20. Sweet But Cold

But wait, there’s even more that I skipped past in my hurry to get to Tulsey Town. After sharing a humorous reverie about what the fictional place called Tulsey Town might be, Jake declares that the queen of TT is sweet but cold, to which the young woman replied “like your mum.” Oops, joke taken too far. This leads to mutual backtracking about blaming mothers for all mental health issues.

But once again, Jake latches onto a train of thought that’s insightful. It all revolves around what he sees every day at school — and this time the young woman does not challenge the janitor’s flash forward memories.

Jake begins “it’s despicable how we label people, categorize them and dismiss them.” He talks about the kids who are ostracized — the girl from the Tulsey Town shop passing the janitor in the hallway — and years later when he sees these kids grown up, they still carry the ostracism with them. The young woman is looking at Jake during this speech with a heightened level of empathy. He says it’s like a millstone, an oozing wound. At this moment, the young woman finds the courage to begin “Jake, I’m thinking of ….” But they arrive at Tulsey Town and the discussion is cut off.

She never has this discussion with Jake, of course, because there would be no movie if she did. Returning to Erich Fromm, I have to wonder just how much needless drama people create in their lives by putting off the discussions they know they need to have. It’s the fear of conflict that Fromm described, even when we know that conflict avoidance becomes a form of surrender. I always remember the scene in “Annie Hall” where Annie and Alvy are sitting next to each other on the return flight from Los Angeles, both wanting to end things, both certain that the other will be devastated by the discussion. And then the words just trickle out and they immediately agree that a breakup is what’s best for them both.

Alvy, of course, will later backtrack, but in the moment, he knew Annie was right and would continue to be right. Would Jake have responded as well? Probably not. But was the trek to oblivion in the form of his high school a fair price for her to pay for such comfort?

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