Oh, what had she done?"He'd startled her; that was the problem. It was all his fault he was lying on the ground, looking rather cherub like, his blond hair curling about his ears, his bright blue eyes closed now, his masculine lips parted slightly as he slept the sleep of the dead.She studied his masculine lips. And thought just how much havoc she could wreak if she kissed him. Served him right for startling her so.Without analyzing whether she should do it, and just because she could, she pressed her mouth against his and gently kissed his lips, meaning only to give a quick peck and that was it.... His lips curved up under hers and for a second, she thought he was awake, smiling at her kissing him....Her thoughts reverted to the kiss and immediately the human faery tale Sleeping Beauty and the prince giving the princess a kiss to wake her sprang to mind. Why ever did humans make up such nonsense anyway?
She told her therapist it reminded her of coming home the summer after her freshman year at Rutgers, stepping back into the warm bath of family and friends, loving it for a week or two, and then feeling trapped, dying to return to school, missing her roommates and her cute new boyfriend, the classes and the parties and the giggly talks before bed, understanding for the first time that that was her real life now, that this, despite everything she'd ever loved about it, was finished for good.
For her next birthday she'd asked for a telescope. Her mother had been alive then, and had suggested a pony, but her father had laughed and bought her a beautiful telescope, saying: "Of course she should watch the stars! Any girl who cannot identify the constellation of Orion just isn't paying attention!" And when she started asking him complicated questions, he took her along to lectures at the Royal Society, where it turned out that a nine-year-old girl who had blond hair and knew what the precession of the equinoxes was could ask hugely bearded famous scientists anything she liked. Who'd want a pony when you could have the whole universe?
That was a dhlang!" he said. "An evil spirit! The peasants down in the valleys hang up charms against them! But I thought they were just a superstition!""No, they're a substition," said Susan. "I mean they're real, but hardly anyone really believes them. Mostly everyone believes in things that aren't real. Something very strange is going on. Those things are all over the place, and they've got bodies. That's not right. We've got to find the person who built the clock - ""And, er, what are you, Miss Susan?""Me? I'm...a schoolteacher."She followed his gaze to the wrench that she still carried in her hand, and shrugged."It can get pretty rough at break time, can it?" said Lobsang.
[T.J.] Without thinking, I held them out to her. She stopped laughing, and looked at me like she wasn't quite sure what I meant. I waited, and she leaned toward me and opened her mouth. I slid my fingers inside, wondering if my eyes were as big as hers. When she sucked the breadfruit off, my breathing got all messed up."More?"She nodded, just barely, and her breathing didn't sound right either. I scooped up some breadfruit and this time, when I put my fingers in her mouth, she put her hand on my wrist. I waited for her to swallow and then I lost my shit completely. I grabbed her face with both hands, and I kissed her, hard. She opened her mouth and I slipped my tongue inside. I could have kissed her for days, and if she told me to stop I wasn't sure I'd be able to.
But that wasn't the chief thing that bothered me: I couldn't reconcile myself with that preoccupation with sin that, so far as I could tell, was never entirely absent from the monks' thoughts. I'd known a lot of fellows in the air corps. Of course they got drunk when they got a chance, and had a girl whenever they could and used foul language; we had one or two had hats: one fellow was arrested for passing rubber cheques and was sent to prison for six months; it wasn't altogether his fault; he'd never had any money before, and when he got more than he'd ever dreamt of having, it went to his head. I'd known had men in Paris and when I got back to Chicago I knew more, but for the most part their badness was due to heredity, which they couldn't help, or to their environment, which they didn't choose: I'm not sure that society wasn't more responsible for their crimes than they were. If I'd been God I couldn't have brought myself to condemn one of them, not even the worst, to eternal damnation. Father Esheim was broad-minded; he thought that hell was the deprivation of God's presence, but if that is such an intolerable punishment that it can justly be called hell, can one conceive that a good God can inflict it? After all, he created men, if he so created them that ti was possible for them to sin, it was because he willed it. If I trained a dog to fly at the throat of any stranger who came into by back yard, it wouldn't be fair to beat him when he did so.If an all-good and all-powerful God created the world, why did he create evil? The monks said, so that man by conquering the wickedness in him, by resisting temptation, by accepting pain and sorrow and misfortune as the trials sent by God to purify him, might at long last be made worthy to receive his grace. It seem to me like sending a fellow with a message to some place and just to make it harder for him you constructed a maze that he had to get through, then dug a moat that he had to swim and finally built a wall that he had to scale. I wasn't prepared to believe in an all-wise God who hadn't common sense. I didn't see why you shouldn't believe in a God who hadn't created the world, buyt had to make the best of the bad job he'd found, a being enormously better, wiser and greater than man, who strove with the evil he hadn't made and who might be hoped in the end to overcome it. But on the other hand I didn't see why you should.
While gently pushing her towards the dressing room, Lazarus ventured, "Can I ask you something kind of personal?"Pulling her shirt over her head behind the curtain, and holding her hand out for the corset, she replied, "Anything for you, Laz.""How are you still friends with him?""Can you hook this thing?" Holding the corset on her stomach, Lazarus peeked through the curtain, fingers deftly snapping the twenty hook-and-eye latches. "He saved my life. There are a million reasons to hate him, but there are a million and one reasons to forgive him for his faults."Twisting to look in the mirror, adjusting her breasts in the tight silk, she continued, "He'll say the worst thing at the worst possible time, except every once in awhile, he says the one most perfect thing that just makes you want to cry from happiness. He knows the exact way you need to be touched at any moment, in any mood, like he's fucking telepathic. He'll make you want to scream when he ignores you, but then you find out he knows your favorite color, your favorite meal, what movie makes you cry and he can list every little thing in the entire world that you hate. And mostly? Well," Turning to face Lazarus and strike a pose, "I just can't fucking stop.
He watches the shadows cast by her hands as she sorts through their clothes scattered across the floor. The shape of her arms as she reaches up, slipping his black T-shirt over her head -- like victory. He considers the triumph of this moment, the slick of sweat on his chest. A small clatter, then the sound of a striking match. Her face glows. he reaches for her. She blows the match out, darts across the room, lights another one, glows, blows it out.
Thane - She grasped my face in her hands and pulled me to her, pressing soft kisses on my lips. My arm slid around her waist, and my hand pressed against the small of her back until her body melded with mine. My tongue demanded entrance, and she opened to me, allowing me to taste her, tease her, devour her. And in that moment, I claimed her as mine.
The worst part was that I had things I wanted to tell my mother, too many to count, but none of them would go down so easy. She'd been through too much, between my siters-I could not add to the weight. So instead, I did my best to balance it out, bit by bit, word by word, story by story, even if none of them were true.
Just start somewhere," Dr. Marshall had said to me as I ground a banana-pineapple one to bits between my teeth. "It doesn't have to be at the beginning." She'd pulled her legs up, Indian-style, letting the legal pad she'd been holding drop to the floor."I thought everything always had to start at the beginning," I said. "Not in this room," she said easily. "Go ahead, Caitlin. Just tell me one thing. It gets easier, I promise. The first thing is always the hardest." I looked down at my hands, stained mildly red from the particularly sticky watermelon Rancher. "Okay," I said, reaching forward to take another one out of the bowl, just in case. She was already sitting back in her chair, readying herself for whatever glimpse I would give her into the mess I'd become. "What was the name of Pygmalion's sister?"She blinked, twice, obviously surprised. "Ummm," she said, keeping her eyes on me. "I don't know.""Rogerson did," I told her. "Rogerson knew everything.
So what's your doll's name?" Boo asked me."Barbie," I said. "All their names are Barbie.""I see," she said. "Well, I'd think that would get boring, everyone having the samename."I thought about this, then said, "Okay, then her name is Sabrina.""Well, that's a very nice name," Boo said. I remember she was baking bread,kneading the doughbetween her thick fingers. "What does she do?""Do?" I said."Yes." She flipped the dough over and started in on it from the other side. "Whatdoes she do?""She goes out with Ken," I said."And what else?""She goes to parties," I said slowly. "And shopping.""Oh," Boo said, nodding."She can't work?""She doesn't have to work," I said."Why not?""Because she's Barbie.""I hate to tell you, Caitlin, but somebody has to make payments on that town houseand the Corvette,"Boo said cheerfully. "Unless Barbie has a lot of family money."I considered this while I put on Ken's pants.Boo started pushing the dough into a pan, smoothing it with her hand over the top."You know what Ithink, Caitlin?" Her voice was soft and nice, the way she always spoke to me."What?""I think your Barbie can go shopping, and go out with Ken, and also have aproductive and satisfyingcareer of her own." She opened the oven and slid in the bread pan, adjusting itsposition on the rack."But what can she do?" My mother didn't work and spent her time cleaning thehouse and going to PTA.I couldn't imagine Barbie, whose most casual outfit had sequins and go-go boots,doing s.uch things.Boo came over and plopped right down beside me. I always rememberher being on my level; she'd siton the edge of the sandbox, or lie across her bed with me and Cass as we listened tothe radio."Well," she said thoughtfully, picking up Ken and examining his perfect physique."What do you want todo when you grow up?"I remember this moment so well; I can still see Boo sitting there on the floor, cross-legged, holding myKen and watching my face as she tried to make me see that between my mother'sPTA and Boo'sstrange ways there was a middle ground that began here with my Barbie, Sab-rina,and led right to me."Well," I said abruptly, "I want to be in advertising." I have no idea where this camefrom."Advertising," Boo repeated, nodding. "Okay. Advertising it is. So Sabrina has to goto work every day,coming up with ideas for commercialsand things like that.""She works in an office," I went on. "Sometimes she has to work late.""Sure she does," Boo said. "It's hard to get ahead. Even if you're Barbie.""Because she wants to get promoted," I added. "So she can pay off the town house.And the Corvette.""Very responsible of her," Boo said."Can she be divorced?" I asked. "And famous for her commercialsand ideas?""She can be anything," Boo told me, and this is what I remember most, her freckledface so solemn, as ifshe knew she was the first to tell me. "And so can you.
Maybe if I'd agreed to do the debutante thing like she wanted. Or taken up pageants instead of riding jump bikes with a bunch of grungy boys. I'd always tell her, why can't I do both? Who says you have to be either smart or pretty, or into girly stuff or sports? Life shouldn't be about the either/or. We're capable of more than that, you know?
I'd heard of Evergreen Care Center before. Cass and I had always made fun of the stupid ads they ran on TV, featuring some dragged-out woman with a limp perm and big, painted-on circles under her eyes, downing vodka and sobbing uncontrollably. "We can't heal you at Evergreen", the very somber voiceover said. "But we can help you to heal yourself." It had become our own running joke, applicable to almost anything. "Hey Cass, "I'd say, "hand me that toothpaste." "Caitlin," she'd say, her voice dark and serious. "I can't hand you the toothpaste. But I CAN help you hand the toothpaste to yourself.
Why did she do it? Nobody dared to ask. Because - what courage! Who had the courage to burn herself? Twenty aspirin, a little slit alongside the veins of the arm, maybe even a bad half hour standing on a roof: We've all had those. And somewhat more dangerous things, like putting a gun in your mouth. But you put it there, you taste it, it's cold and greasy, your finger is on the trigger, and you find that a whole world lies between this moment and the moment you've been planning, when you'll pull the trigger. That world defeats you. You put the gun back in the drawer. You'll have to find another way.What was that moment like for her? The moment she lit the match. Had she already tried roofs and guns and aspirins? Or was it just an inspiration?I had an inspiration once. I woke up one morning and I knew that today I had to swallow fifty aspirin. It was my task: my job for the day. I lined them up on my desk and took them one by one, counting. But it's not the same as what she did. I could have stopped, at ten, or at thirty. And I could have done what I did do, which was go onto the street and faint. Fifty aspirin is a lot of aspirin, but going onto the street and fainting is like putting the gun back in the drawer.She lit the match.
This is the one thing I hope: that she never stopped. I hope when her body couldn’t run any farther she left it behind like everything else that tried to hold her down, she floored the pedal and she went like wildfire, streamed down night freeways with both hands off the wheel and her head back screaming to the sky like a lynx, white lines and green lights whipping away into the dark, her tires inches off the ground and freedom crashing up her spine. I hope every second she could have had came flooding through that cottage like speed wind: ribbons and sea spray, a wedding ring and Chad’s mother crying, sun-wrinkles and gallops through wild red brush, a baby’s first tooth and its shoulder blades like tiny wings in Amsterdam Toronto Dubai; hawthorn flowers spinning through summer air, Daniel’s hair turning gray under high ceilings and candle flames and the sweet cadences of Abby’s singing. Time works so hard for us, Daniel told me once. I hope those last few minutes worked like hell for her. I hope in that half hour she lived all her million lives.