Now there’s that existential dread I was missing in the last episode! Anna and Maya confront the infinite in an empty stadium, one of the most uncanny places to be in suburbia. Have you ever been in an empty stadium at night? It’s so creepy. It’s a place that only makes sense in use, and even then there’s something weird about the spectacle of it all. The space is designed for maximum capacity, so to see it empty is almost ontologically disturbing. And yet all the parallel and perpendicular lines are very soothing. The video for Beach House’s “Wishes” by Eric Wareheim is my favorite magical realist stadium moment, and this episode is now my second fave.
Anna and Maya volunteer at a 24-hour walk for cancer with her UU church. I guess getting more involved in the Unitarian church is Kathy’s idea of an acceptable replacement for the therapy her daughter so desperately needs. Fine! It’s something.
Anna drags Maya along for these church functions, and Steve hovers on the edges. He still seems mostly sweet, but Derick has revealed himself to be an utter chode. He bails on Maya via beeper message, seems to be screening her calls, and hangs up on Maya when she calls from Anna’s phone. Garbage fellow.
Okay, a brief detour about the beeper. 1) Funny. 2) Maya looks at the beeper and knows that “D’s not coming.” Does that mean it’s a beeper with text display or has Maya had to learn a whole numerical code? I never had a pager nor knew anyone who had one, so I have no idea where the tech was at the time. 3) What’s Steve’s financial situation? He has a cater waiter job, lives with his single mom, yet has a beeper? Confusing.
Steve and Derrick beg off attending the Walk for Cancer because they already made sacrosanct bowling plans. An unbreakable bowling vow, as it were. Anna is gutted that her boyfriend won’t be attending, but Maya is not so secretly stoked. “Me and you time, and people with cancer. It’ll be fun,” she says.
Balancing the needs of your first boyfriend and your established friendships, yeesh. Some women can’t stick the landing well into adulthood. Our society puts such a premium on romantic love. Girls are encouraged to jettison everything they once were in favor of who their bf wants them to be: old friends, school, hobbies. All fall to the boyfriend’s gaping need. Anna is doing a better job than many, which only speaks to how much she subsumes her needs for those of others. She can’t let anyone down, and thank God that includes Maya. Anna is a saint of perpetual obligation.
The girls aren’t giving the Walk for Cancer the gravity it maybe deserves. Their boy stuff and friend stuff take precedence over the heartfelt testimonials of the adults. Their volunteer shirts have been embellished by Maya — a classic move of oblivious teen girls, as documented in Rax King’s Tacky. Also seeming not to care are two boys, who invite the girls back to their tent.
One of the boys pressures Anna (and to a lesser extent Maya) to kiss his friend. He is incredibly pushy, eventually weaponizing his friend’s cancer diagnosis to obtain a kiss on the cheek from both girls. Vivid Brandt flashbacks, but this “three-way” is tinged with the specter of death. But aren’t they all?
The girls are shook — first by the coercion in the tent, and then by the boy with cancer’s sister, who is ready to beat ass. She thinks they made fun of her brother, and the energy is rancid. After the confrontation, Maya and Anna slowly realize that many of the people walking around this track may have cancer, and it’s a real trip.
But before the girls can contemplate the infinite, they have to deal with that most quotidian of concerns: boys. Derrick and Steve crash the cancer walk, bringing a water bottle one-quarter full of vodka and a whole lot of bullshit. Derrick weighs in on menstruation, a topic we all could have gone our entire lives without his thoughts on. Apparently, Anna is gross because she’s still never gotten her period. But Maya is also gross because she could be bleeding at any time. Derrick also calls Maya “Lucy Liu,” so it’s the guillotine for him.
Meanwhile, Steve has learned a new trick: asking “Are you mad at me?” approximately every two minutes. A classic. Anna feigns sleep rather than having to explain that she’s not really mad at Steve anymore; she’s just so full of feelings that having to manage his is just too much to handle. The couples go to sleep — Steve leaving room for Jesus as he spoons with Anna and Derrick loudly proclaiming that his dick is poking Maya in the back. The girls wake up and enter the magical realism of a stadium at night.
It’s humbling to realize that other people have stuff going on, like, all the time. The luminary circle is, for Anna and Maya, the equivalent of Sartre’s chestnut tree. In Nausea, the protagonist sees the root of this tree and realizes that it exists. Any categories/labels of “tree,” “root,” or “brown” we put on it only obfuscate its existence as a Thing in the World. Likewise, the bullhorn guy’s speech about cancer is mostly about the words we use to obfuscate the disease. But everyone in that circle — alive or dead, cancer-free or sick — exists. They are animals, who will die one day, and in the meantime, are just doing their best.