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An angry Lilly comes to James’s room in the middle of
the night. She is convinced that James has been speaking to someone
who said horrible things about her and that hearing those things
has frightened him away. She says that if it turned out that he
didn’t want her anymore, she would panhandle or otherwise find money
for a bus ticket back to Chicago, say good-bye to her grandmother,
and then commit suicide by overdosing. James reassures her that
he’ll never leave her. James tells Lilly about his parents and that
he loves her. Back in the unit, Leonard tells James that family
is the most important thing anyone can have. James goes back to
his room and spends some time looking himself in the eyes.
James finally places the man he cannot remember. It’s
the same guy who threatened him on James’s first day. The guy tells
stories about Lilly having sex with numerous men at one time, for
the most part against her will. James controls himself for a time
but then tells the man to back off. He ends up hurting the man by
squeezing his Adam’s apple. There is another blow yet to come: James’s
parents tell him they have to leave the Family Program early because
of his father’s business obligations. James is angry, but he controls
it. They talk about James’s plans for after he gets out of the clinic.
James says he’s not planning on following the Twelve Step program
but that he’s going to make the decision every day not to use and
drink. Joanne, once again, explains to him that he is almost destined
to fail if he chooses this route. James tells his family that he
is going to be living with Lilly when she gets out of the Chicago
halfway house and he gets out of prison. James’s parents leave the
At lunch James and his friends talk about the forthcoming
heavyweight fight. They want to watch it but can’t because it’s
on cable. Lilly has left a phone message for James to call her.
Her grandmother has cancer. She says she needs to see James. James
takes the risk and goes to meet her. Lilly and James get caught
by Lincoln, who escorts Lilly back to her unit and tells James to
stay in his room until he comes for him. James begins to realize
that they could both get kicked out of the clinic when they need
it the most. Lincoln and James have a conference. Lincoln tells
James that Joanne intervened and that James gets to stay as long
as he sticks strictly to the rules. James is relieved but finds
out that Lilly suddenly left the clinic when she heard she wasn’t
going to be able to see James anymore. James remembers their conversation
about suicide and runs out of the clinic to find her. He takes the Tao with
him. Hank and Lincoln intercept him in the van. The three of them
drive to the Minneapolis bus station, where James hears of Lilly’s
whereabouts from a drug dealer. He finds her in a boarded-up building
among a number of users and drugs, having sex with a man for crack
she’s obviously already smoked. He brings her back to the van, and
they all go back to the clinic. Lincoln takes her to the medical
unit for detox.
This section marks the climax of the story, and we see
James facing some of his greatest challenges. First, James successfully
battles the Fury. He comes to grips with the fact that his parents’
presence causes the Fury to return. His parents’ unexpected departure
from the Family Program is a test—after his realization that the
Fury is exacerbated by their presence, James is surprised to see
that it can also be brought on by his parents’ leaving. However,
he quells the Fury by thinking of it in perspective of what they’ve
all been through. The Fury comes again when James hears the man
he cannot place talking poorly about Lilly. The Fury is worse than
it’s ever been at the clinic, but James can now control it and realizes
that it’s at full strength because someone he loves is being debased.
He takes a lesson from the Tao and lets the man
off easily by remembering that an enemy is only an enemy if you
let that person be one. For the first time, James feels settled
and that he’s done the right thing to avoid an ugly situation. The
Fury also arises when James comes face to face with drugs for the
first time since his arrival at the clinic. He finds that his need
to save Lilly is overpowering. This need transcends any other one
to abuse drugs or to drink.
Lilly and James’s roles are reversed in this chapter.
When they first speak after their initial encounter, James is ripping
apart a tree and needs to be comforted. This time, as Lilly is distraught,
James uses the same technique on her that she did on him: holding
her tight and whispering, “Okay, okay, okay.” They are effectively
each other’s addictions at this point, and this is underscored by
the very tense scene during which James is holding Lilly and trying
to keep her from fighting him. He has her in his arms and he feels
her crack pipe and the bag of drugs against his chest. He badly
wants to use it, but he clutches Lilly until the urge goes away.
Fortunately, James has found that his addiction to Lilly is now
stronger than his other addictions.
The relationship is also slightly unbalanced. When Lilly
comes to James crying, his instinctual reaction is that he promised himself that
he would be there for her no matter what happened, not that he has
promised Lilly that he’d be there for her no matter what. It’s very clear
that Lilly is not on the same level as James with regards to his commitment
to recovery. They are clearly at different stages in their recovery.
First and foremost, James’s mind is on staying at the clinic and
making a full recover. Lilly’s mind, however, is on the fact that she
will not be able to function without James. At this point the reader
can safely infer that James is not only addicted to Lilly but addicted
to the concept of being needed. He is fully ensconced in the role
of nurturer and caretaker.
The talk of the fight on TV allows James to see how badly
he and the other men in the unit crave normalcy. Where men “in the
outside world” might crave a little bit of excitement in their lives,
James and his friends do nothing but “dream of normalcy.” This thought
is a clear indication that James is at least far enough along that
he can actually process the idea of normalcy—it’s previously been
too foreign for him to even grasp.
Ace your assignments with our guide to A Million Little Pieces!