The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants
Chapters 19 and 20
Summary: Chapter 19
“My karma ran over my dogma.”—Bumper sticker
Bridget tries to write to Carmen so that she can send her the Pants, but she has a hard time figuring out what to say. While she sits on her cabin porch, Eric comes over to talk, pretending nothing happened between them. Bridget doesn’t want to pretend, but Eric grows awkward. He says what happened was his fault, and he apologizes, which angers Bridget. She finally writes to Carmen, saying only that she’s confused.
Tibby and Bailey interview Carmen for the documentary. Carmen tells Bailey she and Tibby had an argument, but Bailey says it doesn’t matter since they love each other. Carmen is taken aback when Bailey asks direct questions about Albert and the upcoming wedding. Carmen denies being angry at Albert, then starts sobbing. Bailey tells her it’s okay to be angry.
One day, when Tibby’s shift ends, Bailey is nowhere in sight. Tibby is alarmed, not minding anymore that Bailey spends so much time with her. She rides her bike to Bailey’s house, which is empty, but a neighbor tells her the family is at the hospital. Tibby hurries over, reassuring herself that Bailey is fine. At the hospital, however, Mrs. Graffman tells Tibby how sick Bailey is. The cancer keeps coming back. Bailey’s parents decided to let her live normally for a few months, but now Bailey has an infection and things don’t look hopeful. Mrs. Graffman tearfully thanks Tibby for being Bailey’s friend. Tibby, overcome with emotion, quickly leaves.
Summary: Chapter 20
“You can take a road that gets you to the stars. I can take a road that will see me through.”—Nick Drake
Lena returns to the olive grove near the pond at the beginning of August. She loses herself in her painting. When she’s done, she decides to give the painting to Kostos as an apology.
Tibby doesn’t go to work because she hates knowing that Bailey won’t be meeting her afterward. She tries to play with Mimi, but when she taps on Mimi’s box, Mimi doesn’t move. She lifts Mimi up and realizes she’s dead. Unwilling to admit this fact, Tibby puts Mimi in a paper bag and puts the bag in the freezer, sure that she’ll be able to revive Mimi someday when science comes up with a method. She tries to write to her friends, but she gives up.
Lena writes to Carmen about how she and her grandfather have eaten breakfast together in silence all summer. She vows to learn a little Greek so they can talk before the summer ends.
Carmen, worn out from crying, tells Christina she’s mad at Albert. She tells Christina she doesn’t know why it’s easier to be mad at her than at Albert, and Christina suggests that Carmen gets angry at people she trusts. Christina reminds her how difficult it was when Albert moved after the divorce.
Tibby plans to watch TV all night. Bailey calls her, but she ignores it, trying not to hear Bailey’s message asking Tibby to call.
On the day of the big game against Los Cocos, Bridget has no energy. When she puts on her cleats, she realizes she’s lost weight. On the field, she can’t muster up any drive, which confuses her team and gives Los Cocos the advantage. Molly yells at her, and Bridget yells back, then abandons the game.
As the girls’ lives get more complicated, they have trouble writing to one another, revealing that even close friendships sometimes have limitations. Although the girls have made a vow to write to one another regularly, as the summer progresses they find that the letter-writing becomes more difficult. Having been friends their whole lives, they have never kept secrets or withheld information from one another, and they’ve gone through the most important things together up until that summer. Now, apart, they are facing challenges on their own, and the task of updating one another proves daunting. Tibby, for example, can’t write to her friends about Bailey’s admittance to the hospital, and Bridget avoids mentioning sex when she writes to Carmen. Describing events and daily experiences is difficult when those events include a child’s sickness and an uncomfortable sexual encounter. But what’s more difficult is trying to describe the way they feel about these events. Bridget and Tibby cannot articulate to themselves how they feel, so writing letters and trying to explain these confusing feelings to others seems next to impossible. In one another’s absence, the girls are forced to handle big changes and confusions on their own.
Tibby’s unwillingness to admit that Mimi is dead reveals her unwillingness to acknowledge that Bailey is extremely sick and may even die. Mimi is unquestionably dead when Tibby lifts her from her cage. Part of Tibby acknowledges this fact, and she knows she can’t leave Mimi in her box or she’ll start to smell. But another part of Tibby can’t accept that death is permanent. By putting Mimi in the freezer so she can be revived at a later date, Tibby is ignoring reality, just as she does when Bailey gets very sick. Although Tibby has known all along that Bailey has leukemia, Bailey has always seemed vibrant, even healthy. Bailey’s rapid-fire banter, quick wit, and enthusiasm for the documentary made it easy for Tibby to forget that Bailey has cancer. When Tibby sees Mrs. Graffman at the hospital, however, she can’t ignore it anymore. But instead of facing it head-on, Tibby shuts down. She stays home from work to stop from thinking about Bailey’s daily appearance, and she ignores Bailey’s phone calls. Just as Tibby denied Mimi’s death by putting her in the freezer, she denies Bailey’s sickness by pretending it isn’t happening.
When Bridget finally leaves her cabin, she has changed into an entirely different Bridget, someone no one has seen before. Usually ravenous all the time, eating huge quantities of food eagerly, Bridget has now lost weight from not eating and lying in bed all day. Usually bursting with energy, Bridget now slogs to the soccer game, unable to muster any enthusiasm even though this is the championship match. Her teammates are accustomed to Bridget being the team leader, the one who sets the pace of the game. They don’t recognize this listless new girl, and the game falls apart. Uncharacteristically, Bridget doesn’t seem to care. Until now, she has always been competitive, sometimes aggressively so, but now she walks away from the game. A light switch has gone off, and Bridget, the team star, lively friend, and active camper, is only a dim shadow of the person she had been before.
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