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James wakes up in front of the TV. He walks back to his
room. Miles is reading the Bible. Miles thanks him for allowing
him time to himself the previous night. James offers to help however
he can. The job board says that James is in the Family Program.
He goes to breakfast and consumes an awful burrito as if it were
the last thing on earth. Joanne walks James through the basics of
the Family Program. The first step is telling his parents everything
he’s been doing and the extent of it. Daniel, a counselor in the
Family Program, is with them. James’s parents hug him, but he doesn’t
hug back. He tells them everything, starting with when he was ten
years old, including all of the arrests and the charges, and the
skipping bail. His mother and father both cry. Joanne suggests he
leave them alone with Daniel.
Back in Joanne’s office she asks how James feels. He tells
her that he feels as if suicide is the only option, although not
one he’ll pursue. He says that every time he’s near his parents,
he gets angry. Joanne asks if he’s ever been abused. James tells
her that he hasn’t. She asks if James is going to meet Lilly later
that night, and he admits to it. She urges him to not get involved
with Lilly. James leaves Joanne’s office and walks to lunch. He
stares at Lilly and tells himself that she is becoming what he wanted
the Girl with the Arctic Eyes to become: someone who loves him.
James and his parents greet one another briefly before
they all go to meetings in which the addicts mingle with other addicts’
family members. James sits by himself at dinner, and afterward he
struggles to remain calm. He reads the Tao. Back
in Joanne’s office, James and his parents talk about how that morning’s
meeting has affected each of them. James goes first, then his father,
then his mother, who ends up crying uncontrollably.
James goes to his room in a foul mood and pulls off one
of his toenails. The pain calms the Fury. Once he’s gotten this
out of his system, he cleans up and leaves his bedroom. In the lounge,
he sees someone who is vaguely familiar staring him down. James
returns to his room and tells Miles about the shame he feels for
putting his parents in pain. Miles tells him that shame is a necessary
thing and tells him that he is terrified that his wife, who is arriving
next week for the Family Program, will not want him back. James
points him to Leonard and to the Tao.
James goes to meet Lilly. They are about to have sex when
James tells her that he’s never had sex while sober before. Lilly
tells James that she promises him that she won’t hurt or leave him.
James tells her that the last time he tried to have sex was with
the Girl with the Arctic Eyes and that he couldn’t maintain an erection.
Lilly tells him about her mother and how her mother sold her into
prostitution for drugs. Lilly ran away to her grandmother after
four years of this. At school, she got involved with a crack addict.
His friends start using her for sex. There is an unnamed terrible
event, but Lilly won’t speak of it. James holds her as she cries.
The arrival of James’s parents at the facility unhinges
him. He doesn’t want to see them for obvious reasons: he clearly
has not told them a whole lot about his life for the past decade
or so. He also feels uncontrollably angry whenever he sees them.
Joanne is trying to get him to acknowledge some deep childhood hurt,
but he can’t even fathom such a thing. As much as James is overwhelmed
by the Fury when he sees his parents, they are equally overwhelmed
by a completely different set of emotions: guilt, sadness, confusion,
and a sense that they’ve been lied to and deceived for many years.
With his parents’ arrival also comes the opening of several
other previously closed doors. His relationship with Lilly is suddenly
out in the open, despite James and Lilly’s best efforts to keep
it under wraps. Miles, a fine, upstanding citizen, reveals himself
to be no better than James—he is as much an alcoholic and a mess
as any other criminal in the facility. When James tells his parents
the story of his addiction, he is in essence giving himself another
chance at inventory. His first inventory, which occurred against
the backdrop of his possible suicide, had a self-pitying, melancholy
tone to it, but James’s rehashing of his life here assumes an extremely
detached tone, as if he’s merely reciting the facts. In fact, he’s
struggling to keep the Fury at bay and trying to give his parents
as much information as he can, since he feels very clearly that
he’s lied to them for far too long and does not want to continue
this pattern. We are reminded of James’s capability to throw up
bravado as a shield, using it as an effective block to feeling anything.
James also finally tells the full story of the Girl with the Arctic
Eyes, first to his parents and later to Lilly. Of equal importance
is the full disclosure to James’s parents. For the first time James
is forced to hear them and be in a room with them as they all talk
about their emotions and how they feel toward one other. James is
finally able to tell his parents how he feels when he is around
them—that he is angry at them all the time and can hardly stand
to be around them.
Visiting with his parents has brought James closer to
the precipice from which he’s only just begun to retreat. The Fury
comes back each day now, and where, only a short while ago, he could
find calm in himself simply by focusing on the good things in his
life, he now must revert to such ghastly acts as ripping off his
own toenail to make the Fury go away.
This section is a positive turning point for James, however.
He partakes in the Family Program with none of the cynicism that
peppers the first half of the book. When the time comes for him
to hold hands with everyone in the group meeting, he does so without
a single protest. James also voices out loud how awful it is for
him finally to be able to see himself as others see him. He says
that he sees himself as a monster and that he is utterly ashamed
and embarrassed for his parents.
Lilly’s role in James’s life as a replacement addiction
is further cemented in this chapter. The two of them are clearly
feeding each other’s need for another understanding human being.
James and Lilly advance in their relationship as if they are each
terribly inexperienced in matters of love. As much as James saw
the fragility in John, he is now seeing the same in himself—and
Ace your assignments with our guide to A Million Little Pieces!