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There is a new man at breakfast, and James recognizes
him. He is Matty Jackson, former Featherweight Champion of the World,
and he is at the clinic because he is a crack addict. James, Leonard, Matty,
Ed, and Ted sit together during breakfast and at a clinic lecture.
After the lecture James goes to see Joanne and tells her he’s decided
to try to get sober. He says that seeing the Bald Man cry made him
realize what true bravery is.
Ken calls James into his office to ask if he’s given any
more thought to doing whatever it takes to get sober. Despite what
he just said to Joanne, James doesn’t have an answer to this question.
He is still uncertain that he will be successful. Ken gives James
an AA workbook (which looks like a coloring book) and instructs
him to write down a goal on the “goal board” in the unit. He also
tells James that Warren and John are leaving and that he will be
moving into a two-person room. James says his good-byes to Warren
and John. John asks James to look up his estranged daughter and
tell her that he really tried this time. James walks outside, trying
to fight the Fury. When it hits him he attacks a small tree and
rips it to shreds. Lilly comes, stops him, and holds him while he
cries. James’s new roommate is Miles Davis, an older black man,
a clarinet player, and a judge in New Orleans. Miles, James, Matty,
Ed, Ted, and Leonard have lunch together. At lecture James looks
for Lilly and is struck by how he feels when he sees her.
Back in their room, Miles plays the clarinet while James
reads the Tao Te Ching, and James eventually falls
asleep. James wakes up to screaming. It’s Roy, who’s back, claiming
his name is Jack, beating the couch in the lounge with a stick and
threatening to kill anyone who comes near him. After he’s sedated,
James can’t go back to sleep. He makes coffee while the other men
gossip about what happened to Roy. The other men go back to sleep,
and James thinks about the girl in his past. He was so struck by
her that he could only stare at her until she asked him why he stared.
He told her that she was so beautiful that he knew he was falling
James goes outside and sits on a bench at the lake. He
is joined by Leonard, who tells him that he is at the facility because
his mentor, Mikey the Nose, got clean after years of using and asked
Leonard to do the same. Unfortunately, shortly after making this
request, Mikey was killed in a drive-by shooting. Leonard says that
Mikey’s last piece of advice to him was to hold on. At lunch, James
bumps into Lilly and she passes him a note that requests an afternoon
meeting. James goes to the goal board and writes that he wants to
be a Laker Girl. He fills out the AA workbook by writing one word
on each page. He brings the book back to Ken’s office and goes to
his room to read the Tao again. At a unit meeting
with Lincoln, Lincoln tells the men that Roy has multiple-personality
disorder. Lincoln and James go to a meeting in Joanne’s office,
where she confronts James about the coloring book and his goal and
urges him to take the Twelve Step program more seriously. James
reveals that he doesn’t want safety. He wants a test of his will
to be sober.
James goes to the woods to meet Lilly and waits. He falls
asleep until she wakes him and asks if he has a girlfriend. He tells
her about the girl from the past. Lilly tells James that she is
at the facility because of her grandmother. She asks him to tell
her about his girlfriend, but he says it’s too painful. She tells
him to tell her about losing his virginity. He tells her a story
about lying to his parents about having a date to the homecoming
dance, and how he pretended he was going to the dance, when in fact
he was out finding a hooker so he could lose his virginity. Lilly
holds him and kisses him good-bye. Later she calls him to tell him
she misses him. James walks to his room. He stops outside and listens
to Miles playing. He falls asleep thinking of the Tao.
James has obviously turned a corner. He has a steady group
of people that he sits with at every single meal, whereas he previously
ate alone and ate purely to “fill” himself, filling the emptiness
that he feels lurking within him. Now, he refers to his mealtime
companions as “friends” and experiences a level of contentedness
that he doesn’t seem to remember previous to this. There is much
laughing and joking at their table during lunch. James is finding
that the laughter fills him in a way that blindly stuffing himself
with food, or taking drugs, couldn’t. He notes that it feels good
to laugh, an indication that he hasn’t done it in so long that he’s
forgotten what it feels like.
James is also finding other ways to deal with his situation. Although
he still feels helpless at times, he’s finding that concentrating
on the things that make him feel good—staring at Lilly, laughing,
listening to Miles play his clarinet, or even just reading the Tao—help
each day go by a little easier. He makes it a point to actively
seek out Joanne and let her know that he is intent on trying to
remain sober. During his conversation with Joanne, James is much
more amenable to trying her suggestions—“Try it. Be vulnerable,”
she tells him—than in previous conversations. James also discovers
a maturity level in himself that previously didn’t exist and helps
him to cope. Here he is filled with enough confidence and compassion
to impart some wisdom to John, who is terrified of leaving. James
sits on the bed with him and holds his hand and hugs him. In front
of him James sees a boy, not a man. And yet, when John cries, James
tells him that he sees a level of strength and bravery in the very ability
to cry and release his feelings.
James and John again serve as foils to each other later,
in the woods, when James finds a tree to destroy. As Lilly is comforting him,
James begins to realize that what he’s been destroying all these years
is not other people’s lives, but his own existence. Like John, he also
sees in himself a fragile boy, and he lets himself weep and cry
in front of Lilly, who evokes in him all of the vulnerability he’s
been afraid to outwardly show. When James meets Miles for the first time,
he notes that Miles is “immediately a friend,” which he sees as being
odd, given that James doesn’t get along well with judges and other
authority figures. Perhaps this is more an indication of James’s growing
willingness to be vulnerable enough to let people be friends right
off the bat, instead of being instantly wary of them. Roy reappears
in the facility at a remarkably opportune time for James’s growth.
There is a mild feeling of detached redemption in James as he watches
Roy screaming—Roy is far worse off than James ever will be—but there
is also a sense of sad awareness, that each one of the men in the
unit might possibly become Roy, crazed and wielding a stick and
threatening to kill.
Lilly’s involvement in James’s life occurs at about the
same time that the reader is learning more about the girl James
met in college. This timing places Lilly head to head with the girl
from the past. They both have blue eyes, but James notes that Lilly’s
eyes are like water, whereas the other girl’s eyes are like the
Arctic. We still don’t know the other girl’s name. Lilly’s having
a name makes her more real, more touchable. Also, as James describes
the scars on her forearms and the plastic watch that she wears and
the fact that her clothes hang far too big on her, we are able to
create a very real picture of Lilly, whereas we only have vague
impressions and emotions about the girl at school. In fact, James’s
reactions to the two girls are nearly at opposite ends of the spectrum.
Whereas the Girl with the Arctic Eyes makes James completely forget
about the rest of the world, Lilly’s presence in his life is nothing
but sheer reality. In some ways, James has neatly exchanged his
drugs of choice for Lilly. She, in essence, is another addiction.
James’s reluctance to accept the Twelve Step program is
further underscored by his discovery of the Tao.
He is more interested in these simple directions on how to live
a normal life than he is in directions on how to live life as a
recovering addict and alcoholic. Leonard’s lesson to “hold on” appeals
to James in exactly this same vein. The concept of tightly focusing
in on such a simple detail is very attractive to James, who is frenetic
and constantly moving. Both the Tao and Leonard’s
advice help him to focus on simply getting better. Although James
is still rebelling in small ways (he writes across the coloring
book that he doesn’t need the book to know he’s out of control),
his rebellions are less about fighting life and more about fighting
for the way he wants to live. It’s a small difference, but significant.
Ace your assignments with our guide to A Million Little Pieces!