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 9

I don’t think I went to classes at all the following week; at least, I don’t remember any classes. I don’t think any of my professors questioned me; what would they say? Over the next week or so, the story came out more clearly: the unpaid bills on Hannah’s record, the letters from home, the scholarship that was in danger as her grades slipped, unable to keep up with a job and a full class load, the sheer overwhelming alienation she experienced.

I walked around the campus a lot, making the laps compulsively, mind unaware of where I was going, feet instinctively making the turns. I spent a lot of time at the corner Starbucks, watching the students come in, loaded down with books and computers.

One evening, a group of humanities majors, upperclassmen I think, came in and took over the table beside me. They had several stacks of books on the table, but there were several open copies of a thick red book laying around. It turned out to be a copy of the works of Plato, and his idea of the immortality of the soul. I listened to their half-assed theories and hypothetical situations before I’d had enough.

“Oh, god, grow up! You think death is some kind of release, some sweet flight up into a bright white light and then you’ll ‘be with Jesus’? If that’s what it is, why fight it at all? Why not just let go, and take as many with you as you can? Be a liberator of humanity!”

“But that can’t be it. You can’t harm another just to…”

“Like crap, man! What about this? Death is it, it’s over, finis, nada. Then I can see not wanting to take anyone with you. But then what’s the fucking point of going through life at all? What’s the point of being good, or brave, or any of it? Eat, drink, be merry, because it doesn’t fucking matter!”

“Life can’t be meaningless like that, it—“

“And you’d know? You’ve faced death? You’ve seen a dead body, bled completely white, knowing that she spent her final moments swimming in her own blood? I don’t think so! Go out and study the next bit of roadkill you can find, the fresher the better. Really look at it. It’s just a thing, an assortment of muscle and molecules, ripped into it’s component parts and laid bare. That’s the ugly truth of it. No shiny lights, no slight sigh as the last breath slips peacefully awake, just a final gasp for a breath that never comes, and the darkness overtakes you.” I stalked out, leaving a few gaping mouths and shocked glances behind me.

Looking back on it now, I cringe to think of that time. The truth was, even I hadn’t seen Hannah’s body until it had been set up in the funeral home, after the morticians had cleaned her up. I hadn’t been there for her last breath, and didn’t know what it was like. It wasn’t like we’d been engaged, or even dating for that matter. But I think Hannah’s death had confirmed what I’d always feared about the universe: that it was meaningless, cruel, and absurd. After Hannah, I threw myself into the storm whole-heartedly, seeing meaning in nothing but the circumstances of her death.

I still kept going to Our Lady, for reasons I didn’t even remotely suspect at the time. I despised everyone, for being so naively happy. What did they know about anything? What could they possibly know about darkness?

One day, after church, Angie cornered me during coffee hour. Well, cornered may not be the right word. I was hanging about on the edges of the crowd, but practically daring anyone to come up and talk to me.

“Jason, we’re all worried about you. I know you’re greiving and that this is a really difficult time for you, but…”

“But what? Cheer up? Move on? Don’t worry, she’s happy now? Like hell. “

“No, that’s not it. I tend to agree with you. If this is all life is, then screw it. If it’s all just a glossy shell on a rotting corpse, then let me see the real face of life.” She sat down in a chair across the table from me. “But that’s not the real face of life.”

“Oh, like you’d know.” After years of practice, I could sneer like nobody’s business. “The darkest moment you’ve lived through is, what, your best friend’s parents divorcing when you were in the 5th grade.”

She raised her arm in the air, allowing her sleeve to slide up above her elbow, then held out her hand to me. “Take a look here.”


“That’s right, all along my wrist and arm. What do you see?”

I looked, seeing nothing at first. Then she tilted her arm slightly, and I saw a whole network of fine white lines criss-crossing the flesh. Hundreds of razor-thin scars formed a web, from her upper wrist to just below the elbow.

“I know darkness.” Her voice was quiet, her gaze intense and steady. “I know how Hannah must have felt, because I felt the same things. I know the hopelessness, the weight of the world bearing you down, the panicky despair that grips you by the throat and fills your lungs with the depth of the ocean. Yes, I know. You are not the only one with darkness in your soul.”


“What did I do to myself? I used to cut myself with a pink plastic razor. I am thouroughly acquainted with the scent of my own blood. I hated my self, and hated the entire world; I wanted to make it go away. I was diagnosed with bi-polar depression, type II. It means that not only do I swing between high manic moods and dark despairing moods, but I can swing beyond both into dyphoria, which is a state with the mood of the low times and the energy of the high points. It’s not pretty. I’m one of the lucky ones, though. I was only on medication for two years, before I learned to control my emotions without them.”

“But…you seem so happy….if you’ve known that kind of darkness, then…what, did you just choose to ignore it?”

“Oh come on, Jason, you know better than that. You don’t ignore it. You can’t. You can’t pretend that life is worth living even if there’s nothing afterwards. You eventually come to see that there is only one thing that makes it worth it to go on.”

I groaned inwardly. “Not another ‘gee-I-know-the-answer-to-life-the-universe-and-everything-and-here-it-is-in-three-simple-bullet-points.’ I don’t need a twelve-step program.”

“No, you don’t. You need to live. And I know what will make it all worth it.” She smirked slightly, then got up from the table. “But you wouldn’t believe me if I told you.” She paused, and looked over her shoulder. “I can’t tell you. But I might be able to show you, if you’re willing to see. Meet me Saturday, here, eight a.m. We’ll go to Mass first, then I want to show you something.”


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