Archive for September 2012

Contagious suicide

As it circulated in the next few months, this theory convinced many people because it simplified things. Already Cecilia’s suicide had assumed in retrospect the stature of a long-prophesied event. Nobody thought it shocking anymore, and accepting it as First Cause removed any need for further explanation. As Mr. Hutch put it, „They made Cecilia out to be the bad guy.“

Her suicide, from this perspective, was seen as a kind of disease infecting those close at hand. In the bathtub, cooking in the broth of her own blood, Cecilia had released an airborne virus which the other girls, even in coming to save her, had contracted. No one cared how Cecilia had caught the virus in the first place. Transmission became explanation. The other girls, safe in their own rooms, had smelled something strange, sniffed the air, but ignored it. Black tendrils of smoke had crept under their doors, rising up behind their studious backs to form the evil shapes smoke or shadow take on in cartoons: a black-hatted assassin brandishing a dagger; an anvil about to drop. Contagious suicide made it palpable. Spiky bacteria lodged in the agar of the girls throats. In the morning, a soft oral thrush had sprouted over their tonsils. The girls felt sluggish. At the window the worlds light seemed dimmed. They rubbed their eyes to no avail. They felt heavy, slow-witted. House hold objects lost meaning. A bedside clock became a hunk of molded plastic, telling something called time, in a world marking its passage for some reason.

When we thought of the girls along these lines, it was as feverish creatures, exhaling soupy breath, succumbing day by day in their isolated ward. We went outside with our hair wet in the hopes of catching flu ourselves so that we might share their delirium.

Jeffrey Eugenides, The Virgin Suicides

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