Everything Inside by Edwidge Danticat Read Online (FREE)
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Elsie was with Gaspard, her live-in renal-failure patient, when her ex-husband called to inform her that his girlfriend, Olivia, had been kidnapped in Port-au-Prince. Elsie had just fed Gaspard some cabbage soup when her cell phone rang. Gaspard was lying in bed, his head carefully propped on two pillows, his bloated and pitted face angled toward the bedroom skylight, which allowed him a slanted view of a giant coconut palm that for years had been leaning over the lakeside house in Gaspard’s single-family development.
Elsie pressed the phone between her left ear and shoulder and used her right hand to wipe a lingering piece of cabbage from Gaspard’s chin. Waving both hands as though conducting an orchestra, Gaspard signaled to her not to leave the room while motioning for her to carry on with her conversation. Turning her attention from Gaspard to the phone, Elsie moved it closer to her lips and asked, “Ki lè?”
“This morning.” Sounding hoarse and exhausted, Blaise, the ex-husband, jumbled his words. His usual singsong tone, which Elsie attributed to his actually being a singer, was gone. It was replaced by a nearly inaudible whisper. “She was leaving her mother’s house,” he continued. “Two men grabbed her, pushed her into a car, and drove off.”
Elsie could imagine Blaise sitting, or standing, just as she was, with his cell phone trapped between his long neck and narrow shoulders, while he used his hands to pick at his fingernails. Clean fingernails were one of his many obsessions. Dirty fingers drove him crazy, she’d reasoned, because, having trained as a mechanic in Haiti, he barely missed having his slender guitar-playing fingers being dirty all his life.
“You didn’t go to Haiti with her?” Elsie asked.
“You’re right,” he answered, drawing what Elsie heard as an endless breath. “I should have been with her.”
Elsie’s patient’s eyes wandered down from the ceiling, where the blooming palm had sprinkled the skylight glass with a handful of brown seeds. Gaspard had been pretending not to hear, but was now looking directly at her. Restlessly shifting his weight from one side of the bed to the next, he paused now and then to catch his breath.
Gaspard had turned sixty-five that day and before his lunch had requested a bottle of Champagne from his daughter—Champagne that he shouldn’t be having, but for which he’d pleaded so much that his daughter had given in, on the condition that he would only take a few sips. The daughter, Mona, who was a decade younger than Elsie’s thirty-six years, had come from New York to visit her father in Miami Lakes. She’d gone out to procure the Champagne and now she was back.
“Elsie, I need you to hang up,” Mona said as she walked into the room and laid out three crystal Champagne flutes on a folding table by the bed.