Title: Margin Writing
Rating: M, for innuendos and language
Date Started: 2-16-07
Date Finished: 3-23-08
Disclaimer I don't own Gilmore Girls, or anything written by Emily Bronte, although I wish I had her brilliance.
Summary: She'd always been terrified that sex would be just another thing she wouldn't get to experience, a language that she wouldn't be able to decode. He wanted to be her dictionary.
A/N: This piece is somewhat autobiographical. I read WH at the age of thirteen and it's something that I could imagine Jess doing out of curiosity, since it is in his nature. Just something I came up with. Reviews would be greatly appreciated.
When he was thirteen he tried to read Wuthering Heights. He'd seen a weather worn, leather bound copy in the Rare Books Room at the New York Library, the author listed under Ellis Bell. It was a strange, old-fashioned name, and one he'd never heard of. He did a search on the library's computer only to find out that it was, in fact, a pen name. The real author being someone more familiar that he had encountered before in his literary adventures, the sister from the family of writers, Emily Bronte.
Jess decided to forgo the library itself, which was bound to have many copies, and purchase one for himself. This was something he had fallen custom to. He didn't like his books sealed in plastic.
It only cost him fifty cents at a used bookstore four blocks from his apartment. The cover depicted a dark, rolling landscape of wetness and bluish fervor. He found it oddly compelling. Jess had never read of a place with that kind of desolate, uninhabited, wind channeled, stone-ish green gray landscape. He later learned a name for the Yorkshire backdrop that had been used by Bronte as a mood-like inspiration: The Moors.
Initially he felt severe confusion with the writing itself. In years past he had snubbed the classics in favor of more fast-paced contemporary novels and the old English vernacular baffled him with it's nettles and abstracting one's mind and all other sorts of proper rubbish. He took a pen to the pages to underline these words, the ones he didn't understand, and looked them up as he read, creating a mental list of his expanding vocabulary. As the story progressed he began to write more than just markings for phrases that conquered his perception, but thoughts as well. The more he read the more strongly he felt. Heathcliff, Catherine, Isabella, Edgar, Nelly, they were all tools in cloths covering. The plot left much to be desired by Jess who, throughout the course of the story, felt compelled to deeply despise Catherine's character.
Certain passages stood out to him more distinctly than others, one of those being Catherine's stay with the Linton's and her metamorphosis and eventual abandonment of Heathcliff. Jess found it odd that many people found Heathcliff evil. Wasn't Catherine the one to dislike? After all, she married a man with wealth and a dandy disposition when there was another—someone closer to her—that loved her deeply. Love being Heathcliff's main redeeming quality. In the margins of the yellowed paper back Jess scribbled heatedly. Why, he repeated the thoughts of his mind, why do people behave so stupidly?
He found the ending realistic. Heathcliff's jealousy and revenge made him human, an unhappy ending worthy of its dramatic foundations. United in death and future generations, Catherine's daughter and Heathcliff's son eventually married. Jess chalked the novel up to a string of hopeful tragedy.
When Jess was seventeen, he re-read Howl for the fortieth time.
He'd grown much better at writing by then. He no longer underlined words that he didn't understand but ones that he liked, phrases that caught his attention. His thoughts about literature had taken on a more experienced viewpoint; he found it easier to understand the psychology of imaginary people and how they behaved.
She'd been surprised with his subtle acknowledgement of their overlapping tastes. Years later he would come to realize that if it hadn't been for that pocket-sized volume their relationship would have played out quite differently.
The more he was around her the more he wanted to know. She was like a good book, easily opened and indefinably interesting.
He was burning to spell it out for her, to write his desires along the inside of her thighs, the sweet curve of her neck, the untouched expanse of her back. She was like a cloaked exclamation mark, one of those sheltered small town girls that were dying to feel life beyond syntax. She'd always been terrified that sex would be just another thing she wouldn't get to experience, a language that she wouldn't be able to decode.
He wanted to be her dictionary.
It's simple really, he'd tell her, you spell out what you're looking for. Open up, I'll show you what to do; I'll show you how to get what you want.
He'd be her Spark Notes, the teenage lexicon of fucking. Let me write in your margins.
He wrote her lists of words that he liked. When she asked to see all of them, to see his notebook penned with swooping cursive and cramped definitions, he didn't hesitate to hand it over. He knew it was the kind of neurotic thing that she probably did herself.
Jess had never been able to understand Rory's freakish organizational skills. She put her notes behind one tab and her worksheets behind another while her homework went in a different spot from all her tests and quizzes. She had a portable hole puncher and her own pencil sharpener and three different kinds of pens. Her preference towards variety made itself apparent early on in their undefined relationship.
"Bivouac," that one made her giggle. "Hypotenuse, intermezzo, drub, sortie, zenith . . . "
"People should bring these up more in conversation."
He tore his eyes away from a copy of Jane Eyre that she had on her nightstand, closed, but marked.
He lay on her bedroom floor with his ankles crossed toward the dresser. She rested next to him but faced the opposite direction. Only their arms touched now and again.
She was burning to turn on her side and get a good look at him, but there was an unspoken rule that hung above their heads like a sheen of protection. A translucent membrane that distorted her rational and made her slippery like a dissolving liquid. She wanted to know what he knew. Her age held her in ignorance.
She wanted to comb through the thick waves of his hair. Touch me look at me. I want, I want, I want, tell me that I'm not supposed to want. She was so inexperienced she didn't know how to ask. Maybe one day he'd ask for her.
He refused to play the Romeo to her Rosalind or the Heathcliff to her Catherine. He wasn't the type of boy to simper and follow a girl around, dejected and begging. Real love stories didn't work like that. He was old enough to understand that sometimes books had a tendency to lie.
It was beginning to dawn on her, all the paper-fed bullshit that his presence had begun to cancel out. He brought her close to reality, skimming its edges with the words he wrote inside the covers of her books.
She had already grown tired of Dean and her anxious shot at perfection. Initially, her feelings for him were an extension of flattery. For years Rory had felt like a human sub-species. Until the age of sixteen she'd felt separate from girls and blatantly ignored by boys; when Dean had pursued her affections she had finally felt legitimized. The root of her fear, that there was something deeply wrong with her and that some day she would be found out, was now abolished. There wasn't anything wrong with her, she was normal.
But the idea that Jess would be interested in her seemed unimaginable. She was nothing compared to the girls she knew he had been with before his arrival in Stars Hollow. Rory could see it in the way he looked at her and at everything around him. His intense gaze unnerved her confidence. She got the realistic impression that he knew everything she was hiding, including the parts that were concealed beneath her clothes. He had done more, lived more, than she would ever be allowed. When she thought of Jess she felt an innate curiosity and the silken dregs of jealousy. She hated him for understanding things that she would never get to experience, but she wanted him regardless.
And there it was, the big, terrible secret that she was only brave enough to write about. The guilty fantasies of a bastard daughter penned almost prudishly in her journal. What she'd never tell Lorelai, her own contempt for her self-inflicted loneliness.
She just wanted to be touched. By him, of him, beneath him. The weight of her status had never felt so deeply and impairingly heavy.
In the sticky sweet humidity of the early summer months, Rory was experiencing a strong surge of tunnel vision. Seven days ago she had cut the lines of her support, mainly, Dean. Lorelai hadn't been all that surprised, but Rory could still feel the few shivers of disappointment that her mother worked very hard to conceal. It was obvious to everyone, her mother especially, what her new freedom would mean. She had made her decision months before; in fact, it had been almost a year. She wanted Jess, she was going to have him, and she would do so shamelessly.
He'd gotten the note perhaps a day after he'd heard of her breakup with Dean. The actions came in a swift, almost simultaneous correlation. Part of him expected to be ignored while another more realistic part of his conscience knew what she was doing, the part that could read her like a novel outline. There was no return address on the envelope and the note itself was short, Spartan in its use of words.
Upon first inspection he thought the page to be blank, but midway down the lined paper he saw the neat little collection of words: Catherine is dead.
Catherine died too late.
It was her fault; she was mature enough to admit the truth to herself. It had taken her over a year to realize what she already knew, that Jess wouldn't take her actions lying down, that she would never be able to have safety and intellect at once, that she had been kidding herself with her empty promises.
Three days. Three long, uneventful days in which she did nothing save flipping through books she couldn't concentrate on. The heat pressed down on her like a muffled blanket, summer and the quiet whizzing of her brain as it cooled from the strenuous workload that she no longer had to accommodate. Chilton was over and college seemed far, far away in autumn, eons from where she stood.
She'd found a book on her window seal, the glass pane propped up from the wooden ledge with a hardback copy of Wuthering Heights. It looked new, and would have been considered such in most circles, but when she flipped the front cover open Rory saw that it's pages had been embellished with stereotypical Jess-like obsession.
On the cream colored inside cover he'd scrawled a note in his loopy script, the pitch ink smudged in some places where he had written it in a great hurry.
This is my big gesture. Actually, it's more like a buffet for the painful gesture that you're about to discover, and I just wanted you to have this. In a few minutes you're going to feel tricked and deceived and you may resolve to forget me completely so I thought it'd be nice to leave you with something to read, you know, so you wouldn't get bored.
I'm leaving, but you probably already guessed that. You're going to want an explanation—and you deserve one—but I think we both know why I'm doing this. If I'm right, which I know I am, we will see each other again. Don't think of this as abandonment. I'm grasping at straws here Rory, you know me, you know what I'm trying to say.
I will write you again, that is, if you want me to.
PS: We won't mourn her loss.
She inspected the margins of the book only to find his list of words. Comments were scribbled between lines of text; tinny sketches of the Moorish landscape adorned the lower margins of various passages. On the last page he'd left her a critical character analysis of both Heathcliff and Catherine. It was all addressed to her, every note or mark written in first person.
Every You and I felt like a cancerous string of connection. In the dichotomy of her misery Rory relished in this connection, her attachment to him and his words, and despised it. Jess leaving her was another example of the undeniable anti-climax that she ensued in men. Every time she thought of herself with someone else, in a relationship or otherwise, she blanched, frowned, pushed the thoughts away. It was ridiculous that anyone would want her, really want her. Dean's intentions had been to own her, not treat her as an equal partner. And Jess, the boy she had almost set her hopes on, he had fooled her into thinking somewhat normally about herself. So there it was, the truth that no book would ever explain to her. Love was nothing more than deception.
And so she went to Europe. She bantered with her mother and went shopping in Milan and threw a few coins into the Rein River for good luck. She rushed through an entire continent and rushed on to Yale and focused, on nothing, on the future, all of it so she wouldn't have to bother with the present.
And the letters came. From Jess, pages of what he was doing in California, the explanation that he had promised her, written like an atonement to a serious crime. The things he wrote made her feel small and weepy. Her replies were always shy and disjointed, like she was unsure of how to express herself. With thousands of miles between them it was easy for her to privately admit that she was in love with him. Distance was like protection for her feelings. On paper she wasn't granted this honesty.
Autumn had always been her preferred season. She loved crisp apples and freshly sharpened pencils with golden leaves crunching beneath her shoes. The cool weather gave Rory the company of books and sweaters and coffee, none of it sustained her completely, but it gave her the feeling of being at home.
The altered seasons served as a time-marker, a reminder of the extending weeks between letters. She felt a little helpless when it came to Jess; she was used to being in control of things and following a straight order. But Jess was the anti-thesis of order and the only one in control: of her feelings, of their relationship, of what she wanted. He had always been too much of his own person to give into her completely.
In one such letter she'd asked the unwritten only to neatly cross it out, discredited with a thin, inky line through her question. She was afraid to actually receive a reply but still inevitably curious. The sentence wasn't blotted out. She'd left it fairly visible, it's contents negated almost coyly.
In ballpoint pen, scrawled on notebook paper, she had asked: When will you be home?
It was snowing, lightly, gray and colorless in the early evening. Her door had been unlocked, a sign that he'd regarded as positive, even if only slightly.
Rory's meager dorm room was small but cheerful, quite similar to how he'd imagined it from her letters. She wasn't home, but he'd expected that. It was only four o'clock, early by his nocturnal standards.
He didn't want to sit on her couch in case . . . well, in case she didn't want him there. It was mid-November and they hadn't seen each other since early June. The light filtering through the windows was dying. The doorknob turned.
Her books fell onto the floor, Chaucer, Kafka, Tolstoy, all her favorites spread over the carpet in surprise. She didn't look at them. Her expression was unbelieving.
He used his shoulders to push off the wall, approaching her carefully. Just standing, sizing each other up, hanging on pretence. The air was thicker than the snow on her window ledge.
A/N: If anyone is interested in seeing this as a two-parter just leave me a review. I'd really appreciate the feedback.