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Shopgirl by Steve Martin

– As she sits in a booth and checks the amplifiers for Jeremy’s signature stencil, it never occurs to Mirabelle to observe herself, and thus she is spared the image of a shy girl sitting alone in a bar on a Saturday night. A girl who is willing to give every ounce of herself to someone, who could never betray her lover, who never suspects maliciousness of anyone, and whose sexuality sleeps in her, waiting to be stirred.

– … Mirabelle regaled them with the Jeremy story. … But when she went home that night, she wondered if she had betrayed Jeremy just a little, as something in her believed that he would not have told about their exploits over lunch with the guys. This little thought was a tiny foundation for Jeremy’s tiny redemption, and it made part of her like him, if only just a little bit.

– At thirty-two, Lisa does not know about forty, and she is unprepared for the time when she will actually have to know something in order to have people listen to her. Her penalty is that the men she attracts with her current package see her only from a primitive part of their brains, the childish part that likes shiny objects that make noise when rattled.

– To Mirabelle, the idea of being an object of obsession is alluring and represents a powerful love. She fails to understand, however, that men become obsessive over beautiful women because they want no one else to have them, but they fall in love with women like Mirabelle because they want a certain, specific part of them.

– Mirabelle forgets all about Lisa’s complicated instructions and simply asks Mr. Ray Porter who he is. He tells her he lives in Seattle, but has a place in Los Angeles because he does business here. She asks if he is married and he says he is four years divorced. She asks if he has children and he says no. The question she does not ask, but is formost in her mind, is “why me?”

– His interest in Mirabelle comes from the part of him that still believes he can have her without obligation. He believes he can exist with her from eight to eleven and enter a private and personal world that they will create that will cease to exist in the off hours or off days. He believes that this world will be independent of other worlds he might create on another night, in another place, and he has no intention of allowing it to affect his true quest for a mate. He believes that in this affair, what is given back and forth will be exactly even, and that they will both see the benefits they are receiving. But because he picked Mirabelle out by sight alone, he fails to see that her fragility, which he smelled and sensed and is lured by, runs deep in her heart and is part of her nature, and cannot be separated out for him to fuck.

– She is pleased that she had been her best self, that she had entered a new world and had been comfortable in it. She had given something back to the person who took her out. She had made jokes, she had been wry, she had been pretty for him. She had turned him on. She had listened. And in return, he had put his hand on the small of her bad and paid for her parking and bought her dinner. To Mirabelle this exchange seems fair and good, and next time, if he asks, she will kiss him.

– ” . . . just remember, darling, it is pain that changes our lives.” Mirabelle cannot fathom the meaning of this sentence, as she has been in pain her whole life, and yet it remains unchanged.

– Lisa Cramer’s body is good enough for any man or woman on this planet, but it is not good enough for Lisa Cramer.

– “I think I should tell you a few things. I don’t think I’m ready for a real relationship right now.” He says this not to Mirabelle but to the air, as though he is just discovering a truth about himself and accidentally speaking it aloud.

Mirabelle answers, “You had a rough time with your divorce.”

Understanding. For Ray Porter, that is good. She absolutely knows that this will never be long term. He goes on: “But I love seeing you and I want to keep seeing you.”

“I do too,” says Mirabelle. Mirabelle believes he has told her that he is bordering on falling in love with her, and Ray believes she understands that he isn’t going to be anybody’s boyfriend.

“I’m traveling too much right now,” he says. In this sentence, he serves notice that he would like to come into town, sleep with her, and leave. Mirabelle believes that he is expressing frustration at having to leave town and that he is trying to cut down on traveling.

“So what I’m saying is that we should be allowed to keep our options open, if that’s okay with you.”

At this point, Ray believes he has told her that in spite of what could be about to happen tonight, they are still going to see other people. Mirabelle believes that after he cuts down on his traveling, they will see if they should get married or just go steady.

So now they have had the Conversation. What neither of them understands is that these conversations are meaningless. They are meaningless to the sayer and they are meaningless to the hearer. The sayer believes they are heard, and the hearer believes they are never said. Men, women, dogs, and cats, these words are never heard.

– Jeremy has never, ever been asked such a question. He has always been told what he would be paid. He can’t even fill out an employment form that asks “desired salary” as it confounds him: he always wants to write down one million dollars.

-Although he does not know it, Ray Porter fucks Mirabelle so he can be close to someone. He finds it difficult to hold her hand; he cannot stop in the street and spontaneously hug her, but his intercourse with her puts him in proximity to her. It presses his flesh against hers and his body mistakes her flesh for mind. Mirabelle, on the other hand, is laying down her life for him. Every time she jackknifes her legs open, every time she rolls on her side and pulls her knees up so he can enter her, she sacrifices a bit of herself, she gives him a little more of her that he cannot return. Ray, not understanding that what he is taking for her is torn from her, believes that the arrangement is fair. He has begun to buy her small gifts. He is always thoughtful toward her, and never presses her if she isn’t in the mood. He mistakes his actions for kindness. Mirabelle is not sophisticated enough to understand what is happening to her, and Ray Porter is not sophisticated enough to know what he is doing to her. She is falling in love, and she fully expects her love to be returned once Mr. Porter comes to his senses. But right now, he is using the hours with her as a portal to his own need for propinquity.

– … Ray is actually looking for someone. But he needs to be killed off several times by getting in too deep with the wrong person; he needs to break a heart and know that he has caused it, and to experience the sudden loss of interest that can occur without hours of a high peak of desire. At this point in his transition from boy to man, he does not know the difference between a woman who is feasible and one who is not. This is still to come.

– Catherine and Dan have been married for thirty-five years, and the stoic construct of their relationship has been broken only once, when Dan revealed his seven-year affair with a neighbor. Catherine collapsed, then fought, then resurrected the marriage with a quiet power and sophistication that she has not shown at any other time in her life or has ever shown again. The one who was broken, who did not recover, who did not understand, and who saw the image of her father crack and shatter, was Mirabelle. Mirabelle did not know how to rebound from this betrayal, and Dan did not know that while he was cheating on his wife, he was cheating on his daughter, too. But she still needed to be loved by this man who had committed the unspeakable, and the push/pull she felt toward her father confused and stunted her.

– But whatever his thought process was, whatever he told himself was the right thing to do, was false. Because his logic is not based in any understanding of her heart, and he continues to misread her.

– Mirabelle’s mom and dad know that she is seeing someone named Ray Porter, but they pretend their daughter’s relationship is somehow chaste. This of course requires incredible manipulations of reality and enormous blocks and blind spots. Mirabelle, to her mother and father, is simply not sleeping with anyone.

– “I think for a lie to be effective, it must have three essential qualities.”

The booming voices of the men fade and the trebles of the women trail off. Ray Porter quietly worries inside.

“And what are those?” says a voice.

“First, it must be partially true. Second, it must make the hearer feel sorry for you, and third, it must be embarrassing to tell,” says Mirabelle.

“Go on,” the room implies.

“It must be partially true to be believable. IF you arouse sympathy you’re much more likely to get what you want, and if it’s embarrassing to tell, you’re less likely to be questioned.”

– Mirabelle no longer knows what she believes about her relationship with Mr. Ray Porter. She no longer asks herself questions about it; she simply resides in it.

– Although he is the same person, this new Jeremy has nothing to do with the old Jeremy. It would take three Old Jeremys to trade in for one New Jeremy, as the New Jeremy is the sleeker, better model, with many desirable features.

– The answer is awful, and Ray doesn’t say it. He doesn’t say anything at all, just sits next to her. Mirabelle’s mind blackens. The blackness is not a thought, but if it could be pressed into a thought, if a chemical from a dropper could be dripped onto it causing its color and essence to become visible, it would take the shape of this sentence: Why does no one want me?

He pulls her into him, her forehead on his shoulder. He knows that he loves her, but he cannot figure out in what way.

So she sits there, her short fingernails digging into him, trying to hold on to something that will keep her together, that will keep her from flying apart in all directions. AS she clutches him, she feels herself sinking into a cold dark sea and there seems not way out of it, ever. The proximity of the man she has identified as her salvation makes it worse. He takes her to the bed and she lies face down on the covers and he rests his hand on the small of her back, occasionally stroking her. He tells her that she is beautiful, but Mirabelle cannot align this thought with his rejection of her.

– She stands there for the rest of the day, again stunned by an inexplicable world, her movements limited to those that her body has memorized.

– Ray and Mirabelle’s relationship does not collapse that day; it subtly dwindles over the next sit months. There are fits and starts, but they can all be graphed on a downward slope.

– She summarizes and explains this event to herself not by saying that she is again unwanted, but that she has learned something about her decisions. She has learned that her body is precious and it mustn’t be offered carelessly ever again, as it holds a direct connection to her heart. She sheathes herself in a protective envelope of caution and learns never to give away more than is being given to her. The mini-disaster of this brief romance accomplishes something else too: Mirabelle is able to shift her anger from Ray to Carlo, and Ray is then able to become a friend.

– Occasionally, Mirabelle’s image floats into his consciousness and hangs there. The image he sees is not from his early pathetic dates with her but from his encounter with her in the parking lot on the night of the art party. Because not until then had he matured enough to recognize her as something beautiful and something worth holding as an object of real desire.

– Mirabelle takes months to accept Jeremy, and Jeremy patiently waits. And as he stands by, his feelings for Mirabelle grow.

– Whatever it is, she is the perfect recipient of his attention, and he is the perfect recipient of her tenderness. Unlike Ray Porter, his love is fearless and without reservation. As Jeremy offers her more of his heart, she offers equal part of herself in return.

– Their union is the kind of perfect mismatch that makes for long relationships. She is smarter than he is, but Jeremy is in love with his own bright ideas, and the enthusiasm he shows for them infects Mirabelle and pushes her forward into the world of drawing for money. She begins to enjoy tolerating his enthusiastic outbursts; this is her gift to him. Sometimes they lie in bed and Mirabelle relates the entire plot of a Victorian novel, and Jeremy is so captivated and engrossed that he believes the evens in the story are happening right now, to him.

– He sees, finally, that as much as he believed he was imposing his will on her, she was also imposing her need on him, and their two dispositions interlocked. And the consequence was a mutual education.

– One night, he will think of her as he looks into the eyes of someone new, searching for the two qualities that Mirabelle defined for him: loyalty and acceptance. Mirabelle, far away and in Jeremy’s embrace, knows that what had been lost is now regained.


Written by tinkypears

July 26, 2010 at 10:02 pm

One Response

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  1. […] am only providing a few here as there are way too many, not to mention some are spoilers. Click Here to see the […]

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