My 2006 NaNoWriMo novel. Woo! Note: since I am posting as I go along, the storyline is backwards. To read this, start from the oldest post and read to the newest.

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Location: Los Angeles, United States

I am an awkward, stubborn, slightly insane woman who would rather talk Plato than Prada, rather watch Frank Capra than Carrie Bradshaw, and rather listen to Norse myths sung in Icelandic than anything currently on the radio. Yeah. Told you I was weird.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Chapter 12

To: Angie

From: Jason

Subject: Questions

Hey Angie, hope you don’t mind if I ask a few questions. One of my class assignment is about culture and religion and how the two relate.

My thoughts: why does it matter? Does anything in any culture, past or present, have any answers? Specifically relating to classic books: why read them? Do they answer the questions about life, the universe and everything?



P.S. We still meeting up on Saturday? Same time/place?

“God does not play dice with the universe. The Almighty much prefers poker.”

To: Jason

From: Angie

Subject: re:Questions

Huzzah, questions! Not that I have any answers either, but hey.

Thoughts: Why does it matter? I’m not sure. It seems it might have something to do with what Chesterton calls “the democracy of the dead.” I.e., letting the millions of thoughtful, wise, experienced people who’ve come before you have a say in the matter.

About whether they answer any questions: well, I’d say that depends on you and on your questions. I’m sure they’ve already answered some, but other arguments you found either irrelevant or unpersuasive. Learn to ask the right questions, and don’t be discouraged when a particular book or other cultural artifact doesn’t answer your specific question.

I have an art teacher who likes to stump his students by asking “How do you talk to dead artists?” The answer, according to him, is “You ask very specific questions. Degas, how do you paint a white shirt? Velasquez, how do you paint a white shirt? Giotto, how do you paint a white shirt?” That’s the only way you get answers.

Hope that wasn’t too random and incoherent!

Yes, same time, same place works great for me. See you then.


“Across the sea, a pale moon rises, the ships have come to carry you home. And all will turn to silver glass, a light on the water, grey ships pass into the West.”

Beep beep be-beep.

Brrrrriiing. Brrinnng. Brrrr—“Yello?”

“Hi, is James there?”

“Sure, just a second. Hey, Jimmy boy, phone.”

Clatter clatter rustle “Hello?”

“Hey James, it’s Jason.”

“Hey man, what’s up?”

“Not much, I guess.” Pause. “Listen, um, I’d like to talk sometime if we could. I don’t know what your schedule’s like, but mine’s pretty open at the moment.”

“Oh, sure, sure, um…” Papers rustling in the background “Ok, yeah, um I’m free this afternoon…Friday…Well, occasional Saturdays.”

“Ok, well, this afternoon works for me, around 3 or 4.”

“Sure, sounds good. Where do you want to meet up?”

“Anywhere on campus is ok by me, or anywhere within walking distance.”

“Oh right, you don’t have a car out here, I’d forgotten. Ok, well, let’s grab a cup of coffee from Java and we’ll walk down to the park. How’s that sound?”

“That sounds great.” I hoped that the relief wasn’t too evident in my voice. “Three o’clock at Java, then?”

“Sure, see you then.”

“Sure thing. Bye!” Click.Click.

I hunched my shoulders together into my jacket, turning my back into the wind. The temperature had kept dropping throughout the day, even though the sun was shining with no clouds in the sky. My hands were shoved deep into the pockets of the jacket and I kept shifting around, nervous energy seeming to seep from every part of my body. I nearly jumped out of my skin when James came up behind me and slapped a hand onto my shoulder.

“Hey man, it’s freezing out here, let’s get inside.”

“Yeah, I think I’d be up for that.”

A few minutes later we came out of the steamy warmth of the coffee house and back into the cold. We were both quiet, seeming to have an unspoken agreement not to talk until we reached the privacy of the park.

We strode down the main thouroughfare of the campus, behind a few dorms, and then downhill into the small ditch that ran through the southern side of the campus. “Uh, isn’t the park up the way?” I pointed uphill and across the street.

“Well, yeah, but this way’s faster. No streets to cross, or walking till you find a gate.” We avoided the main stream of water in the drainage ditch, and tramped through a small tunnel. The walls were all a faded grey cement, and there were a few broken bottles laying half in the water. The tunnel walls were dark, but light streamed in from both sides of the tunnel.

“Hang on a sec.” James stopped, reaching forward a hand to halt my steps. “Take a look at that.”


“See how the tunnel walls are all dark, but they perfectly frame the bright sunlit park? It’s just a fantastic contrast. You see the light so much better from right here, it’s like everything glows.” He paused for another moment, looking at the landscape ahead, then said, “Ok, let’s keep going.”

As we came out into the light, he took a sip from his still-steaming cup, and said, “So, not to push, but what was it you wanted to talk about?”

Crap. I was half-hoping he’d forgotten that I was the one who’d asked to talk. I was really enjoying the silence and the cool air, and even the wintry green of the grass. Even the water in the ditch, reflecting the sky, looked blue and pleasant.

“Well…First of all, I guess I should say that I’m sorry for being an asshole. I know I really ticked you off earlier this year. I mean, I don’t really think that I was wrong, but I shouldn’t have acted like that. “

James nodded slightly. “True enough. But you know, I don’t think I’m one of the people you really hurt this year. Are you sure you’re not apologizing to me just because it’s easier?”

I felt like I’d suddenly stepped off a fifty-foot ledge; my heart flew up into my throat, and my stomach seemed made of lead. “I…uh…” Words didn’t seem to want to come, so I didn’t force them. I made a point to intently study the toes of my shoes, scuffing little patterns into the ground with each step.

“Ok, sorry about springing that on you, but it’s true. I mean, I’m glad for your apology; I know you meant it, and I accept wholeheartedly. But you know that I’m not really the one you need to apologize to. I think you need to talk to some of your classmates.” He tossed an arm around my shoulder, trying to cheer me up, I guess, but I shrugged out of it. “alright, too soon for that, I suppose.” He turned me to face him, and looked at me until I finally brought my eyes up to meet his. “You’re going to have to join the human race sometime, you know. You can’t do this alone.”

“Wanna bet?” I tried to strike a jocular tone, but it felt flat, and ended up just sounding sulky.

“Well…ok, so you could go it alone, but you’ll fall apart if you do. There are friends here, man, but it’s up to you to see that they’re there, you know?” He began walking again, idly kicking at the little piles of leaves the wind had swirled into the path. “You’ve gotten learn to join in.”

“why? Why join in, if it means losing people? Or worse yet, if it’s just huddling around the fire, trying to distract each other from the wolves that are circling in? Can you prove that it’s not just a reaching out for easy comfort when there’s really none to be had?”

“Does keeping your distance keep you safe from pain and loss? Can you prove that you’re not keeping your distance for your own comfort, so that you don’t have to open up to anyone or be vulnerable?” He looked at me, brown eyes unexpectedly piercing. “When was the last time you told someone you had been wrong? Hell, man, when was the last time you told someone you didn’t know the answer to something? And don’t give me this crap about the value of criticism, or the honored role of the skeptic. I don’t doubt that you have real questions and doubts, everyone does. But you’re unwilling to apply your critical skills to your own skepticism. Until you do, I don’t know why anyone sbould listen to you.”

“See, now, this is why I don’t like getting close to people.”

James laughed, glancing down as he began walking again. Somehow, that chuckle threw me out of myself, as if I were watching us from a great distance. His rollneck sweater-which made me think of oatmeal, heavy with cream and brown sugar—and suede jacket suddenly seemed like the garb of a great adventurer. I could almost see him standing atop of a great mountain, with that same light laugh. But he wouldn’t be alone on that mountain, there would be a whole crowd with him, people in a crowd without number…I shook my head slightly, waking from my reverie. What complete and unadulterated nonsense I had been thinking: crowds of people on a mountain top with James, because he had a nice laugh? Yeah, right, man you need to get a grip. A grip or a CAT scan.

“Don’t worry about it, I mean, it’s not like I’m going to not be your friend or anything. Even when you’re a complete asshole I still want to be your friend. But you gotta realize that that’s something you’ve got to work at, too, ok?”

“Yeah….I guess so.” I sighed, watching my breath heat the surrounding air into vapor. “I don’t want to. I still think the whole thing is a pipe dream, and that I’ll be needlessly setting myself up for pain. Don’t expect me to be all ‘shiny-happy-people’ about any of it. I think the most any of us can hope for is a short life, a quick anesthetized death, and maybe heaven afterwards if we’ve kept all the unspoken rules and pretended to be happy about it.” We slowly turned, crossed a wooden plank bridge and headed back to the campus. “But I’ll give it a try. I’ll try questioning my own questions, just in the name of fairness. I don’t think I want to be deceived, even deceived by my own ideas.”

“That may be your greatest virtue, you know.”


“Not wanting to deceive yourself. I know I’m not there yet. I seem to like deceiving myself, and I’m not very easy to disllusion from my own ideas. That clarity of purpose can save you from a lot of trouble.”


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