Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Paper Towns - Chapter 3

The thing about Margo Roth Spiegelman is that really all I could ever do was let her talk, and then
when she stopped talking encourage her to go on, due to the facts that 1. I was incontestably in love with
her, and 2. She was absolutely unprecedented in every way, and 3. She never really asked me any questions,
so the only way to avoid silence was to keep her talking.
And so in the parking lot of Publix she said, “So, right. I made you a list. If you have any questions,
just call my cell. Listen, that reminds me, I took the liberty of putting some supplies in the back of the van
“What, like, before I agreed to all this?”
“Well, yes. Technically yes. Anyway, just call me if you have any questions, but with the Vaseline,
you want the one that’s bigger than your fist. There’s like a Baby Vaseline, and then there’s a Mommy
Vaseline, and then there’s a big fat Daddy of a Vaseline, and that’s the one you want. If they don’t have
that, then get, like, three of the Mommies.” She handed me the list and a hundred-dollar bill and said,
“That should cover it.”
Margo’s list:
3 whole Catfish, Wrapped separately
Veet (It’s for Shaving your legs Only you don’t Need A razor
It’s with all the Girly cosmetic stuff )
six-pack, Mountain Dew
One dozen Tulips
one Bottle Of water
one Can of blue Spray paint
“Interesting capitalization,” I said.
“Yeah. I’m a big believer in random capitalization. The rules of capitalization are so unfair to words
in the middle.”
Now, I’m not sure what you’re supposed to say to the checkout woman at twelve-thirty in the morning
when you put thirteen pounds of catfish, Veet, the fat-daddy-size tub of Vaseline, a six-pack of Mountain
Dew, a can of blue spray paint, and a dozen tulips on the conveyor belt. But here’s what I said: “This isn’t
as weird as it looks.”
The woman cleared her throat but didn’t look up. “Still weird,” she muttered.
“I really don’t want to get in any trouble,” I told Margo back in the minivan as she used the bottled water
to wipe the black paint off her face with the tissues. She’d only needed the makeup, apparently, to get
out of the house. “In my admission letter from Duke it actually explicitly says that they won’t take me
if I get arrested.”
“You’re a very anxious person, Q.”
“Let’s just please not get in trouble,” I said. “I mean, I want to have fun and everything, but not at
the expense of, like, my future.”
She looked up at me, her face mostly revealed now, and she smiled just the littlest bit. “It amazes me
that you can find all that shit even remotely interesting.”
“College: getting in or not getting in. Trouble: getting in or not getting in. School: getting A’s or
getting D’s. Career: having or not having. House: big or small, owning or renting. Money: having or not
having. It’s all so boring.”
I started to say something, to say that she obviously cared a little, because she had good grades and
was going to the University of Florida’s honors program next year, but she just said, “Wal-Mart.”
We entered Wal-Mart together and picked up that thing from infomercials called The Club, which locks
a car’s steering wheel into place. As we walked through the Juniors department, I asked Margo, “Why
do we need The Club?”
Margo managed to speak in her usual manic soliloquy without answering my question. “Did you
know that for pretty much the entire history of the human species, the average life span was less than
thirty years? You could count on ten years or so of real adulthood, right? There was no planning for retirement.
There was no planning for a career. There was no planning. No time for planning. No time for
a future. But then the life spans started getting longer, and people started having more and more future,
and so they spent more time thinking about it. About the future. And now life has become the future.
Every moment of your life is lived for the future—you go to high school so you can go to college so you
can get a good job so you can get a nice house so you can afford to send your kids to college so they can
get a good job so they can get a nice house so they can afford to send their kids to college.”
It felt like Margo was just rambling to avoid the question at hand. So I repeated it. “Why do we need
The Club?”
Margo patted me in the middle of the back softly. “I mean, obviously this is all going to be revealed
to you before the night is over.” And then, in boating supplies, Margo located an air horn. She took it
out of the box and held it up in the air, and I said, “No,” and she said, “No what?” And I said, “No,
don’t blow the air horn,” except when I got to about the b in blow, she squeezed on it and it let out an
excruciatingly loud honk that felt in my head like the auditory equivalent of an aneurysm, and then she
said, “I’m sorry, I couldn’t hear you. What was that?” And I said, “Stop b—” and then she did it again.
A Wal-Mart employee just a little older than us walked up to us then and said, “Hey, you can’t use
that in here,” and Margo said, with seeming sincerity, “Sorry, I didn’t know that,” and the guy said,
“Oh, it’s cool. I don’t mind, actually.” And then the conversation seemed over, except the guy could not
stop looking at Margo, and honestly I don’t blame him, because she is hard to stop looking at, and then
finally he said, “What are you guys up to tonight?”
And Margo said, “Not much. You?”
And he said, “I get off at one and then I’m going out to this bar down on Orange, if you want to
come. But you’d have to drop off your brother; they’re really strict about ID’s.”
Her what?! “I’m not her brother,” I said, looking at the guy’s sneakers.
And then Margo proceeded to lie. “He’s actually my cousin,” she said. Then she sidled up to me,
put her hand around my waist so that I could feel each of her fingers taut against my hip bone, and she
added, “And my lover.”
The guy just rolled his eyes and walked away, and Margo’s hand lingered for a minute and I took the
opportunity to put my arm around her. “You really are my favorite cousin,” I told her. She smiled and
bumped me softly with her hip, spinning out of my embrace.
“Don’t I know it,” she said.


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