The red cinnamon outside burned my insides like I had stuffed a ladle of it in my mouth. So red and brown, it burned. Red tall building of twenty floors, melting into the earth in boiling splutters that pop and sprinkle the street below in hot etches. What with the ashen circles of smoke flying out a window or two, every floor or two, 201 Maple made its own little brush-stroke clouds that regularly put a resident or two into expensive chemo. The red heat whirred through the blades of Mrs. Matthews’ table fan and dried the trickle of sweat down her Syrian-Catholic nose into salt. The salt on the Malabar coast that cured the morning’s catch of fish and ate hot into its insides until there was nothing but salty deliciousness when bitten into with her stainless steel box of big fat red rice and watery buttermilk. Nothing remained, except the buttermilk, which she took a sip into and grimaced and blamed American cows.
When she and Theodore came to 201 Maple, they felt like they were being ushered into a big red candle. Waxy inside out, that they were slipping as they walked up the cheap red carpet into the Chief Nurse’s office. “Welcome to your new home!” she said, warmly. Almost too warm.
And then Theodore melted with the insides. “Why is he so red?” quipped another resident in her cancerous halo and coughed into his coffin. He lay simple and sweating. The aides that had carried him every morning by his murky underarms into his bi-weekly hot shower, now carried him out, suited and hot, taking care not to step into the boiling tar below that flowed a sticky red and sealed a centimeter or two to the bottom of their shoes. Rachel wasn’t there – she sipped on her glass of buttermilk, seeped in asafetida as she ran her fingers through her white hair.
Mrs. Matthews stepped into the melting carpet, and tip-toed to her dresser. She opened the drawer, second from the bottom. And there it was, a scruffy brown coconut, the husk burning in the heat, a little black. And through a wound in its hirsute husk, rose two green leaves, like Theodore’s words. She put it back and closed it shut and melted a little.