"Rondo in a Minor Key" by Nina Rubinstein Alonso


I try to stay away from maddening people, better than I used to be at spotting them, but Alejandra called after her accident.


“Bad enough I have scoliosis, now tendonitis, can’t paint, don’t want to listen to anyone whining about tiny problems,” was her conversation starter.


Someone drew purple stars on her splint, but she scowled and sniffed when I suggested they might be positive energy symbols. After sipping her bitter parsnip tea, I was done, maxed out. They’re in a shabby Somerville building that once housed workers who rise before dawn, now rented by bleary looking students lugging backpacks.


She’s a painter who teaches art at the high school where Jared runs science lab, and their apartment is full of her circle paintings, plus concoctions he builds from wheels, wire and pieces of wood. He raises tetras and lizards, so their back room is lined with glass cages. With her splint she gestures toward a photo of Jared wearing a billowing cape, lunging forward on elongated skates, and says, “Captain Super-Glide. Low tide at the shore, fun, until I hit a fucking clump of seaweed.”


Cartoon ridiculous painful.


I’m in grad school scraping by on a tiny stipend, do yoga, write poems my friend Heather calls psychic mystery maps, live in an attic with a clunky space heater and gray floorboards painted by someone who ran out of ‘tropical storm’ and made do with ‘submarine.’


Since leaving Sam, I’ve met a series of dismal men, Devon, a grad school nerd, thick glasses, hairy, depressive, who took my rejection as another dark stroke of destiny. At Heather’s party Josh and Hank, dullsville duo, shaggy unappealing computer-geeks, then Kent, ginger-haired, hyper-chatty about nothing much. Bored by the deluge of boozy talk, I leave early, but around midnight there’s banging on my door, Kent, crazy drunk. How did he get my address?


“Hey, Leah,” then starts singing bits of a song I don’t recognize, hiccuping the way people do before they throw up.


From inside my locked door I yell, “Kent, go sleep it off.”


“Ten minutes, then I’ll go like a good boy. Dammit, open up, woman!” pounding so hard I’m afraid the wood might crack, but keep refusing as he’s a short-fused alcoholic though Heather said he’s a doctor at Mass. General.

“I work early, no time for this shit.” Unsure how to get rid of him, I fake-march as if going upstairs. My soccer-playing neighbor Helga is bigger than Kent and would have tossed him out easily, but she’s kayaking off the Maine coast.


Finally hear him clumping downstairs, lurching on the last step and out the front door, grateful he didn’t fall or do some emergency sort of thing. Tomorrow I’ll call the handyman for a serious deadbolt.


Divorcing Sam was depressing, mad at myself for letting a stupid fling expand into a legalized blunder. Mom said it’s impractical to discard a well-heeled Harvard man, though she didn’t like him either, agreed he’s rather boring and a snob. Post-divorce, friends turn suspicious as if I’ve turned siren, though too depressed to flirt, too broke to simulate chic, too bruised to consider getting close to anyone.


One afternoon I’m at the kitchen table red-penciling freshman papers, circling spelling errors, pa