary conflagration for what must be the sixth time that day.
Doctor Jack bends down to pick it up without breaking his stride as he approaches her. Doctor Jack. Doctor Jack. The weasel faced Jew that made the words mother fucker a proper noun in Ruby’s world. She decides with a distant immediacy that she would like to become the gamine to his ermine and that they will travel the country robbing banks and bookstores until it gets boring.
“You dropped this,” Ruby isn’t certain if he knows what it is as Jack crunches it into the pocket of her too-heavy black coat and continues, “why so antisocial, Ruby Red?”
Because it’s my day off. Because I’m afraid of heights. Because this is my goddamn mother’s goddamn funeral.
“I figured the party extended at least to the boundaries of the Redding section of the cemetery,” she responds flatly, though the grave on which she sits is marked clearly Jones or Smith or Johnson.
Jack picks up the flip-top pack set next to Ruby on the stone, eyebrows drawing together distastefully as he slides one endlessly long, thin cigarette from the box, “you’re smoking now?”
He settles against the headstone and lights up. A vicar jaws silently ninety-nine miles in the distance while both Ruby and Jack stare, with heads cocked, at the shining pine box over which he reigns. Each try to imagine what it looked like, Virginia Jane Redding and Jack the Jew making love. It had seemed quite a natural thing to all three of them just a week prior, but now Ruby’s head was filled with the stiff sound of creaking rigor mortis and the image of Jack fighting cartoonishly to pry open a bolted, red-lipsticked jaw.
Since her mother hadn’t worn lipstick most days, it had upset Ruby to see such a horrendous shade of crimson glaring up from the coffin during the wake. Not wanting that image of Virginia Jane to be the one inevitably called up when she thought of her, Ruby had rubbed her mouth clean with her own sleeve when she was given a moment alone with the body. The Body. With her mother The Body.
“My wife killed herself,” Jack mutters, staring relentlessly as the priest crosses himself and drops a lever so that the casket groans into the hacked earth. The black herd turns to walk away from the fresh grave, curving outward obediently like a swath of birds.
“Your wife didn’t kill herself, Jack,” A contextually mystified Ruby is uncertain of which word of that sentence she should emphasize, and so she sinks them all in a dismissively even whisper.
As the crest of the faceless arc draws nearer, the forms that compose it gain edges and authenticity. Old women in cocktail dresses clutching pearls or martinis, their big, big teeth unhinged cackle awfully as they file past the pair without acknowledgment. Men with rich whiskey on their breaths flow around the stone as though Ruby and Jack are the ghosts in this parade.
A trajectory of faces screaming out of the sea of black, coming at Ruby without connecting, distorted like fun-house mirrors. And in their midst bobs that rich red speck, growing larger until it finally saunters into up-close reality, running its equally red mouth all the while. Ruby recognizes the voice before she recognizes the visage.
“I can’t believe we’re the only ones who bothered to show up,” Virginia Jane’s sister Carmen speaks directly to Jack without so much as a look at her grieving niece.
Jack doesn’t respond except to narrow his eyes thoughtfully as he takes a long pull on his thin, ridiculous cigarette. Ruby extinguishes hers on the gravestone without a trace of reverence.
As Ruby watches them converse, it strikes her what caricatures both of them are. Carmen, all red lips, red gloves, red hat, stands impossibly tall and chic in her tailored black skirt suit. Jack, on the other hand, seems to be trying to make manifest the typical Jew-takes-academia stereotype in hound’s-tooth – always fucking hound’s-tooth – tortoise shell spectacles and a mess of dark hair.
She’s always been perplexed by him. She remembers meeting him as a young girl, her mother introducing him and not without obvious pride: Ruby, this is Doctor Jack Cohen.
“Pleased to meet you, Ruby.”
“Doctor of what?”
“I’m a Ph.D.”
She’d had no idea what it meant, and it took years for her to stop being surprised that he didn’t turn up in lab coat and stethoscope. As it turns out, Jack is actually a forty-two year old graduate student with a terminally unfinished dissertation, but by the time Ruby had found that out she’d already taken to calling him Doctor. When she asked why her mother had insisted upon this from the start, she’d answered that it was because they’d both agreed that having the girl call a likely erstwhile boyfriend Uncle or Dad would be confusing.
“Why not just ‘Jack’?” It had turned out to be the last question she’d ever ask Virginia Jane.
“Oh. I suppose I’d never really thought of that,” she’d shrugged.
“Ruby, darling. How are you coping, honey?” Carmen finally turns her attention to the girl.
“Doctor Jack is smoking my last cigarette,” Ruby answers without really answering, consciously clipping her words to keep from imitating her Aunt’s affectations.
She looks up to the sky to see her own silhouette, cheeks puffed out and belly swelled, pores yawning wide and raining wine or water or vinegar over the day.
“Shit,” Ruby looks at Jack, “what time is it?”
“It’s almost three—what, you have some place more important to go?”
“Shit, shit,” Ruby jumps down from the headstone and onto her toes to kiss Jack on the cheek; his face flushes while Carmen’s contorts into a strange mingle of wonder and distaste.
“Ruby…?” Jack calls after. Ruby spins about and throws up her arms, retreating backwards through the gravestones as she calls back something about having forgotten her umbrella.
How the days drag when they're numbered...
[For the past year, Ruby has kept in her locker at school and, since graduation, in pantries, closets, under the bed and wherever else he is not too intrusive a rather useless boyfriend. Though she dislikes the word ‘boyfriend’ and even ‘paramour’ and therefore refers to him, simply, as Clyde Davies. She chose Clyde Davies because his name reminded her of a grandfather or a farmer. Much to her surprise, it seems that grandfathers or farmers are quite fertile, and weeks after their first coming together she found herself pregnant. Just like her mother.
Just like her mother.
She remembers feeling vile, soiling the snow, on her filthy knees next to a plastic Virgin Mary in a faceless church’s front garden. Praying for it not to be true, though she was raised in many other religions but Catholicism.
The antiseptic smell of canned jazz; department store holidays. Date rape genesis.