Part Five: Chapter One, For Real This Time
Chapter One opens with Cheryl just barely attempting to explain her thought process behind taking this hike, and it goes about as well as you'd think, which is not very. Cheryl writes almost entirely in sentence fragments, run-on sentences and run-on sentence fragments. Sample quote:
"At which point, at long last, there was the actual doing it, quickly followed by the grim realization of what it meant to do it, followed by the decision to quit doing it because doing it was absurd and pointless and ridiculously difficult and far more than I expected doing it would be and I was profoundly unprepared to do it."
Already something is profound.
"And then there was the real live truly doing it."
Or pretending to.
She then neatly wraps up the whole 1100-mile walk in one quick sentence so that she can get to what she really wants to talk about, which is her dead mom. You should get used to this now, and you're welcome for the warning. I didn't have anyone to give me this warning, so when I started reading this book that I thought was supposed to be about a woman solo-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, I was confused and irritated because the whole first chapter had absolutely nothing to do with anything.
So let me sum it up for you:
Cheryl's mom died.
Let's move on to Chapter Two now, right? Ugh. As much as I want to skip the rest of this bullshit chapter, there are, admittedly, a few select things within it that have to be addressed.
Let's start with the Chapter Title: "THE TEN THOUSAND THINGS."
"The Ten Thousand Things" is the title of a book by Maria Dermoût and if you've never heard of it, it's because you are nowhere near as brilliant as Cheryl Strayed and she enjoys pointing this fact out repeatedly throughout the book ("I'd never met anyone who'd read the book, aside from the college writing professor who'd assigned it to me," well, aren't you just amazing). She likes to name-drop all of the super intellectual books she's ever read because she doesn't want you to forget how smart she is. Clearly, only a Mensa-level genius would pack big heavy books in her pack to go on an 1100-mile hike. You'll see.
Before I address the only other couple of things that are worth mentioning from Chapter One, I thought it might be amusing to just list all of my margin notes without troubling you with the details of what inspired the notes. Enjoy.
- except not the preparing part.
- Here we go.
- No one cares.
- Only retards live in Duluth, apparently. Hope she has a stop there on her book tour.
- Yeah, fuck reality.
- Why is that a miracle?
- That isn't a prayer.
- Stop it with your sentence fragments.
- Because you're an asshole.
- See? You're an asshole.
- Stop saying "the ten thousand things."
- Please stop.
- Die right now.
- Selfish cunt
- Fuck you.
- I DON'T GIVE A SHIT ABOUT ANY OF THIS
- DON'T CARE
- DON'T CARE
- DON'T CARE
- GET TO THE FUCKING TRAIL ALREADY
And really, that's all you need to know about Chapter One. But there's one more thing.
So, remember how Cheryl's mom died? Right. As she lay dying in the hospital, this is what was going on with Cheryl:
"One of the nurses was a man, and I could see the outline of his penis through his tight white nurse's trousers."
This is what prompted my margin note of "please stop."
"I wanted desperately to pull him into the small bathroom beyond the foot of my mother's bed and offer myself up to him, to do anything at all if he would help us. And I also wanted to take pleasure from him, to feel the weight of his body against me, to feel his mouth in my hair and hear him say my name to me over and over again, to force him to acknowledge me, to make this matter to him, to crush his heart with mercy for us."This is all going down in Cheryl's brain as she's sitting right next to her dying mother in the hospital. Also, Cheryl is still married at this point, and all she can think of is banging Nurse Penis while her mom dies in the next room. It gets worse, like when her mother would request morphine.
"Sometimes he gave it to her without a word, and sometimes he told her no in a voice as soft as his penis in his pants."
And here's where "Die right now" happened.
It's time for Chapter Two.