Becoming Chloe by Catherine Ryan Hyde
4Q 3P S
Jordy just wants to sleep, but between the throbbing in his head and the grunts of the couple having sex outside, it’s not happening. Who’d want to have sex lying on filthy cold concrete? Then again, he’s only been in the city a few days, and already he’s seen worse. Still... he peeks out the window. There are three more pairs of feet circling the couple on the ground. This isn’t sex. It’s rape. He doesn’t want to call attention to himself, but he can’t ignore the situation. Deepening his voice, he yells, “I called the police!” Will they run or will they come after him? A police siren shrieks nearby. They scatter. The girl calmly picks herself up, looks for her missing shoe, and climbs through the open window into the cellar, her jeans dragging on one leg behind her. All she says is “hi.” “Are you ok?” Jordy asks. “Oh. Me? Yeah. Sure. Sure. I’m fine.” Jordy doesn’t get it. She’s just been raped, but she doesn’t seem to care. Is she loaded? Is she not smart enough to know what just happened? Jordy, meet Chloe. Chloe, meet Jordy.
Jordy can’t figure Chloe out. On the one hand, she’s childlike and seems incapable of understanding even the most basic things. But when the gash on his forehead and the bite in his hand become infected and he’s too sick to move, Chloe somehow has the smarts to get him antibiotics and a doctor who will help him. Jordy wonders how she can be so slow, yet so smart. The doctor can only guess: “Maybe she doesn’t want to understand things she doesn’t think she can change anyhow.” Jordy asks, “So, could she get better? If someone made her feel safe and took care of her?” The doctor replies, “A better question would be, Does she have anybody in her life who cares enough to do all that for her?” Jordy has enough on his plate right now, just trying to survive on his own. And he’s gay, so it’s not like there’s any attraction. But yes. He doesn’t know why, but he cares. He does whatever it takes, including hustling, to care for Chloe and keep them together.
For a while, things are okay. For a while, they’re even pretty good. Maybe that’s the problem. When things are really bad, Chloe coped by understanding as little as possible. But now she’s beginning to feel safe and cared for, and that isn’t working for her anymore. She’s seeing more, understanding too much. Jordy realizes she’s thinking that maybe she no longer wants to live in a world like this. She doesn’t believe it’s a nice place. Jordy tells her he’s not sure if it’s a nice place, but he knows for a fact that it’s beautiful. She doesn’t believe him. He realizes that nobody has ever shown her what a beautiful world it is. She doesn’t even recognize beauty. He makes her promise: if he can convince her that the world is a beautiful place, she’ll promise to stay in it.
This is ultimately a book about hope. It’s about finding the joy and the beauty in life. Not just in the big, obvious things, like climbing to the top of a mountain or seeing the Grand Canyon, but in the little things, like a flying bird, flowers by the side of the road, someone offering a bike or a cold drink of water. Jordy realizes it isn’t just Chloe who needs to understand that. He needs to, too: I look around, breathe, close my eyes... Then I look around at the view again. And I realize that for all the joy we've seen so far, I've allowed it all to remain outside of me. It's always been over there. Look, over there. Some joy just went by. A little more just flew by. And when I realize that, I let it into me. And I become the joy. Just for a split second, I think I do.
Whenever I think about this book, it makes me remember to look for the beauty and find the joy.