Chapter 4: Color Coordinating

By Mary Rinebold Copeland

Exhibition guide for Daiga Grantina exhibition “Pillars Sliding off Coat-ee,” at the Kunstverein in Hamburg, Winter, 2017

 

 

Angela doesn’t live an experience and stay detached. Like she’s saving up for the future explosion of feelings. On the opposite, she becomes fully a part of whatever she’s doing. So that everything else dissolves in favor of the present.

One could assume that Angela’s life took place in two parts. The first, when she was a mother filling up air- conditioned rooms in New York City. The second, with Sydney in the beige flatness of Phoenix, Arizona.

Like tonight. The day after Angela’s trip to the Travelodge with Khaki Shorts.

Sidney called Angela many times when Angela didn’t come home the night before. Angela walked in the door only a few hours before the present, dusty, without explanation.

And really, if you’re going to come home to your girlfriend without saying where you were last night, being covered in dust is the right look.

The difference between things that did happen and things Angela wanted to happen.

Sydney, setting a pea-green, plastic plate before Angela, who is seated at a dark wood table. Sydney, taking her own pea green plate from the Formica kitchen counter. She pivots on the right ball of her foot, sets the plate at a spot on the dark wood table across from Angela, who has not waited for Sydney to sit before eating her tuna and mayonnaise sandwich. There are also medium-brown baked beans on the plate.

Sydney draws a fork-full of baked beans to her mouth. They both chew.

A low-hanging lamp casts a yellow light over the center of the table, like an interrogation, or one of those pictures of prohibition-era poker games.

Angela sets the tuna and mayo sandwich down on her plate and looks up: I’d like to go to the Alps.

Sydney keeps chewing. Angela waits for her to stop chewing again. Did you hear me? Sydney put more baked beans into her mouth. She responds, I’m not going to the

Alps. I am.

How? On an airplane. With what money? Next month’s allowance. You know how much I spent fixing the car the other day. It doesn’t matter, the Alps are the
Alps. Sydney keeps chewing. Her hands around the bent stem of her metal fork now,

while later that night these hands are used on Angela as a stand-in for verbal articulation. Sydney doesn’t say what she thinks, but she does spell it with her hands, telling Angela to stay. That the indignation of the day before will pass. That she doesn’t want either of them going to the Alps.

By way of context, Angela had never left the lower forty- eight states. To her knowledge, neither had Sydney. Well, actually, Sydney told Angela that they might have enough miles on their credit card for a trip to Honolulu. In response Angela had maintained a glassy-eyed stare in the direction of the kitchen at the café where they were seated. She was watching various frittatas and cappuccinos populate round plastic trays. Each being carried to tables like theirs.

At this café, Sydney sat across from her at a small table near the entrance, looking for a change in the lines around Angela’s mouth.

Sydney did not often ask Angela about her sons. Besides for logistical measures, ensuring the support check Angela’s ex-husband sent each month would be deposited. Combining this income with Sydney’s paychecks from the bar, seeing to it that their budget was maintained.

The next morning, Angela thought about these two sons as she watched herself apply white cream to the roots of her wet hair in the bathroom mirror at about eleven o’clock.

Sydney had already left to check in on her dad at his retirement home, then she went to set up the bar for that evening.

Angela thought that the best way to erase the cuts she’d put on Khaki Shorts’ arms, was to bleach them. All the way to their root.

She felt burning on her scalp from the blond dye. She shifted her vision from the sage brush and the cacti of the day with Khaki Shorts, to the snowy mountains she had seen in pictures of the Alps.

Somewhere in this montage, Angela thought about her previous family. About the color their hair might be by now. And about Sydney’s short, grey hair.

The return address on her sons’ father’s monthly checks remained a post office box on the Upper East Side. The next check would arrive in two weeks. She would use it to buy her ticket to the Alps.

For lunch, Angela re-heated last night’s baked beans. She stood with her lower back pressed against the kitchen counter and ate the beans out of the pea-green plastic bowl. She used a spoon this time. A daytime talk show sounded from the television in the living room. The laughing of the audience. The masterful voice of the female presenter. The monotone sounds of the male guest’s voice.

She rinsed her bowl and left it in the sink, half full of greasy standing water. She slipped her feet into her saltwater sandals and leaned against the front door frame while clipping the back straps of both.

The sun burned the newly blond roots of her hair. Her scalp burned. She could also feel the burning of the sidewalk’s concrete through the soles of her sandals.

The backs of her calves and forearms stung beneath the sun. She walked the four blocks to the bus stop. Her head pressed against the hot glass of the bus window. She rummaged through her black purse with her left hand. She felt the cut of a razor blade like a pop between folded old receipts. She looked down and opened the bag. It was shadowy, but she could see bright red blood from her finger smeared over the metal of the razor blade, and over the dark red and brown dried blood from Khaki Shorts, now caked near the sharp edge.

She opened her purse wider to see better. The old and new blood combined over the silver color of the razor blade into what looked like marble. Angela closed her purse and got off the bus at the Safeway parking lot. On the other side of the Safeway was a green, brick building with a collection of neon signs across its façade. There were several pick- up trucks parked in front, as well as Sydney’s orange Toyota.

Sydney’s chair made a blunt sound against the linoleum floor as she stood up to go to the bathroom during their silent dinner. Now alone at the table, Angela pulled the razor blade out of the pocket in her dress. With one hand she pulled the razor blade across the forefinger of her other hand, so that two types of blood – that of Khaki Shorts and Angela – fell into the portions of baked beans on hers and Sydney’s plates. Sydney came back to the table through the sound of a flushing toilet.

The bridge to the song “Can’t Stand the Rain” came from an advertisement on the TV at the other end of the room.

This ceremony was integral for Angela.

As had been her ice-tea that afternoon, made and served to her by Sydney inside the green building behind the Safeway. Where outside it was sunny and inside it was neon. Men wearing cowboy hats and drinking at the bar lifted their glasses to Angela’s ice-tea, toasting her presence in the bar. With cowboy-hat-eyes they cowboy- hat-watched Sydney.

Two weeks later, Sydney. She returns home from this green building. Angela’s purple suitcase has gone to the Alps.

Angela at the Zurich airport. She takes the escalator down one flight to the trains. She points to a map over the counter at the train ticket center. Sitting in a car on a red train toward Fribourg. Eating a pretzel. Remembering the lime floating at the top of a gin and tonic.