I know I am upset: I cannot decide which shoes to wear. It shouldn't be difficult. I make my choices simple. I have the same shoe loafers, sensible with stitching on the uppers in a number of colours. Variations on a theme. For months I have been wearing blue. I am a creature of habit. Today I have taken the red ones from their place on the shoe rack. On my left foot I have the red shoe. On my right I have the blue. I am wondering about the choice of socks. Everything has a domino effect. Change the colour of the shoes and the colour of the sock also has to be considered. With blue I always wear green. With red, white. There have to be rules.
I am upset about the bracelet. I timed Ivan. It took him seven minutes to put it on, not including the two minutes he took to clean his nails before he started. I think he knew Id ask him to put the bracelet on again. As if he had been mentally preparing himself from the moment I saw it.
"Put it back on," I said. I touched his hand as I said it, tried to keep my voice apologetic.
"Well, if you insist " he said. He put on a Scottish accent, raised one eyebrow, gave a full smile. Ivan uses his Sean Connery impersonations in times of potential danger. He is a firm believer in using humour to dissipate difficult situations. He flipped the bracelet on to its back and dragged it off the table towards him; it made a light clunking ratchet sound. He kept his eyes on me, gave me a small tilt of his head and then a crooked smile and wink. He has one blue eye and one green. He always winks with the green eye, the left one. Lately, when he does it, the wrinkles around his eye deepen so much it becomes prune-like. I made him aware of this fact as he wrapped the thing around his wrist and then laid his arm on the table. He ignored me and manoeuvred the clasp into a more accessible position. He focused on the task. He remained calm. I watched alternately his busy fingers and my watch. Seven minutes and then he punched the air. The right arm. Bracelet intact. "Mission accomplished, Miss Moneypenny."
I object to being "Miss Moneypenny." Bond never had sex with "Miss Moneypenny." Ivan cleared his throat: it is his way of reminding me I am closer to forty than thirty. Silence. "Seven minutes is a long time," I said. He told me it took him longer when he put the bracelet on the first time. To console me or to alleviate suspicion. He touched my hand as he said it. He made sure to use his left hand.
On my left foot I have a red shoe. On the right I have a blue. The cat is watching me looking at my feet. When my eyes meet his he gives a plaintive mew, comes forward, quick staccato steps, and butts the toe of the red shoe with his head. George likes feet. He jumps up on the bed beside me, puts his front paws on my legs and offers me his ears to rub. It is our morning ritual: I put my shoes on, he gets his ears rubbed. I always wear shoes. There is always the possibility that I might have to leave in a hurry.
On my left foot I have the red shoe. On the right I have the blue. If I wear the red shoes Ivan will know I am upset. I explain this to George as I move him away. I take the red shoe off and replace it with the blue. Ivan is in the kitchen drying up. We smiled at each other after he won his task. Nothing was said. He began to wash up, I put the peelings into the compost, wiped the table, swept the floor, went to put my shoes on. I can hear his deliberate movements from the sink to the cupboard, stacking the plates, arranging the cutlery.
From Yellow by Janni Visman, pages 3-15. Copyright Janni Visman 2005. All rights reserved. Reproduced with the permission of Viking USA.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
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