Delphine doesn’t read fiction anymore, and not because it leaves her unfeeling. Delphine can’t read fiction anymore. That leaves her nothing to do in the waiting room, while her girlfriend’s body spasms on an operating table and her own hands spasm too much to help.
There was blood all over her mouth and all over the floor. Delphine thinks probably there is blood all over the operating room, and feels sympathy in passing for whichever unfortunate nurse is on the cleaning rotation. They’ll need buckets of antiseptic. She thinks about chipping in for the antiseptic, or maybe chipping in for a pizza after Cosima stabilizes. No, not pizza. There would be tomato sauce all over it, and that’s enough of that, thank you very much.
Her fingers tap rhythmically against her purse as she stares at the wall. She wishes she had a book. She wishes she didn’t have a sick girlfriend. But more than anything, she wishes she had a cigarette. Does the hospital shop sell them? Of course not, don’t be stupid. But she hasn’t checked. She’s a scientist; she shouldn’t make assumptions.
But where’s the shop? A hospital’s got to have a shop, to give the friends and family such as Delphine something to do to rather than hyperventilating on the floor like a wriggling worm with the wrong respiratory system.
She can’t see it from her seat. She lacks the energy to stand.
Someone sits down across from her. Someone comforting and flannel, with a sympathetic trucker cap and a backwards-turned smile. “Got someone in there?” he asks.
“Desolée,” says Delphine. “I ‘ave no English.”
He goes away. After he leaves she realizes he smelled like cigarettes. She could have asked for one.
Hours pass, maybe. She should call Cosima’s sisters, maybe. She can’t move.
If only Boubacar were here. She hasn’t spoken to him in fifteen years; she barely spoke to him then. But he used to sell her cigarettes on discount, probably stolen anyway, in exchange for a kiss. He used to sell them to her in the suburbs, where the little family magazines sold shawarma and she couldn’t get the smell out of her school dress. Was he selling or was she selling? Kisses for smokes, smokes for kisses. Kisses that tasted like smoke and didn’t taste like shawarma. It was all barter anyway.
No, no, no no, the magazines didn’t sell shawarma. The magazines sold magazines. Delphine giggles to herself in the waiting room, catching the ire of a middle-aged woman who for all her years is not old enough to face her husband’s death. The shops, she thinks. The shops sold both magazines and shawarma in the suburbs.
She is losing her mind sitting there staring at the wall. She needs to put something long, skinny, and cylindrical in her mouth. Would her finger do? It seems vaguely infantile. Freud would have multiple things to say about that. Is regression one of the stages of grief? Not that she’s grieving not that she needs to or will ever need to. Only wondering.
Delphine wishes she had a baby carrot. Probably Boubacar has moved on and now sells baby carrots. If only he were here. There are a lot of uses for babies, carrots and otherwise. Like stem cells. Carrots have stems, too.
She should call Sarah. She can’t move.
Delphine used to take the train into the city to go to the library, to walk among the stacks of books with her stolen discounted Boubacar cigarettes in her handbag. She’d sit on the Seine and read, smoking, like a metropolitan girl and not a girl from the suburbs where everything smelled like her classmates’ brown-bag brown kid lunches. She could almost pretend it was Paris; but surely Paris smelled better. She hadn’t been in a long time; she couldn’t remember. Even though the olfactory sense was supposed to be the most tied to memory.
Mnemonic, pneumonic. Cosima’s lungs were filled with blood.
Rouen was the cosmopolitan life for Emma. Rouen was the opera and her lover. For Delphine it was prison. It was always one step up, wasn’t it? If you grew up in Buttfuck, Nowhere, you dreamed of the suburbs. In the suburbs you dreamed of the city, and in the city you dreamed of a better one.
Oue, way, she used to read. Delphine giggled again, and the soon-to-be-widow across the room glared at her.
She used to read. She cried for Clarissa when Woolf's Sally got married. She cried for Esperanza when Cisneros's Sally got married. It seemed like Sally got married a lot, and Delphine cried a lot. Delphine had never thought about it much; for herself, she meant. It was such a hassle; and it wouldn’t do much for her taxes, anyway, given that most of her income was under-the-table.
They could get married at home now, Delphine realizes. The ruling hadn’t meant much to her when it had first come out, but now - they could get married, at home. But who would wear white? The virgin’s color wasn’t meant for either of them. Right now Cosima’s tan skin would offset it the white nicely, but when she died her complexion would pale and tighten and the white would go horribly. So Delphine would wear the white herself, and Cosima would wear the casket. No, she’d have to wear black, then. Delphine thinks she looks dreadfully vampiristic in black. Nobody’s wearing white and nobody’s a virgin said the cyclopes.
She used to read too much and it fried her brain with similies so she resurrected it with Darwin and anatomy and white hands white gloves under lab lights moving the cellular wall just so. Her brain was too big for fiction, too big for all the worlds in pages because she’d start on one page and wind up on the other side of the universe. She needed facts to stay in her body. Wasn’t it funny, she thinks, that Napoleon exiled the author of Delphine, but nobody’s done anything about the author of Cosima? Nobody’s done anything said the cyclopes.
She used to read too much and it fried her brain but two months ago she’d been lost and the holy halls of science had no words for her and she couldn’t stop thinking about that kiss, that kiss involving four X chromosomes. She’d found herself in a library, the kind of library they had at home where you had to pay and got to keep the books, in the M section. Mmmmmmm Miller. Miller, Artur. Miller, Henri. And yet no Miller, Isabel.
They didn’t have it. None of the sad little paid corner libraries had Miller Isabel. She was looking for Patience and Sarah on account of she couldn’t stop thinking about that kiss, in, like, a not bad way. It was totally encouraging. No, it was totally discouraging because none of the sad little paid corner libraries had Patience and Sarah; Cosima had laughed when she told the story, and said Sarah had no patience anyway.
Sarah had no patience and now Delphine has nobody. The cyclopes said.
The woman with the dead husband who didn’t know it is reading. Delphine peers horizontally and tries to see the cover, but the woman catches her and gives her a sharp look.
“Literature is dead, anyway,” says Delphine matter-of-factly. “Maybe my girlfriend, too.”
The woman’s harsh expression softens. “Don’t say that, sweetie. You just wait for the doctors to work their magic,” she assures her, laying out a hand over Delphine’s. The scientist doesn’t blink on account of magic ne s’agit pas de médecin(e) and vice versa and it was just like religion which everyone knew was a farce even in the nineteenth century anyway so.
The widow asks, “What’s her name?”
“324B21,” says Delphine and laughs. she wants three hundred and twenty-four cigarettes with twenty-one shots to follow.
the dead husband’s woman calls a nurse or something because shortly one of the dyad gens comes to collect her. the dyad gens, the dyad genes the dyad has so many genes and the very best of them are in there on that table right now hacking up blood why oh why couldn’t it have been one des autres sarah was always a little bitch anyway
literature’s dead, anyway and maman est morte aujourd’hui but cosima est morte tomorrow she thinks but then the gyad dene sticks something long and cylindrical and skinny not into her mouth but her leg and
Nearly twenty-four hours later she wakes up with her long legs crumpled into a hospital chair, which is shitty. But it isn’t shitty at all, because the hospital chair is located next to a bed in which is located Cosima, looking tired and ill but pas morte, pas du tout.
“You’re up,” says Cosima weakly, smiling. “They said you didn’t sleep for two days and started giggling like a maniac in the waiting room, so they had to tranquilize you.”
“Must have been somebody else,” Delphine tells her fondly, wrapping one of Cosima’s hands in both of her own.