She was already picking out the perfect tree where she would bring him. The fig tree near Kiki and Mel’s house. It was absolutely dripping with figs right now. The only problem would be the bees. They would have to go there at night. She knew it was crazy, but she suddenly had this wild idea—she should have sex with Carter.
The Mar y Sol is practically empty. It is mainly a night bar, an early morning post-discoteque hang out. Rhonda and Carter look like they are filming a scene in a movie. Drop-dead-casual.
Carter looks like the film’s stud.
Rhonda is already one step ahead of having sex with Carter, she has just decided he is the perfect man to father her child. She realizes this is a crazy fantasy, but there it is. She can see herself; tall, skin and bones, her hands clasped under a high graceful belly. She will wear long white gauzy dresses that billow around her in the breeze. She will walk along the edge of the sea, glide over hills of straggling ancient vineyards, drift up the sides of cliffs, and one day she will lie down like a cat and have her baby under a tree.
“Raquel Welsh says the sexiest organ of the body is the brain.”
“Train the brain,” Carter nodded. He was pleased with the rhyme.
Train, Rhonda thought, toilet training. She smiled. That would be no problem, her child would go naked under the trees. She looked out to sea, a statuesque leading lady standing by her bike, standing by her man. Carter wasn’t her man, no man was her man. She didn’t want really want a man, she wanted a child. Rhonda believed this idea to have a child with Carter was a miracle. A miracle in the Ibiza port, in the blue and white morning, among the fishing boats and the million dollar yachts and the catamarans — here it was — the miracle word, written right in front of her on the oily rainbow surface of the Mediterranean. It swirled, gleaming at her, in the middle of a sunny patch like a florescent hieroglyphic. Rhonda stepped closer to the patch. She read the word. It was a message. Faith. This was nothing new. An astrologist had once told her that Faith was the biggest stumbling block to her creative expression, that her insecurity generated fear and as a result, her artistic career was blocked, not to mention her true powers and strengths. What she needed was Faith. Faith would build self-confidence, and only with self-confidence could she get rid of her fears and realize her true potential. She licked two tears off her cheeks, swallowing them as if they were a divine breakfast. Then she turned to Carter again and tilted her head to the side in an effort to be kittenish.
“Speaking of training, did you know I trained myself not to eat?”
Carter swatted at a fly.
Rhonda reconsidered. “Well, only certain things of course.”
Carter’s face was a mask.
“Bimbo,” she said. “Take Bimbo.”
He took it.
“It’s got antifreeze in it. It’s rotting people’s livers, kidneys, breasts and probably the brain, in particular the lobes that tend toward depression.”
He settled further back in his chair and closed his ears.
“That’s not all. You know what they use to make it easier to mix those giant 500 pound batches of enriched bread? You know what they put in the Bimbo dough to elasticize it?”
He saw her face but he didn’t hear a word she was saying. She knew he was looking at her but she didn’t dare try to guess what he was thinking, she just kept on going like a train that couldn’t stop. “They put plaster of Paris. Then, so bugs won’t ruin all the flour, they remove the wheat germ and the bran where all the nutrition is and sell it for animal feed. Bimbo eaters get a starchy substance that wouldn’t keep a bug alive. You know what it’s called?”
He wished her mouth would stop jumping around.
“Endosperm.” Rhonda blinked and batted her eyelashes. She paused. “That’s a loaded word, isn’t it?”
He knew she was waiting for some kind of answer from him, he could tell by the way she suddenly lifted an eyebrow, but instead of saying anything he gave her his handsomest smile and filled his ears with Modest Mussorgsky.
Rhonda knew that if she stopped talking now, whatever chances she had with Carter would be over. She explained that 26 essential elements are removed before the bread is even baked, she named all the chemical additives, she gave him the WWII story on how the food companies put iron filings in the bread to toughen up the soldiers’ diet. She thought the part about the iron filings might rouse him, but he never said a word. She knew he painted, so she changed the subject to art. Carter maintained the same bland face but he was listening to her now, he was splicing and editing her sentences into subtitles for a video clip of Pictures at an Exhibition.
“…art has been reduced to objects…. technology, skill, control, special effects…quadrophonia…”
Her words were perfect for the scary movement at the old castle.
“The true essence of art is….irrelevant now…it’s not appropriate in the computer age…. Art is….outdated…. it’s artifactual.… it’s superfluous…. it’s just like they say it is…it’s dead.”
The cymbals crashed. He leaned forward.
Rhonda took this gesture as a sign of interest. She also leaned forward. “Who are the recognized artists?” she asked his beautiful Bimbo face.
The lonely horns swooned.
She didn’t wait for his answer. “I’ll tell you who they are! They’re the ones whose styles and techniques reflect modern life. But what’s so great about modern life?”
A good sad insert for the string section.
“We’re just….a bunch of….consumer corpses…grinding away…”
The oboe…the slow-motion consumer corpses… downtrodden… marching to their daily jobs. Ahhhhhhh…
“…trying to…as my father says…beat inflation.”
Carter grinned. Beat inflation. The perfect subtitle for the trumpet announcing the inauguration.
Rhonda thought the grin was a positive sign. Now was her chance. “Do you think true art in modern society is like a rusty knife trying to cut into a dozing half-dead cerebral cortex?” She was about to sit down.
Carter edited this last line out of the video and stood up.
“When you have it you know it,” he yawned.
She didn’t have it, whatever it was. She sat down. She was fed up. She was a mess. She blew it. She was sick of pretending. She was sick of being cool. She wasn’t cool. She didn’t know what she was. She didn’t care either. She didn’t care anymore about having any chances with Carter, or trying to get him to talk to her or impregnate her. She was sick of trying to get Carter to like her. She was sick of herself. She was exhausted and humiliated and hungry.
“Mind if I borrow your bike for a while?” He needed to hurry, the catacombs movement was coming.
She did mind, she minded a lot. “No, not at all,” Rhonda smiled, waving.
She watched him ride off and she waved goodbye to the fig tree and her gauzy white dresses and her toilet trained baby. She waved goodbye to the rainbow hieroglyphic and to faith and creative potential and self-confidence and she waved goodbye to something else but she didn’t know what it was and she didn’t care. Without looking, she dug into her money belt and counted the Spanish coins with her fingertips and when the waiter came around she did something she had been dying to do ever since she arrived on the island. She ordered one of those gigantic silver bowls of strawberries and cream that the tourists ate.