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Maddy writes her mother a good-bye letter. She explains that she loves her mother and is grateful to be alive because of her mother’s care. But now she is going to embrace life even if it means death—like the Little Prince in the children’s book, ready to die in order to be with his rose.
Maddy hears the keypad beep as she unseals the airlock door, she feels the cool touch of the front-door handle, she sees fuzzy shapes in the 4 a.m. darkness outside, and she smells the garden in front of Olly’s house. After she throws pebbles at his window and he comes out to be with her, his lips taste just like she remembers from the last time they kissed.
Olly is alarmed to see Maddy outside, acting unconcerned about her safety. After they hear a noise in the house and climb up onto the roof, Maddy puts Olly more at ease by lying about having secretly bought some non-FDA-approved pills online. They will protect her for a few days. He believes the lie because he wants to. Olly then shows Maddy what he has been doing on the roof: he has built an orrery, a mechanical solar system that moves when the wind blows on it.
Maddy has booked a flight for Madeline Whittier and Oliver Bright, from Los Angeles to Maui.
Olly has a hard time believing that Maddy is serious about flying to Hawaii, but once Maddy persuades him to get on the road, he starts to relax. He has a friend on Maui, named Zach. Maddy finds the experience of driving on the freeway strange. They have enough time before the flight leaves to stop to visit someone in Koreatown.
The person they are visiting is Carla. She is overjoyed to see Maddy and greets Olly with almost equal enthusiasm. Carla has a new job. When she asks how Maddy is feeling, Maddy tells her the same lie she told Olly, about the non-approved pills. Carla is not fooled. She feeds Maddy and Olly breakfast, while he talks cheerfully about how the pills are apparently working. During cleanup, Carla quietly endorses Maddy’s desire to leave home and live, even at great risk. Carla made the same choice when she came to the United States, against her family’s wishes.
Olly texts Kara that he will be back in two days.
Useful facts for the first-time flyer. Some of them relate to kissing or snuggling with a companion. The last one is about turbulence, a common experience in life generally.
At the Maui airport, Olly shares his baggage carousel theory of life: some people get lost; some people get damaged, like his mother; some people just go round and round forever, like him and Karla; and some people are lucky enough to get taken home and put in a closet.
A promise is a lie you want to keep.
During the drive to the hotel, Olly asks the driver to stop, so Maddy can experience the beach. She walks into the water up to her knees.
The ocean is the endless part of yourself, unknown but always suspected.
Maddy and Olly check into their hotel as newlyweds, under the name Whittier. The room is small, with just one bed, a Murphy bed, which folds down from the wall. Olly teases Maddy over having brought The Little Prince along. It contains a note promising the finder a Hawaii trip. Maddy gets dizzy and feels a painful squeezing around her heart, and Olly becomes worried when she says she is feeling light-headed. When Maddy’s stomach growls, however, they laugh and decide she is just very hungry.
Olly buys souvenirs for his mother and Karla. Maddy buys a calendar for Carla. Unsure what to buy her mother, she finally settles on a postcard. “Oh, how I wish you were here,” she writes.
Maddy puts on her swimsuit and wishes she had tried it on at the store. It is revealing enough to make her self-conscious. Olly, however, clearly likes how she looks in it.
Creatures found in Hawaii’s coastal waters include the Maddy and the Olly.
With Maddy wearing a life jacket, she and Olly go snorkeling. They see Hawaii’s state fish, the colorful rectangular triggerfish. Olly coaxes Maddy into jumping into the water from a nearby cliff.
A footfirst jump into the ocean from a thirty-foot cliff involves screaming, water up your nose, and the quiet awareness of being just another small creature in the big, wide world.
Olly’s friend Zach arrives. Over lunch, Molly learns that Zach is gay and dreams of being a rock star, but has not yet told his parents either of those things. Olly, meanwhile, has used Zach’s phone to check his email. He shows Maddy a series of emails sent from Maddy’s account by her mother. Maddy’s mother has found out where they are and is on her way. While Olly visits the bathroom, Maddy emails to tell her mother she is OK. When Zach asks about Maddy’s non-approved pills, she admits there are no pills. Zach agrees not to tell Olly.
Maddy and Olly lie down on the Murphy bed together. Olly is nervous, because he has had other relationships but knows that Maddy has not. He tells her that being in love with her is different. “It feels like the first time and the last time and the only time all at once.” She promises him that she knows her own heart. They fall asleep curled up together.
Waking up an hour later, Maddy and Olly get ready to go sit on the beach. Instead, however, they go back inside. Maddy is prepared: she bought condoms at the souvenir shop. All the words in her head have been replaced by just the word “Olly.” They make love.
To be infinite is to not know where one body ends and another begins.
According to the Big Bang theory, in the beginning there was nothing, and a moment later there was everything.
After a late-night dinner, Maddy and Olly walk on the beach. Olly begins to talk about his family. His father hits his mother, but not often enough to cause her to leave. “He always says he’s sorry, and she always believes him.” Olly is disgusted that his mother puts up with the violence, but Maddy thinks to herself that Olly, too, is trapped by memories of better times.
Maddy sleeps and dreams a spiral-shaped dream of running away from home with Olly, forever.
When Maddy runs away, she consciously accepts that by choosing life, she is choosing death. For Maddy, the letter she writes to her mother is a suicide note of sorts. Nothing in the note indicates that Maddy has any intention of coming back, not because she does not want to, but because she doesn't expect to. In every moment of her escape, she is acutely aware of every sensation, bringing everything she has imagined to life. When Olly introduces Maddy to his rooftop sanctuary, she can see that they truly are soulmates. She is the astronaut looking down on life through the glass and he is the architect of the universe, both of them searching for an escape from their worlds.
Maddy feels an emotional and foundational safety with Olly that makes her feel physically safe as well. When Olly agrees to run away with Maddy, he knows it is a huge risk for her, but he also knows how important it is to her. Plus, he has the added incentive of escaping his own life. As Maddy’s newfound existence comes to life, she emerges cautiously into this unfamiliar world trusting Olly to guide her in every way. Although Maddy is out in the world, she remains in a bubble, looking out of the car window at real structures and people that mirror the imaginary world she used to create through the diorama.
The visit with Carla at her home reveals that Carla is more concerned about Maddy’s life than her death. Carla’s relative ease with Maddy being out of the house hints that Carla is not as fixated on Maddy’s frailty as her mother is. Maddy’s mother has always been focused on Maddy’s physical health, while Carla has been more invested in Maddy’s mental wellbeing. Carla herself has been faced with taking a chance to explore a more fulfilling life, and she wholly endorses Maddy’s plan to take a similar risk. Carla aims to protect Maddy, but differently from her mother. Carla’s experience of feeling trapped in a life she would not choose prompts her to push Maddy to live her life the way that she wants to. Even if Carla might think that Maddy is at risk of dying, she does not discourage the adventure. It’s a demonstration of love for Maddy.
Maddy’s experience entering the ocean is a metaphor for her experience of falling in love with Olly, starting as a curiosity and transitioning to a more consuming experience. As she walks through the sand and into the ocean, the sand transitions from soft and dry to sticky before her feet sink into the surging water. Olly’s explanation of the ocean during their first meeting – that it was dangerous and life-threatening – foreshadows the death that Maddy is convinced is impending now that she’s fully experiencing life outside of her controlled environment. She often imagined what life would be like in the outside world, and now that she is experiencing it, she sees that every aspect is more exciting, though more complicated, than she initially imagined.
Maddy and Olly live in the moment, completely focused on each other while recognizing that their universe is forever changed. At this moment, Maddy is no longer an observer and is finally in a place where she does not need to imagine what life would be like if she was not isolated. Although Maddy has every reason to be fearful of what she is doing, she feels safe with Olly and submits to whatever may happen next. Olly has found someone who does not judge him, and Maddy has found someone who does not feel sorry for her. The declaration of their love and the intimacy they share are devoid of any threat of impending doom as they willfully live in the “now.”