Being told that, categorically, he knows what he’s talking about and she doesn’t, however minor a part of any given conversation, perpetuates the ugliness of this world and holds back its light. After my book Wanderlust came out in 2000, I found myself better able to resist being bullied out of my own perceptions and interpretations. On two occasions around that time, I objected to the behavior of a man, only to be told that the incidents hadn’t happened at all as I said, that I was subjective, delusional, overwrought, dishonest–in a nutshell, female.
Later, Esther sits in the park, comparing a picture of herself to a newspaper picture of a starlet who has just died after lingering in a coma. She thinks they look the same and imagines that if the starlet’s eyes were open, as hers are, they would have the same “dead, black, vacant expression” as her own. She decides to sit on the park bench for five more minutes, and then go and kill herself. She listens to her “little chorus of voices,” which repeats critical remarks that people such as Buddy and Jay Cee have made to her. That morning, she had tried to slit her wrists, but could not bring herself to harm the fragile skin of her wrist and practiced on her calf instead. After failing to slit her wrists, she took a bus to Deer Island Prison, near her childhood home. She talked with a guard and imagined that if she had met him earlier and married him, she could have been living happily with children. She went to the beach and again considered slitting her wrists, but realized she did not have a warm bath to sit in afterward. She sat on the beach until a small boy told her she should move because the tide was coming in. She considered letting herself drown, but when she put her foot in the water, she could not bear its frigid temperature, and went home.