Monday, November 16, 2009

Part 32 - the last entry?

I didn't realize that I was lucky enough to get three-extra pages in my last section - I guess we thought of them as a bonus for not getting to be first when we were dividing things up next to the dumpster at Manhattan Mini Storage.

I just finished reading the last line a few minutes ago and am still in mild shock. It ended in such an anticlimactic whimper that I turned the page looking for more text. I thought I had mixed up the pages for at least five minutes. My section was extra dog-eared and in the process having to restack them I dropped the eight pages on the floor, so after reading page 169, the final page, I really thought I had accidentally dropped a 170 under my chair, or misfiled it between 165 and 166. But no. It ended with Matt and Rowan going to breakfast. Just like that, it was over. I became unexpectedly choked up when I realized that I'd actually finished. I didn't anticipate any sentiment whatsoever but now I am significantly teary. The last time I cried over a non-family death was during “The English Patient” years ago...and even then I was sufficiently whiskeyed-up to attribute the crying to my altered state. Now, with the clarity of ten minutes of hindsight, I'm realizing “The Greenhouse” unfolded over a very transitional time in my life. Since it started, I've been married and laid off. You've gone from New York to Hong Kong to New York...and soon to Hong Kong again. And it began on a hot, early summer day and it ends in the cold November rain, much like Axel Rose's break-up with Stephanie Seymour. I know the project isn't over, but the center of it is, the bridge to that slice of time is. I almost don't have the energy to tell you what happens at the end… it's so much more flaccid than I imagined. I wanted the conclusion to match its personal significance, I guess. It reminds me, though it's far less grave, of the night my grandfather died. My mother collapsed to her knees when she got the news on the phone. It was a Thursday night and we were watching Family Ties on television. The show kept going as we grieved and I became more angry that the laugh track kept playing than sad that my grandfather had died. It seemed so disrespectful and the jokes became unbearably formulaic. For the first time I realized that the world would beat on implacably in spite of anyone's need for a moment of stillness.

So, anyway, Reshevsky lived long enough with a gunshot wound to call in the Feds. Rowan finds him bleeding from the abdomen. There are some good dragged-streaks-of-coagulated-blood descriptions in the section. It actually gets a bit gory. Reshevsky admits his jealousy in dying breaths and then begs Rowan to put him out of his misery by handing him the cyanide tablet. He takes it. He dies. I was quite moved at this point, too.

So the gig was that Kee got Lucy hooked on heroin on purpose to make her more manipulable. I guess Lucy and her greenhouse were perfectly legit at one point, and she went derelict only after the junk took hold. Cater did some work for the "organization" in Guatemala...we never learn for sure but are to expect that it's the CIA. He recommended Chao for a job infiltrating the greenhouse crime ring, and, when he was killed, Cater felt a special responsibility to reenlist and avenge the death. Our two lovers wake in bed, schmaltz-talking (this part was nearly unbearable), calling each other "honey" and caressing and caressing and caressing. No sex though. It made me remember an article I read by this conservative journalist named Shelby Steele in the WSJ a few years ago in which he brought up a point about how if a president was overheard using the word "nigger" on a golf course in 1960 it would've been considered a gaffe, but not an unforgivable or career threatening one. By the same token if Eisenhower were caught with a woman other than his wife on that same golf course, it would've been seen as an inexcusable demonstration of moral bankruptcy, and most likely career ending. Now it's reversed; pres can get blowjobs under his desk from interns, but wouldn't dare disparage a minority. This novel is very telling in those terms. There's no sex (this was written a few years before the summer of love) but there's plenty of off-color remarks about Chinese. If it were written today there'd be semen flying around the room but our gang would no doubt be a multi-cultural non-denominational crime syndicate.

Anyway, Cater and Rowan get hungry and go get breakfast. The end. (I end abruptly for you, too, can get the effect of page 169.) I will forever use page 169 as a metaphor for being underwhelmed by way of high expectations.

I'm sad. We must redeem this story. I won't let it be over.

I'm going to go sulk somewhere now. You know, on top of it all, I put my underwear on backwards this morning and it's all bunched up. I need to press reset.



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