The Lovely Bones: Changing Lanes

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Headlights

It’s what invariably happens when we find the courage to follow the "lights" that have continuously beckoned, even when we didn’t quite understand what they were or what their purpose might be. Forever blinking on the horizon of consciousness, like flashes of insight that would come and then disappear, their disappearance as much our own doing as anything else, since the message they brought was not one we wished to hear.

The headlights rushing down the hall of her murder’s home threaten to annihilate Susie, as this is the threat that the Light has always held. Destroying all one’s preconceptions about life, even about oneself. The path that might have been …
all premised on keeping the truth buried, as if pretending nothing had happened might make the past disappear.

he had loved me the best that he could

Susie’s encounter with the lights could not have happened as long as she held on to her father, insisting that their love blot out the terrible thing that had happened. His valiant efforts to defend her were doomed to fail since the horror was already in the past and in no way could it be erased. It was there, indelibly stamped on her very being, whether either of them liked it or not.

It’s only after she realizes that he couldn’t help no matter how hard he tried, only then does she find the strength to let him go, knowing that he loved her as deeply as he could. And it’s only after making this decision, freed from his protection, that she finds the courage to enter the dark house that had been repeatedly calling, like whispers in the dark.

If it didn’t occur to her before, it certainly did now: the two of them holding on to each other – providing comfort and joy – kept Susie forever trapped, caught in the In Between. Stuck in a prison of ever changing landscapes, haunted by the dark, with her exit from that place blocked by the light of the sun.

The Floodgates Open

But once the decision is made, once Susie enters the dreaded house that she had postponed for so long, it’s as if that single decision sets certain forces in motion, forces that, until then, had been held at bay. For once she follows the light flashing in the upstairs hallway, an echo of the lighthouse that had been taunting her, she’s pulled through a series of discoveries that come to her naturally, hardly requiring any effort from her at all.

At first, the traffic threatens to overwhelm her, but the light and noise is just an illusion. Once she steps to the side of the road and turns her head around, she’ll find the first of the Murderer’s victims lying right there at her feet. And once this body is revealed to her, others follow in quick succession, as if drawn by gravity, like her tumble down the stairs that led to the next corpse lying in wait.

So, while her journey into the Murderer’s home might have seemed impossible at first, Susie soon learns that once the decision was made, the discoveries come fast. Little things will draw her attention to what needs to be seen, like a bouncing beach ball that seems so out of place, each providing connections to another place and time, allowing her to be pulled out of the world of the ordinary into another that unveils the buried and the dead.

Excavating the Buried and the Hidden

The fact that this leg of her journey begins in the seemingly normal environs of a suburban home suggests that the veil separating these worlds exists in the unremarkable and the ordinary. That the heart of Evil can be found in a place not so different from her very own home.

While we all have the tendency to believe that the unthinkable happens to other people in other places, relatively rare events that have nothing to do with the normal rhythms of our everyday lives, Susie’s passage through the rooms of that house will expose the falsity of that lie. She will teach us that as long as we cling to the belief that Evil resides elsewhere, in another country or another neighborhood, we become accessories to the devil, for that’s precisely what he’d like us to think.

Yet, if we allow ourselves to look more closely, the evidence of his doings are not so difficult to be found. We only need to pay attention and know where to look: in the darkened corners that haven’t been dressed-up for public consumption, tucked away in the closet, or swept under the rug.

In other words, in giving up her father, Susie’s also giving up the suburban ideal, what we still call the American Dream. For in its commitment to a lifestyle of appearances, all kinds of demons get pushed into the dark.

Others Like Herself

In following the light that brings her face-to-face with the Murderer’s hidden deeds, Susie’s also coming to learn that the experience suffered by his hands was not hers alone; that there were others that came before (and perhaps even after). Without quite wanting to, she discovers what it means to belong to a sisterhood, one whose members rarely have the chance to meet. For once his deed is done, each of them is condemned to their own version of the In Between, a journey forced upon them by another.

And yet, as we hear in the timbre of her voice, Susie draws some consolation from this: the string of bodies clearly shows that her private torment was not hers, alone. It’s not that she’s "happy" that there were others who suffered like she had. The discovery of others lets her know that she was not the only one who had that experience. She was not alone. She wasn’t the only one the Murderer had targeted; she wasn’t the only one who had been lured into his trap.

Letting go of her father and the suburban ideal allows Susie to come to terms with this fact: that buried across this vast continent lie the bodies of young girls tossed aside as if they were junk. (If this isn’t evil, what is?) Only when she lets go of him is she able to face this truth.

Confronting the Vault

If letting go of him is what finally allowed her to begin this part of her journey, her final trip to the Murderer’s basement is what allows the burning flame to finally extinguish itself and disappear.

This moment, standing over her very own corpse, was the moment she wished to avoid at any cost, unable to confront the truth about her death. In part, it’s what kept her linked to her father, hoping he could erase the pain of her experience. And despite the continual "lights" flashing atop that house, signaling a past that would not go away, she tried her best to keep it at bay, as if an exercise of will had the strength to undo what had already been completed.

But once she finds the strength to learn the truth about the Murderer’s, including herself, the panic will slowly melt away. And so will her anger. For as she will soon discover, there’s something else that survives her death, another version of herself waiting at the side of the sink hole. And another life to live.

The Truth of Her Life

She had already seen the truth of her demise much earlier, when she revisited the pictures taken by her own hand so long ago. She’s reminded of them when her father’s still in the midst of his fury, trying to figure out what happened to his little girl. Not quite able to put the pieces together, not quite able to let go.

When she looks at those images again, much to her surprise, they point to the very site that’s been the focus of her journey: the darkened house of a neighbor, lights everywhere pointing to where she needed to go. It’s almost as if, in distracting her parents while riding her bike, she were signaling a message opposite of what she’d intended. As if, in asking them to look at her, she was really asking them to look at him.

There are many ways in which the truth gets inscribed into seemingly incidental aspects of our lives, from the clothes we wear, the pictures we paint, even the books and movies we love. And even before we’re able to understand why we’re drawn to some things – and, perhaps, repulsed by others – they’re there, staring us in the face, bringing a message about the Alpha and Omega, about the beginning and the end of our lives. If only we’re willing to listen.

Mustering the Courage

When Susie finds the strength to let go of her father’s protection and walk into the Murderer’s house alone, she demonstrates a courage few of us possess and the wisdom only the best of us can hope to own. For in that decision, she changes the direction of her life, coming to terms with what had been shunned and what had been hidden by the excess of light.

For it’s only in the shadows were the truth can be found, despite the metaphors we’ve been provided about illumination and enlightenment. Like the beacons that summon at the darkest moments of night. And it’s only by completing this leg of her journey that Susie reaches a place where she can find some peace. For when she’s done, there’ll be nothing left to haunt her, no more demons lurking in the dark.

All will have been uncovered, and the truth will hurt no more.

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~ by mistified on September 2, 2011.

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