Another giant quote, this time from Cujo. This one is much more important because it illustrates, through sheer impression, the paucity of spirit which characterizes homo sapiens sapiens in particular, and humanity in general. Tex figured this out too, at one point.
It illustrates Michael Trust’s observation that a narcissist will crash a car just to cause another person pain, to distract themselves from their own inner turmoil. Extraverts living in a utopia will go to war for such a silly reason as having nothing better to do with their time.
To explain the mechanism for this, and why it afflicts women more often, you have to understand it’s all about the structural gray matter. People with a healthy neural network of gray matter- built up over decades of solitary, acetylcholine-fueled reflective thought- don’t fear the emptiness inside for the simple reason that they aren’t empty inside. They have an internal universe full of stored up sensory impressions and mental frameworks that can be played with like toys, or simply observed in motion.
But someone who never reflects will over time become more and more afraid of being alone, because nothing ever had the chance to grow inside of them. They’ve spent their entire lives presenting a facade of themselves to other people, as part of their shallow socializing rituals. If you spend all of your time cleaning the outside of your house to impress the neighbors, and you never clean inside, then you’re going to become afraid of the day it rains because you go inside and discover the place is a murky, fetid swamp filled to the brim with termites and earwigs.
Anyway, enough of my thoughts for now, here’s Donna explaining to her husband Vic why she cheated on him.
The epiphany was lost in low-key, exasperated anger. Why, it was a man’s question. Its origin lay far down in whatever the concept of masculinity was in an intelligent late-twentieth-century Western man. I have to know why you did it. As if she were a car with a stuck needle valve that had caused the machine to start hitching and sputtering or a robot that had gotten its servotapes scrambled so that it was serving meatloaf in the morning and scrambled eggs for dinner. What drove women crazy, she thought suddenly, wasn’t really sexism at all, maybe. It was this mad, masculine quest for efficiency.
“I don’t know if I can explain. I’m afraid it will sound stupid and petty and trivial.”
“Try. Was it…” He cleared his throat, seemed to mentally spit on his hands (that cursed efficiency thing again) and then fairly wrenched the thing out. “Haven’t I been satisfying to you? Was that it?”
“No,” she said.
“Then what?” he said helplessly. “For Christ’s sake, what?”
Okay…you asked for it.
“Fear,” she said. “Mostly, I think it was fear.”
“When Tad went to school, there was nothing to keep me from being afraid. Tad was like…what do they call it?…white noise. The sound the TV makes when it isn’t tuned to a station that comes in.”
“He wasn’t in real school,” Vic said quickly, and she knew he was getting ready to be angry, getting ready to accuse her of trying to lay it off on Tad, and once he was angry things would come out between them that shouldn’t be spoken, at least not yet. There were things, being the woman she was, that she would have to rise to. The situation would escalate. Something that was now very fragile was being tossed from his hands to hers and back again. It could easily be dropped.
“That was part of it,” she said. “He wasn’t in real school. I still had him most of the time, and the time when he was gone…there was a contrast…” She looked at him. “The quiet seemed very loud by comparison. That was when I started to get scared. Kindergarten next year, I’d think. Half a day every day instead of half a day three times a week. The year after that, all day five days a week. And there would still be all those hours to fill up. And I just got scared.”
“So you thought you’d fill up a little of that time by fucking someone?” he asked bitterly.
That stung her, but she continued on grimly, tracing it out as best she could, not raising her voice. He had asked. She would tell him.
“I didn’t want to be on the Library Committee and I didn’t want to be on the Hospital Committee and run the bake sales or be in charge of getting the starter change or making sure that not everybody is making the same Hamburger Helper casserole for the Saturday-night supper. I didn’t want to see those same depressing faces over and over again and listen to the same gossipy stories about who is doing what in this town. I didn’t want to sharpen my claws on anyone else’s reputation.”
The words were gushing out of her now. She couldn’t have stopped them if she wanted to.
“I didn’t want to sell Tupperware and I didn’t want to sell Amway and I didn’t want to give Stanley parties and I don’t need to join Weight Watchers. You-”
She paused for the tiniest second, grasping it, feeling the weight of the idea.
“You don’t know about emptiness, Vic. Don’t think you do. You’re a man, and men grapple. Men grapple, ad women dust. You dust the empty rooms and you listen to the wind blowing outside sometimes. Only sometimes it seems like the wind’s inside, you know? So you put on a record, Bob Seger or J. J. Cale or someone, and you can still hear the wind, and thoughts come to you, ideas, nothing good, but they come. So you clean both toilets and you do the sink and one day you’re down in one of the antique shops looking at little pottery knickknacks, and you think about how your mother had a shelf of knickknacks like that, and youraunts all had shelves of them, and your grandmother had them as well.”
He was looking at her closely, and his expression was so honestly perplexed that she felt a wave of her own despair.
“It’s feelings I’m talking about, not facts!”
“Yes, but why-”
“I’m telling you why! I’m telling you that I got so I was spending enough time in front of the mirror to see how my face was changing, how no one was ever going to mistake me for a teenager again or ask to see my driver’s license when I ordered a drink in a bar. I started to be afraid because I grew up after all. Tad’s going to preschool and that means he’s going to go to school, then high school-”
“Are you saying you took a lover because you felt old?” He was looking at her, surprised, and she loved him for that, because she supposed that was a part of it; Steve Kemp had found her attractive and of course that was flattering, that was what had made the flirtation fun in the first place. But it was in no way the greatest part of it.
She took his hands and spoke earnestly into his face, thinking- knowing– that she might never speak so earnestly (or honestly) to any man again. “It’s more. It’s knowing you can’t wait any longer to be a grownup, or wait any longer to make your peace with what you have. It’s knowing that your choices are being narrowed almost daily. For a woman- no, for me– that’s a brutal thing to have to face. Wife, that’s fine. But you’re gone at work, even when you’re home you’re gone at work so much. Mother, that’s fine, too. But there’s a little less of it every year, because every year the world gets another little slice of him.
“Men…they know what they are. They have an image of what they are. They never live up to the ideal, and it breaks them, and maybe that’s why so many men die unhappy and before their time, but they know what being a grownup is supposed to mean. They have some kind of handle on thirty, forty, fifty. They don’t hear that wind, or if they do, they find a lance and tilt at it, thinking it must be a windmill or some fucking thing that needs knocking down.
“And what a woman does- what I did- was to run from becoming. I got scared of the way the house sounded when Tad was gone. Once, do you know- this is crazy- I was in his room, changing the sheets, and I got thinking about these girlfriends I had in high school. Wondering what happened to them, where they went. I was almost in a daze. And Tad’s closet door swung open and…I screamed and ran out of the room. I don’t know why…except I guess I do. I thought for just a second there that Joan Brady would come out of Tad’s closet, and her head would be gone and there would be blood all over her clothes and she would say, ‘I died in a car crash when I was nineteen coming back from Sammy’s Pizza and I don’t give a damn.’ ”
“Christ, Donna,” Vic said.
I got scared, that’s all. I got scared when I’d start looking at knickknacks or thinking about taking a pottery course or yoga or something like that. And the only place to run from the future is into the past. So…so I started flirting with him.”
She looked down and then suddenly buried her face in her hands. Her. words were muffled but still understandable.
“It was fun. It was like being in college again. It was like a dream. A stupid dream. It was like he was white noise. He blotted out that wind sound. The flirting part was fun. The sex…it was no good. I had orgasms, but it was no good. I can’t explain why not, except that I still loved you through all of it, and understood that I was running away…” She looked up at him again, crying now. “He’s running too. He’s made a career of it. He’s a poet…at least that’s what he calls himself. I couldn’t make head or tail of the things he showed me. He’s a roadrunner, dreaming he’s still in college and protesting the war in Vietnam. That’s why it was him, I guess. And now I think you know everything I can tell you. An ugly little tale, but mine own.”