Emily M. Danforth · 470 pages
Rating: (20.2K votes)
“Maybe I still haven't become me. I don't know how you tell for sure when you finally have.”
“...and there I was sending all the wrong signals to the right people in the wrong ways. Again, again, again.”
“I just liked girls because I couldn't help not to.”
“In the embrace's release I caught the scent again. Unmistakable. Marijuana. These homos were high as kites.”
“I felt all the ways in which this world seemed so, so enormous--the height of the trees, the hush and tick of the forest, the shift of the sunlight and shadows--but also so, so removed.”
“But if renting all those movies had taught me anything more than how to lose myself in them, it was that you only actually have perfectly profound little moments like that in real life if you recognize them yourself, do all the fancy shot work and editing in your head, usually in the very seconds that whatever is happening is happening. And even if you do manage to do so, just about never does anyone else you’re with at the time experience that exact same kind of moment, and it’s impossible to explain it as it’s happening, and then the moment is over.”
“But Ruth was wrong, too. There was more than just one other world beyond ours; there were hundreds and hundreds of them, and at 99 cents apiece I could rent them all.”
“But there was a fire waiting. And there was a little meal laid out on a blanket. And there was a whole world beyond that shoreline, beyond the forest, beyond the knuckle mountains, beyond, beyond, beyond, not beneath the surface at all, but beyond and waiting.”
“How could I pretend to be a victim when I was so willing to sin?”
“You can't catch somebody doing something when they're not hiding.”
“I told myself that I didn't need any of that shit, but there it was, repeated to me day after day after day. And when you're surrounded by a bunch of mostly strangers experiencing the same thing, unable to call home, tethered to routine on ranchland miles away from anybody who might have known you before, might have been able to recognize the real you if you told them you couldn't remember who she was, it's not really like being real at all. It's plastic living. It's living in a diorama. It's living the life of one of those prehistoric insects encased in amber: suspended, frozen, dead but not, you don't know for sure.”
“I don’t think it’s overstating it to say that my religion of choice became VHS rentals, and that its messages came in Technicolor and musical montages and fades and jump cuts and silver-screen legends and B-movie nobodies and villains to root for and good guys to hate. But Ruth was wrong, too. There was more than just one other world beyond ours; there were hundreds and hundreds of them, and at 99 cents apiece I could rent them all.”
“But I couldn't ever make that dream happen. It just came on its own, the way dreams do.”
“When you run into yourself, you run into feelings you never thought you had.”
“On the screen it rained and rained confetti, for minutes, and that glitter-rain, plus the cameras flashing and the lights from the billboards and the awesome mass of the crowds in their shiny hats and toothy smiles, made the world pop and shine and blur in a way that makes you sad to be watching it all on your TV screen, in a way that makes you feel like, instead of bringing the action into your living room, the TV cameras are just reminding you of how much you're missing, confronting you with it, you in your pajamas, on your couch, a couple of pizza crusts resting in some orange grease on a paper plate in front of you, your glass of soda mostly flat and watery, the ice all melted, and the good stuff happening miles and miles away from where you're at.”
“But whatever we once were we weren’t anymore.”
“I hate sour cream and onion Pringles," I told the dashboard where I had my feet planted until Ruth pushed them down.
"But you love Pringles," Ruth actually rattled the canister.
"I hate sour cream and onion anything. All lesbians do." I blew heaps of bubbles into my milk with the tiny straw that came cellophaned to the carton.
"I want you to stop using that word," Ruth jammed the lid back onto the can.
"Which word? Sour or cream?" I plastic laughed with my reflection in the passenger-side window.”
“I thought about that while he made his next calls, while I kept on with the newsletters. I thought about it during Sunday service at Word of Life, and during study hours in my room, with the Viking Erin and her squeaky pink highlighter. What it meant to really believe in something—for real. Belief. The big dictionary in the Promise library said it meant something one accepts as true or real; a firmly held conviction or opinion. But even that definition, as short and simple as it was, confused me. True or real: Those were definite words; opinion and conviction just weren't—opinions wavered and changed and fluctuated with the person, the situation. And most troubling of all was the word accepts. Something one accepts. I was much better at excepting everything than accepting anything, at least anything for certain, for definite. That much I knew. That much I believed.”
“Everything was heightened the way it always is when summer is slipping away to fall, and you're younger than eighteen, and all you can do is suck your cherry Icee and let the chlorine sting your nose, all the way up into the pockets behind your eyes, and snap your towel at the pretty girl with the sunburn, and hope to do it all again come June.”
“It felt really good to do something that made no sense at all.”
“I was doing my little stand up shtick, the one I did for pretty girls, so they'd like me quickly and wouldn't try too hard to actually get to know me beyond my role as wisecracking Cameron, the orphan. Maybe it was a little like flirting, but also a kind of protection: Don't get too close; I'm just jokes with substance.”
“I felt like I needed something official to show me how all of this should feel, how I should be acting, what I should be saying--even if it was just some dumb movie that wasn't really official at all.”
“My whole point,” I said, “is that what they teach here, what they believe, if you don’t trust it, if you doubt it at all, then you’re told that you’re going to hell, that not only everyone you know is ashamed of you, but that Jesus himself has given up on your soul. And if you’re like Mark, and you do believe all of this, you really do—you have faith in Jesus and this stupid Promise system, and even still, even with those things, you still can’t make yourself good enough, because what you’re trying to change isn’t changeable, it’s like your height or the shape of your ears, whatever, then it’s like this place does make things happen to you, or at least it’s supposed to convince you that you’re always gonna be a dirty sinner and that it’s completely your fault because you’re not trying hard enough to change yourself. It convinced Mark.”
“If you don't know for sure, then what's the big thing about trying stuff out?" Jamie said, looking not at me but looking out at that statue, just like Hennitz.
I still didn't have any of the right words. "It's more like maybe I do know and I'm still confused too, at the same time. Does that make sense? I mean, it's like how you noticed this thing about me tonight, you saw it, or you already knew it - it's there. But that doesn't mean it's not confusing or whatever.”
“What is it that I’m doing again?”
“You know that already,” she said. “You just think that you don’t, but you do. It’s what you came all this way for.”
“I lifted the remote control, pushed the Play button, and started the video. I guess, in that moment, I also started my new life as Cameron-the-girl-with-no-parents. Ruth was sort of right, I would learn: A relationship with a higher power is often best practiced alone. For me it was practiced in hour-and-half or two-hour increments, and paused when necessary. I don't think it's overstating it to say that my religion of choice became VHS rentals, and that its messages came in Technicolor and musical montages and fades and jump cuts and silver-screen legends and B-movie nobodies and villains to root for and good guys to hate. But Ruth was wrong, too. There was more than just one other world beyond ours; there were hundreds and hundreds of them, and at 99 cents apiece I could rent them all.”
“Do you think we'd get in trouble if anyone found out?"
"Yeah," I said right away, because even thought no one had ever told me, specifically, not to kiss a girl before, nobody had to.
It was guys and girls who kissed - in our grade, on TV, in the movies, in the world; and that's how it worked: guys and girls.
Anything else was something weird.”
“I've got the weed," Jane said, and we all laughed the way you laugh when you're trying to be brave in the face of something that scares you.”
“Just wait, dude," Jamie had said. "I'm serious. It's fucking hard-core." Since Jamie described everything from zombie movies to his parents' fights to the new enchilada platter at Taco John's as "fucking hard-core," none of us could gauge much by it.”
“An English teacher at school once said to her, 'Alice, one thing I hope you never find out is that a broken heart hurts physically.' Nothing she has ever experienced has prepared her for the pain of this. Most of the time her heart feels as though it's waterlogged and her ribcage, her arms, her back, her temples, her legs all ache in a dull, persistent way: but at times like this the incredulity and the appalling irreversibility of what has happened cripple her with a pain so bad she often doesn't speak for days.”
“She thought it was strange that the mere sensation of savouring the prospect of something could make her think for a while that is must be the prospect of home.”
“Fuck', I think. What a beautiful word. If I could say only one thing for the rest of my life, that would be it.”
“No one with seven books in New York City settles for one piece of ass. That’s what you get for a couplet.”
“I found you.No one can keep us apart now,and our love will now be the story told to define how sacred love is”
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