::: the novel written in seven hours :::
French was her strongest subject. She would translate all that her teachers would say into French, perfect the accent; such linguistic transformation would take her out of the mundane classroom, high school, and city that she had been born into and raised. The mentality around her had a distinct anti-intellectual flair; The Great Gatsby was as great as it got. It was a place that teacher's would subtly scorn her private endeavors into the greater realms of literature, or knowledge, of philosophy. Her mom enjoyed their nine-to-fives. They would drive to work, come home in bad moods, and not have to think too hard about much. The television was their other child, and though it demanded more of their time, it would never question God. So, here she was. She was hardly beautiful, she was of the pulchritudinous quality of a Renaissance painting, her thighs, stomach, hips, breasts, they were all reminiscent of some awakening, some woman-hood reborn and redefined. Her insomniatic nights were spent reading Camus and Sartre, with her deep French accent and sharing a romantic rendez-vous with one indifferent existentialist hero or another. No matter how beautiful or brilliant she was, she would never be a reason for the purely exaggerated existence of humanity. Such was her days and her nights. They were coming to a close. She did not have that one special friend, while simultaneously misunderstood, shared her scorn for the trivial frivolity of her peers. There was no one like her, no one needed her, or wanted to know her. She has her guises, French aside, she would make no attempt to veil her contempt for her classmates, she would make no attempt to deliberately remove herself from her peers based on some main medium through which she would stomp down the hallway of school and home in her thick boots and screaming about the superficiality of it all. Her revenge was complete apathy to her high school colleagues and teachers. She felt no need to compete for attention or acceptance, void of any worth, she would extract her own intelligence and beauty and, with great contentment, live her own life. She was to experience great things.
A place serves as a integral role in the formation of its citizens. The coastal ones, the mountain ones, the desert ones, they are all peopled by an isolated and self-perpetuating archetype; they maintain themselves quite efficiently. Location. Location. Location.
Three nights before she was to walk across some carpeted gymnasium platform and receive a degree, give a speech, and throw her hat up into the air, go out to dinner with her parents, and then tear the pages out of her yearbook, she left. She did not run away, as there was simply nothing she cared enough about to run away from. It was this very apathy that allowed her leave, cleanly and neatly, without ever wanting to or thinking about the town behind her. It was a place that fed her and showed her how great humanity can be through its invention and acceptance of its own banal demise. Conformity, in the banding together against something, was its redemption. Social ostracization, it's only weapon. So, uninterested as to whether or not she would participate in the confirmation of her presumed lifetime accomplishment, she left. She didn't take her books, she had already read them, she didn't take underwear, she stole the money that was in her mother's brown wallet and some fine paper, and a camera. That was certainly enough to get her anywhere she wanted to go and to keep there for as long as she needed or wanted to. This was the seminal experience, the feeling of independence of the total torture she would put her parents through, not because of her absence but because she forgot her bible with the blonde Jesus on the cover. She wrote a note, however, a bit uncharacteristic for her general apathy as to whether or not people cared about her. On a scrap of tore from the pages of a paperback copy of Grapes of Wrath, she wrote neatly in the margins, "Bye from Chloe." Chloe was not her name. Her original name was a rather Protestant one and no one ever mispronounced it. It was perfectly phonetic. She re-baptized herself out of her old name and into a new one, she was a new person; escape was not her route nor her reason, it was her artery of experience.
The mission had completed itself to a limited degree. Yes, she was still in the mid-west, she managed to end up in some liberal hub in the Great Lakes State. Of all places, she could live in a place surrounded by water, it was isolated, but not by any human deliberation, but by the forces that carved this block of land into the near island that it had profited from. It wasn't perfect, but it suited her.
She stood a mile outside of town, insolently waiting for the car to stop at her outstretched thumb. A man stopped, she smiled. It was either an act of sympathy or perversion, but he stopped for the beautiful stranger on the side of the road. He was solo, friendly conversation would have made the trip seemingly more convenient. She got in the car, she was not shy. In humans, she could find no reason to act with timidity or fear. They were no better than she was; it began and ended with that. She looked at the driver, they would never get along, she sympathized with his need for companionship, at his total fear of being alone with himself. He depended on her not for company, but because she prevented him from being by himself.
"Are you going home or coming from it?"
He looked surprised, why was she asking him where he was going, the reversal of inquisitions made him weary and excited.
"I'm coming from there. I'm going back to school."
Alcohol and laziness had forced him to fail several classes, he had to return to school for the springtime and redeem himself. His father had beaten him, his mother looked on. His sister was embarrassed and vowed to find herself a husband before she needed to feel the pressure of academia.
"Well if your going back to school, please take me there. Where is your school?"
The unnaturalness of her questions make him increasingly anxious for the atmosphere of the ride that ensued. He had known many women, friends and lovers alike, but never had he been confronted with such serious and uninhibited youth. It was strange.
"I go to the University of Michigan, it's my last year there. Then I go off and get a job, probably in New York."
"But that is not what I asked, is it? I'll repeat it, college boy. Where is your school. I now know it is in Michigan, which if fucking random for a Kansas license plate."
"Well, that's where I got a scholarship, I need to get out of Kansas, probably for the same reasons as you. The school is in Ann Arbor."
"Ann Arbor, Ann Arbor...listen, don't think that your reasons for getting out of whatever little town you originated from are reasons related to mine."
The car had already driven several miles down the highway, the landscape was constant and seemingly eternal. The road to both heaven and hell are paved with corn fields. Joe College couldn't decided if he was glad that he picked up this woman. She was rude, but this foreign and straightforward insolence was hyper-attractive. She had said nothing to him. She had asked him questions and was ultimately unconcerned with him. He thought of her, next to him sitting deep in his peripheral vision, he knew that he was far from what she was thinking about.
"I have to piss, please stop the car." She looked at him, she spoke the truth with a disgusting flair. "There's a rest stop coming up in about five miles, can you hold it, dear?"
"Are you aware of the fact that humans are perfectly capable of excretory practices without the aid of toilets? Just stop the car, I'll go on the side of the road."
"But cars will see you."
"Then they will finally know that I do in fact urinate."
He knew that she didn't argue, he knew that she didn't because she didn't compromise. He pulled over, she got out, unzipped her pants right there on the shoulder of the road, squatted down and urinated. With her, nothing had inhibition. They drove together with an occasional punctuated silence, he would tell her about himself, she would not respond. He would get gas, she would put money on the dashboard. She would smoke without asking him for permission or offering him one. She didn't look at him. Twelve hours of silence passed between them. He was too tired to drive, he thought about asking her to drive, he could sleep, they could get to Ann Arbor by the next early afternoon. It would have been most efficient. He heard her stomach growl. It was the first time she turned her head to look at him.
"Why didn't you tell me you were hungry?"
"What's your name?"
"Gary, I am now telling you that I have not eaten since yesterday morning. Let's stop to eat something."
He wanted to take her someplace nice, he wanted to buy her wine with her meal and pay for it all. He felt a need to impress her, somehow.
They ate in a red vinyl diner. Food was prepared under heat lamps, there was one unfried dish on the menu. She ordered coffee, smoked a cigarette. The waitress treated them neither like a couple nor as siblings, the two of them simply seemed unlikely, for any possible combination of relationship.
"You know, I don't know your name."
"Why would you?"
"Well, I figure that if you wanted to tell me, you would've. So, I shouldn't even bother asking."
"Why are you acting like you know that manner in which I think. My name is Chloe, it's new, so I am not used to responding to it. You should call me that name, so I can adjust to it."
"You don't seem young, but you have to be. Why do you have a new name."
"Because I have thought about my name, I don't do things just because that's the way they are. I didn't chose my original name, I didn't like it, why should I have to live with it?"
"Was that a sign of approval? I didn't answer you for approval."
"Do you want to drive all night?"
"Well, Gary, I like the night. But I am tired, I would unwittingly kill people if I drove. It's been a long day for me even thought my sole activity was simply sitting next to you. It's been exhausting. I have enough money for one more cup of coffee, two more tanks of gas, and one night if a very cheap motel."
"I've got cash, don't worry about it. Let's sleep."
In a motel room with two beds they slept together in one bed. As he took a shower the next morning, she pulled back the yellow plastic curtain and took a picture of him. Naked and wet, she photographed him. He was hardly surprised, but nevertheless, he felt uncomfortable with her looking at him through a lens. He wondered if there was film in the camera. She did not care if he was naked or not. She didn't care if he made love to her well or not. She was doing what she was doing for the experience itself, the meta-experience, the experience for the sake of experience. She extracted any emotion and thought. She simply did. Now, as he stood there with the shampoo dully stinging his eyes, he was being recorded, catalogued, used as medium of experience.
The next evening, they arrived in Ann Arbor. It's gray wetness had an charming and unwelcoming feel. Everything had a dull moist character to it. The town was not solely dependent on the school, but they had come to share a strange symbiosis, with the school adding movement to the town and the town adding flavor to the school. She wanted to be dropped off in front of an Ann Arbor high school. It didn't occur to her that this was a college town, high schools were of secondary importance. The high school students grew up in a shadow of being to young to be really accepted by the community, they would either end up going to school in their home town or somewhere else, they couldn't escape the ubiquitous feeling of hallowed academia and that what was expected of them was something different, something more.
She forgot about Gary the moment she stepped out of the car and she didn't wave good-bye as he drove away. She possessed his thoughts and changed the way he looked at people, what he expected out of them and out of himself. Later, she would develop her film and struggle to think of his name. She had one foe: the socialized fuckers who would get in her way. The people who would not let her board in their room for rent, the women who would ask about her family and the men who thought that they could control her sexuality, while they were her whimsical prey. Her foe could be personified only as a society can be personified: in broad generalizations and categories. Society does not select for individuals, for independents. They fear their own dependency and conformity and strive to lead to the demise of heroes like Chloe. She had come far, she would never come all the way. For her insatiable and incessant yearning for a greater independence, a stronger sense of herself, and more magnetic disposition that would draw people in and question their own thrift store personas. Such was a mission of the strong, such was the goal of the selfless. She was the greatest philanthropist who ever lived.
...on to Chapter Five...
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