A Novel Excerptby Susan Minot
The world seemed sealed off with a clear shrink-wrap. Her head felt thick, giving her vertigo, as if she’d taken a painkiller that didn’t kill pain. Her feet hit the ground just off from where she estimated they would. She took steps on faith. She wondered if she’d ever been truly buoyant. Maybe she’d always pretended.
The music which had hummed in her brain, that enticing soundtrack blotting out the mundane, dropped to the low groan of a tuba and a starkness she’d spent her life trying to avoid.
The more days that went by, she told herself, the less her mind would turn to him. It had to happen. It would get better. It was like quitting anything. Cravings didn’t go on forever.
As in the other times of withdrawal she repeated this to herself. All preoccupations fade if you starve them out. There had been a life before—without the cigarette, without the person. Other times of heartache had been different with the different person, yet the feelings were eerily similar. I have been here before, she thought. It feels where I belong.
But this time it had to be different. What could make it different?
She went to the rooms.
In the Pink Room it was dukkha.
In the Gray Rooms: sickness, addiction, disease.
In the White Rooms its definition cast a wider net—being out of touch with reality, lacking empathy; it was an undiagnosed condition, sexual warp, political division, economic inequality, social inequity, racial bias, universal chaos, environmental deterioration, species extinction, fantasy thinking, ignorance, the human condition.
In the Red Room it was called love.
In the Pink Room a teacher sat cross-legged and guided you.
The White Rooms offered a carousel of different people, often with microphones speaking to an audience. These were the experts.
In the Red Room you watched the gods and goddesses. You observed the wide world and the microscopic, all beamed to you in light and shadow.
In the Gray Room, you listened to strangers off the street, your fellow populace.