The nine words in this post’s title are a considerably more expedient way to experience this roughly eleventy-gazillion-page chapter of Beautiful Oblivion. This one’s a slog, you guys. It’s dense. It’s slow. It’s full of the emotions of people we don’t care about. To make this chapter easier for you to get through, I am going to exclusively use gifs of Tina from Bob’s Burgers, so you can visualize all of this happening with Tina instead of Cami, which I strongly suggest you do.
Cami and TJ’s romantic, “another boy kissed you” trip sours when TJ has to work late, and “didn’t text or call the entire time”. It’s like it’s representative of the problems with their entire relationship of something.
T.J. sighed and sat back against his chair. “This isn’t going how I wanted at all.” He leaned forward, putting his elbows on the table. “I work fifty hours a week, Camille. I just don’t have time for…”
“Me,” I said finishing the cringeworthy sentence for him.
“Anything. I barely see my family. I talk to you more than I do them.”
Does anyone else actually feel kinda bad for TJ? Like, suddenly finding myself on track for a dream job and then doubting whether it’s worth the cost to your personal life is sort of a nightmare scenario. Too bad he’s this book’s Blando. Except for that time Blando showed up.
Cami points out that she can’t drop everything every time he decides he wants to see her, and also mentions that Trenton came to the airport. He asks her what kind of time they’ve been spending together, and she fills him about working together at the tattoo parlor, the second job to help Coby with the bills, and that Trenton has stopped taking girls home from the bar. In other words, seemingly the entire book. Which raises the question of whether it’s not just TJ that isn’t putting enough effort into this relationship – except it doesn’t, because this is Beautiful Oblivion and Cami is only at fault for the misfortune of loving two men.
TJ observes that – based on the strength of “Trenton isn’t sleeping with randos at the bar” – Trenton is in love with Cami, and asks her if she loves him. She freezes, and that’s enough of an answer for TJ.
“So you knew it was over?” [Cami said.] “Why bring me out here, then? To tell me it was okay that I couldn’t make it work?”
“I thought maybe if you were here, with me, we could both get a sense of what was really going on with you— if it was just too hard because we hadn’t seen each other in a while, or if you really had feelings for Trenton.”
You know what else might have accomplished that? If either of them ever talked to each other.
“We don’t need to make any decisions tonight. Or even tomorrow. Let’s just enjoy our time together.” He reached across the table, and intertwined his fingers in mine.
After a moment’s pause, I pulled away. “I think we both already know what’s happened.”
With sadness in his eyes, TJ nodded.
The scene ends and, despite that dialogue confirming they both know what’s happened, the rest of the chapter continues with Cami and TJ uncertain if they’ve broken up or not. Both functionally…
He held me in his arms all night like he didn’t want to let me go, but the next morning at the airport, he hugged and kissed me good-bye like he meant it.
“So, you broke up?”
“Kind of. Not really.”
“C’mon, Camille. You’re adults.”
So this book can be dragged out even longer, I guess.
Speaking of longer, we’re not close to done with this drama, and Raegan picks Cami up from the airport and tells her that Trenton has started sleeping with bar randos again. Well, which one is it, Trenton? This is the only way we have of knowing if you’re in love with Cami or not.
Anyway, remember that secret that keeps getting brought up more and more explicitly?
“Just . . . tell him,” Raegan pleaded. “Tell him about T.J.”
“I can’t,” I said. “And you can’t, either. You promised.”
“I still don’t understand what all the secrecy is about.”
“You don’t have to,” I said, looking up at her, straight into her eyes. “You just have to keep the secret.”
Don’t worry. When you too find out what the secret is, you won’t understand why this is a secret that has to be kept either. This isn’t just Cami begging Raegan to think this makes sense, this is the book begging the reader to think this makes sense.
Cami goes back to her job at Skin Deep, but before we get back to the ongoing adventures of the white boy bro’s suffering at the relentless hands of unrequited love (which we’re all just dying to get back to, I’m sure), it’s time for an intermission with Cami’s hilarious misogynist boss!
“What the hell are you wearing?” he asked.
I looked down at my plum skinny jeans and black-and-white horizontal-striped long-sleeved shirt. “Clothes.”
“I hired you to be the hot piece of ass at the counter, and you look like my cousin Annette. What is this look?” he asked Hazel.
“Hipster,” she said briefly before returning to her conversation.
“Yeah. Like my hipster cousin Annette. Next time you come in , I want to see cleavage and sex hair!” he said, holding up one finger, and then two.
“What the hell is sex hair?” I asked. Calvin shrugged. “You know. Messy, but sexy. Like you just had sex.”
Hazel slammed the phone down. “Everything that comes out of your mouth is offensive. Hot piece of ass? Cleavage? You’re a walking sexual harassment lawsuit!”
Calvin wasn’t fazed.
“Is it the shoes?” I asked, looking down at my favorite black combat boots.
“The scarf!” he said, pointing all four fingers at me. “What is the point in having a nice rack if you’re going to cover it up?”
Hazel smiled. “It’s a cute scarf. I need a black one like yours.”
Calvin frowned. “It’s not cute! I don’t want cute!”
So here’s what’s wrong with this scene – surprise, it isn’t the sexism! I mean, it’s problematic, certainly, but that’s the idea here. Cami’s boss is a sexist dick, and I’d be willing to bet that a great deal of people reading this book have had to deal with bosses (or colleagues or whatever) who are sexist dicks too. There’s nothing wrong with fiction offering a recognizably awful character who deserves our hatred. The problem is that this scene is played for laughs. Calvin’s attitude is passed off as no big deal, and thus hilarious, even though the characters recognize this is sexual harassment. Fuck your fucking sexy/hipster dichotomy joke. Fuck your fucking actual moments of self-doubt Cami experiences as her boss hilariously tells her what to do with her body. And fuck your fucking fucktoy entitlement whining passing off as humor.
Trenton shows up at work, thus ensuring that this novel’s casual sexism will totally improve.
He disappeared into his room, and Hazel shot me a look. “You mind-fucked him so hard.”
How. How does repeatedly telling someone “no, I do not want to date/have sex with you” repeatedly merit as “mind-fucking”, and how could we possibly have mismanaged our society so badly that we got to this point?
“It’s good for him. No man should get every woman he wants. Keeps their douchebaggery to a tolerable level.”
And yet this novel will feature zero of those things.
Cami tries to break the ice by asking Trenton to give her another tattoo, but he good-naturedly says he’s too busy. And then just tries to keep his distance. And then stops going to the bar and ignores her at work for the next six weeks. Just in case we weren’t sure what was going on during this time jump, Coby shows up to have a conversation with Cami to talk about what we caused it, which we just saw in this chapter. And is also literally the entire book.
“He doesn’t really… come over here anymore.”
“You guys broke up?”
“We were just friends, Coby.”
“No one thinks that but you.”
Also, arbitrary subplots are arbitrary.
“I feel better. You were right, a program made it easier.”
“How are things at home?” I asked.
Coby shrugged. “The same.”
I picked at the noodles swimming around in my bowl. “He’s never going to change, you know.”
Also, lines that are not as serious as they’re trying to be.
My breath caught when I came across Spaceballs.
The totally-necessary summary scene accidentally does too good of a job summarizing the book.
“I fucked up.”
“I don’t really want to talk about it. It’s a long, boring story.”
To be fair, there is a line that does sum up the entire book pretty accurately.
“What am I supposed to say. ‘T.J. doesn’t want me, so you can have me, now’?'”
Time jumps ahead again, and all that’s happened is that TJ was in town but was too busy to say hi to Cami, and Cami realizes that with Cody’s drug addiction subplot anticlimatically resolved entirely off-screen, she technically doesn’t need her second job at Skin Deep anymore. And since Trenton is too busy
pouting to talk to her ignoring her to try to get over her, she decides to tell him so.
But first – because this chapter just didn’t have enough shit in it – arbitrary fanservice.
I checked Travis in, and once he signed the forms, the Maddoxes walked back to Trenton’s room.
“You’re fucking kidding me!” Trenton yelled, howling with laughter. “You’re such a pussy!”
“Shut up, cocksucker, and just do it!” […]
“This has fucked me over in so many ways,” [Shepley] grumbled. […] “What if [America’s] pissed because I didn’t brand myself with her name? What if Abby’s not fine with it, she dumps Travis, and then it causes problems with Mare and me? I’m fucked!”
Good times! Remember that time Travis didn’t get Abby’s name tattooed on himself, but the nickname that he gave her and then everybody referred to it as her name? Remember how somehow all of Trabby’s problems are problems for Shepley? Good times! Good times! And now we can enjoy all those good times with all the wonderful new understandings we’ve gained from seeing this from Cami’s perspective! Such as:
Ok, now it’s time for Cami to tell Trenton she’s quitting. That night at the bar…
“Okay, Maddox. It’s been five weeks.” […]
“Don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Okay. So you hate me.” The words felt like poison coming out of my mouth. “Want me to quit Skin Deep?”
“What?” he said, finally looking at me for the first time in weeks.
As you can imagine, a very long, very repetitive, very “we have already read this” conversation takes place. As you can also imagine, some of it is great for unintentional humor.
“You wanted a reaction when you kissed me and you got one.”
“If I’d known you were going to get on a flight to California and fuck someone else a few hours later, I might have reconsidered.”
Someone else like her boyfriend? My, this story is full of twists and turns.
“You saw Travis on Halloween! He’s out of control over this girl! She left the morning after he bagged her the first time without telling him good-bye, and he trashed his fucking apartment!”
No, Travis had not come up in the conversation previously. You read it in this blog post with as much context as I read it in the book.
“I said if you like being a backup plan, that’s fine with me!” [Trenton said.]
“Backup plan? Are you fucking kidding me right now? All you deal in is backup plans! How many of those have you walked out of here with in the last month?”
Throughout this scene, a nameless patron at the bar keeps asking for someone to give him a Miller Lite. Naturally, Trenton beats the shit out of him, because this chapter came dangerously close to not having everything.
Question of the day: It might seem dangerous to ask for me, but what else was this chapter missing? What are you the most upset didn’t also get shoehorned in? I’m upset that Olive didn’t show up in this chapter too to make an astute observation about Cami’s predicament, like, “Twoo bwoys wuv woo!”, or “wwwwwwwwwwwwwww”