excerpt from “when georgia fell”


This is a scene toward the end of the book, so it’s way out of order – and it’s really first-drafty. But it asked to be written, so I obliged. I just wanted to share it with you. 😀

I opened the bottle, and pills spilled all over the floor in front of me, between my legs spread open in a V, and across the linoleum. I picked one up and considered it. The pills were chalky white, round – like aspirin. But not. I crushed one on the floor and smeared the dust around. I thought about taking one or two. Maybe a dozen.

But then I thought of the pyramids. I know it sounds ridiculous, Violet, but it was the pyramids that made me pause. I thought about the goddamn pyramids, and how extraordinary they are. And what it would be like if we lived there, just you and me. We’d live there together, in that crazy tomb, sitting in the sun and carving stones with tools we found in the dust and digging in the sand with our bare hands, our fingernails worn down to stubs. We’d make casseroles from wheat and rice and vegetables, and when the sun went down we’d curl up in sleeping bags and listen to the footsteps of the pharaohs and entwine our fingers together and sleep like cats. We’d wake at sunrise and climb to the tip of the pyramid, stretching our arms high enough to touch an alien ship if it passed, fancying we’d brush the bottom. And we’d look down at the world, Violet. We’d look down and smile because we would be the only ones in it, and it would be ours. The sun and the sand and the rocks and the earth and that divine eye. It would all be ours. And maybe that would be enough and maybe it wouldn’t. But it’s what I thought about, looking at those pills spread out on the linoleum like Halloween candy.

Then I pictured you, Violet, by yourself out there. Out on the edge of the pyramid, losing your balance and falling off, or not falling off. Stepping off and onto the planets, skipping over Saturn, careening past Neptune and onto Pluto, your body just a shadow, lithe and alert but so so faint. No one would see you there, just the essence of you. Mysterious and languid and larger than life.

And then it made sense to me. Why you killed yourself. Why you took pills, slit your wrists, hung yourself, jumped out a window, drowned in the river. It was because you wanted to be exceptional. You wanted more than anyone could give you, including me. And that was what killed you. A longing for a thing beyond yourself – something you thought you would never have. A chance to just live in the way you wanted to live, without restraint; to look down and see the world from a precipice so grand, it would take all you could do not to sob out loud. You needed remarkability. Grace. A walk on Pluto.

But, then, Violet, what about scrubbing the side of the barn and feeling the sound of your own breath? What about Louise the goat and her wiry hair, the frigging tiles strewn over the yard? The broken-down screen door, the eggs that fell from the robin’s nest last spring, that impossible blue that spilled out over the grass, cracked and gone forever? The smallest worm that dug its way into earth, and then out again, sliding into the sun and dying there? What about the petal of the last rose overtaken by aphids? That rosebush has vanished, like everything does eventually. Now there are daisies growing there.

Violet, everything is small and meaningful and temporary and eternal and mediocre and sublime. There are no monuments here; no stone structures painstakingly crafted to the sky, no alters for kings. No golden rods or satiny shimmers or diamond crusts. There are houses and roads and trees. Farms and cows and hay. Salt air and wind and sometimes rain. Snow. Tracks of deer. Ice building itself onto other objects, melting to pools, seeping into the ground. This is all there is. The essence of the daily, the moonflower, the pull on your sneakers and run outside, the take down the birch so the disease doesn’t spread, the brush your teeth before you go to the dentist. The fleeting hug, given sparingly. The grip of your fingers on a rake. The sliver of a moon behind the shadow of your hand.

Oh, God. The moon.

Ben never loved me, Violet. Not really. He loved the idea of me, maybe. The idea that somewhere there was a child he could possess. Someone who probably would have done whatever he wanted, maybe. Ben is part of this, too. His being here, the heart of him, is worth the risk of living. Life became a possibility for me, thinking of him. I measured it – more than that, I took it on. I know Ben doesn’t love me. It doesn’t matter anymore.

And the pyramids. The fucking pyramids, Violet. They exist. To me, that is enough. To know that they’re in the world, they are here, like everything else. That is enough. But it wasn’t enough for you. Nothing was enough for you. You ran fast, in time with your heartbeat – too fast. You stretched too far toward the sun. The wax from your wings melted, and you fell. You wanted too much, Violet. There has never been an ache of a flawless beauty in the world – it never existed, even though you might have thought it did, once. But it wasn’t true. And there wasn’t enough left, after that, to hold you.

These are the things I thought of as I sat weighing the idea of killing myself. Taking the pills scattered in front of me, slitting my wrists, jumping out the window, hanging myself, drowning in the bathtub. Instead, I sat on the floor and stared at the pile of pills and then after a while got up and swept them into the waste basket and went downstairs.

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