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  • Lean On Pete / Willy Vlautin

    “Maybe we could get cell phones?” I asked him. “Cell phones?” “Yeah.” “Then you get people calling all the time and everybody knows where you are. A regular phone is bad enough, with cell phones you end up talking on them while you’re on the can, while you’re in the movie theater.”

    I blew the ten he gave me at the movie theater. I watched a comedy about a newscaster, and I bought a hot dog and a Coke and a candy bar. When it was over I snuck into another movie about a ship’s captain who sails around getting into fights and a kid gets his arm blown off. When it was over and I had to leave the theater I got pretty down. I knew then, that night, that Portland would be worse than Spokane. At least I had friends in Spokane.

    “You ain’t much company,” he said when he saw that I was awake. “I have a hard time staying awake in a moving car,” I told him.

    (이거 내가 수련회 가는 길에 버스에서 친구들한테 하는 말.....이잖아.)

    I almost followed him in to tell him the truth, that first he told me he’d pay me twenty-five, and now he thought it was forty, but that yesterday he gave me a hundred. I wanted to tell him all that, tell him that he was wrong, that he’d made a mistake. I wanted to give the extra money back, but really, in the end I just couldn’t.

    It was a pretty bad movie but the girl was beautiful and she falls in love with the hockey player and then they win a gold medal. When I went to sleep that night I couldn’t stop thinking about the girl skater. I just lay in my bed and thought about how good-looking she was and how at the end she turned out to be nice and then finally around eleven or so I fell asleep.

    I stayed in there with him and kept petting him, then I turned off the stall light and sat down on the ground. I told him about the Samoan and my dad in the hospital and about what had happened. I told him how there was blood and glass everywhere and how in the hospital there were tubes running in and out of my dad and how I didn’t know what I was going to do if he wasn’t alright. How I wished he and I could just disappear. We could live in a place where there was no one else around and it would be warm with miles of grass for him to eat and no one would ever make him run. There would be a barn and a house and the house would be lined with food from floor to ceiling and there would be a TV and a huge swimming pool.

    I looked at stores windows, then went to a park and watched a group of kids skateboarding. They each took turns going off this jump, and then they all left together and were talking and laughing. As I watched them I knew I’d probably never be like that.

    I finished my work, then walked back to the house, and everything was the same when I got there. I went into my room and put some clothes in my duffel, then took the picture of my aunt and me and my two trophies and packed them as well. I left everything else.

    My mind got darker and darker thinking about my dad and the uncertainty of things and the only thing I could think of to do was to go back to the house and get the TV.

    I didn’t know what to do. If I went to the hospital they’d want to know where my folks were. I had no insurance. I only had thirty dollars.

    Afterwards we sat back down and she kept smoking weed and we ate the whole package of cookies and watched the movie. In the end one of the convicts escapes by swimming away on a bag of coconuts and the other gives up and lives on an island and grows his own food.

    People say crying makes you feel better but it didn’t, it didn’t change anything, it just made me tired and embarrassed.

    I told Pete how I almost called them one night a few weeks back, but that I didn’t want to beg them for anything or have his sisters know that I was living like I was. If they ever thought of me I’d rather have them think of me as alright. I’d rather never see them again than let them see me the way I was.

    I liked the school part of school alright, but I barely got good enough grades to play sports. I told him about getting free lunch and being embarrassed by it, and running to the cafeteria so I could eat before anyone I knew saw. Then I told him about my mother. About how I used to have a picture of her but that I threw it away one night when I was mad and how I tried never to think about her.

    Her name was Nancy and she was my dad’s girlfriend when they worked together at a grocery store. She had black hair and was tall and was ten years older than him.

    Last night I started dreaming that I made a ton of money and one day Del came by our place looking for a job. ‘Well, Del,’ I said to him as I sat behind a huge desk. ‘If you weren’t such an asshole I might give you a try. If you weren’t such a mean pervert cocksucker I’d at least lend you a twenty. But let me talk to my partner, maybe he’ll help you out.’ Then you’d come in and Del’s eyes would get huge with worry and he’d start shaking, he’d be scared out of his skin. He’d be sweating bullets and then you’d push him outside and he’d start screaming and then he’d get hit by a huge Greyhound bus!” I started laughing at that, but Pete just stood there dozing in the heat.

    He reached into his back pocket and took ten dollars from his wallet and handed it to me. “No,” I said. “Careful where you sleep. You’re have a hard time.” “If you send me your address I’ll mail it back to you when I can.” “No,” he said and waved me off trying to give it back. I put the money in my pants pocket and we shook hands. “Puede que sea su propio caballo, pero éste es un mundo de hombres. Ten cuidado con él.” I shrugged my shoulders.

    He shook it and I said goodbye to his family and he walked me out. When I left there I was pretty down. I never understand why seeing something nice can get you so down but it can.

    After breakfast we left to go shopping, and as we went out to her car I noticed she walked with a slight shuffle. She wasn’t the same lady I once knew, but then I guess I wasn’t the same boy either.

    “I get nightmares,” I said. “They’ll get easier the more good times we have together.” “You think so?” “I’m pretty sure,” she said. “I ain’t gonna be a pain in the ass,” I told her. “Good,” she said. “Are you going to work today?” “I have to,” she said. “But you’ll come back?” “Of course I will,” she said and put out her hand. “Now come on, get up.”

    작년 연말에 단지 스티브 부세미가 나온대서 봤다가 혼자 폭풍감동받고 최애 작품으로 꼽게 된 영화의 원작인데다, 원작 소설의 작가도 호평을 많이 받는 작가인 듯해 읽어봤다. 

    딱 '핏빛 자오선'의 덜 피튀기는 현대판 느낌. 핏빛 자오선보다 잔혹함은 덜하지만 영화에서 생략된 이야기들을 보면 주인공의 삶이 정말 암울하기 짝이 없다. 소설 속 아빠는 영화에서보다 더 형편없는 아빠이고, 그 나이대 할아버지들이 으레 그렇듯 그냥 무뚝뚝한 노인인 줄 알았던 델은 열정페이 주는 변태 쓰레기이며, 주인공 찰리는... 진짜 처음부터 끝까지 내내 생고생을 해서 읽는 내내 맴찢한다. (그리고 엄청난 식성을 가졌다. 처음에 타말레 5개를 먹고 치즈버거 2개를 동시에 시키는 걸 보고 미국인들은 보통 저만큼 먹는게 정상인가? 했는데 델이 많이 먹는다고 핀잔 주는 거 보고 아 한창 자라나는 성장기 어린이구나... 했음 ㅋㅋ)  

    최근에 읽은 소설들은 주인공들이 대부분 동갑이거나 나이가 많았고, 어리더라도 정신적으로는 성숙한 캐릭터여서 그런 감정을 별로 못 느꼈는데 이 소설 속 찰리는 나보다 6살이나 어린 데다가 종종 어린아이 같은 생각이나 감정 (자기한테 막말하는 델한테 나중에 돈을 많이 번 다음에 복수하는 상상을 한다던지, 델의 사무실에서 지내게 되었을 때 심심하니까 자기 집 TV를 가져올 생각을 한다던지)을 보이곤 해서 귀엽고 안쓰러웠다. 특히 결말... 지금은 힘들어도 시간이 결국엔 약이 될 거다, 라는 식의 뉘앙스를 풍기면서 끝나는데, 시간이 흐른다고 해서 상처가 완벽하게 사라지지는 않는다고 생각하는 나로서는 무척 먹먹한 결말이었다. 원하는 것을 얻었다고 해서 그동안의 문제가 완전히 해결되는 것도 아니고. 결국에는 앞으로도 나의 상처가 유발할 힘든 시간들을 나 스스로 꿋꿋하게 이겨내겠다는 의지만이 고통에서 벗어나는 길이라고 생각하기 때문에... 찰리가 터전을 되찾았다고 해서 바로 마음의 안정을 되찾지 못하고 마음 한켠은 여전히 허전해하는 묘사가 무척 사실적으로 느껴졌다. 

    내용 자체도 재밌었지만 소설 전반에 흐르는 분위기도 마음에 들었다. 영화에서는 거의 생략되었지만 소설 전반에는 어두운 분위기만이 흐르지 않고 중간중간 그래도 인생은 아주 시궁창 같지만은 않다,는 뉘앙스의 희망도 던져준다. 식당 종업원이 돈을 내지 않고 도망가려던 찰리를 불쌍하게 여기고 그냥 보내주는가 하면, 우연히 마주친 찰리에게 먹을 것과 돈을 주면서 그가 피트와 함께 와이오밍까지 무사히 도착하기를 빌어주는 멕시코인도 등장한다. 내가 영화를 좋아했던 이유도 우리가 삶에서 힘든 순간을 이겨내는 과정을 담담하게 잘 풀어냈기 때문이었지만, 소설에서는 그 과정뿐만 아니라 역경 속에서도 때로는 나에게 힘이 되어주는 좋은 사람들은 언제나 존재한다는 낙관적인 메시지도 보여줘서 더 마음에 들었다. 

    이런 느낌의 영어덜트 소설은 읽어본 적이 없어서 빗댈 만한 적절한 책이 핏빛 자오선 말고는 떠오르질 않고, 영화에 빗대자면 '파리, 텍사스'랑 '케스', '400번의 구타'를 섞어서 만든 듯한 이야기니 나처럼 로드무비랑 성장물 좋아하는 사람이라면 꼭 읽어봐야 하는 소설이다. 작가가 던지는 메시지가 정말 좋음!

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