Now Charlie’s dead and I’m here in the kitchen—on my way to school, and then to work. It’s my senior year and I still have no idea what I want to do with my life. I am motherless, and in the last year, I lost my best friend twice, fell in love with a guy I shouldn’t have (twice), got beat up by a skinhead Nazi, and had things thrown at me, including beer cans, money, and dog shit.
I quietly hoped it would all go away and sent my old PLEASE IGNORE VERA DIETZ signals into the atmosphere.
A brief word from the reviewer:
As I had my inspiration to make this review a string of quotes and started getting it all laid out, a small worry grew: that by focusing so much on apathy, I might give the impression that this book is simply a flat, one-dimensional lecture-lesson on the topic. It’s not. It’s also about empathy and pain and guilt and fear. And life. It’s about the scars that come with experiencing life and how trying to cope with our own shit makes us insular. It’s about survival; and about how it’s not enough to simply survive.
It’s about a very real character, and her embodiment of these abstract concepts plays out in a very real, very painful, very tangible way.
While this review may be more of an analytical essay, the book is definitely a deeply-felt story.
The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference. The opposite of beauty is not ugliness, it's indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it's indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, but indifference between life and death.
- Elie Wiesel
First they came for the communists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist.
Then they came for the socialists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew.
Then they came for the Catholics,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Catholic.
Then they came for me,
and there was no one left to speak for me.
- Martin Niemöller
As we drove out of Charlie’s drive, I said, “Dad? Do you think Mrs. Kahn is okay?”
Dad said, “She’s fine, Vera.”
“But she didn’t look fine, did she?”
“Just ignore it,” Dad said.
When he said that, I felt myself deflate a little. I’d spent the better part of my life hearing my father say “Just ignore it” about the loud arguments I’d hear coming through the woods from Charlie’s house.
In summer, the trees cushioned us. I couldn’t see Charlie’s house and I couldn’t hear Mr. Kahn yelling. In winter, I could hear every word, depending on the direction the wind blew. I could hear every slap and every shove. I could hear him call her a “stupid bitch” and could hear her bones rattle when he shook her. If I looked out at night, I could see the tiny orange ember at the end of Charlie’s cigarette getting brighter when he inhaled.
“Ignore it,” my father would say, while my mother fidgeted in her favorite love seat.
“But can’t we call someone to help her?”
“She doesn’t want to be helped,” my mother would say.
“She’ll have to help herself,” my father would correct. "It’s one of those things, Vera.”
. . .
It seems the older people get, the more shit they ignore. Or, like Dad, they pay attention to stuff that distracts them from the more important things that they’re ignoring. While he’s busy clipping coupons, for instance, and telling me that a full-time job will teach me about the real world, Dad is overlooking that the guy on Maple Street could have killed me and chopped me up and distributed my body, piece by piece, along the side of the highway. He’s overlooking every story on the news about drivers being robbed at gunpoint, or getting carjacked.
It’s one thing if he wants to ignore it. I guess that’s fine. I mean, I ignore plenty of stuff, like school spirit days and the dirty looks I get from the Detentionheads while I try to slink through the halls unnoticed. But there’s something about telling other people what to ignore that just doesn’t work for me. Especially things we shouldn’t be ignoring.
Kid bullying you at school? Ignore him. Girl passing rumors? Ignore her. Eighth-grade teacher pinch your friend’s ass? Ignore it. Sexist geometry teacher says girls shouldn’t go to college because they will only ever pop out babies and get fat? Ignore him. Hear that a girl in your class is being abused by her stepfather and had to go to the clinic? Hear she’s bringing her mother’s pills to school and selling them to pay for it? Ignore. Ignore. Ignore. Mind your own business. Don’t make waves. Fly under the radar. It’s just one of those things, Vera.