By Katie Tan
Katie Tan is a professional human being who gobbles up books like she devours dark chocolate. Mercilessly. You’re probably reading a book in class right now, but I’ll bet that she’s read it already, twice. But you know, sometimes these silly authors write in like, a whole ‘nother language. Good thing Katie’s also a world-class English-to-English translator. She re-wrote you a chapter or scene from that special book in your life, adapted to fit the formatting of her brain. Yes, that includes bad puns, inside jokes, bombastic anachronism… but definitely no sarcasm. That’s inappropriate.
(If you’d like to see a specific book on this column, send a title her way!)
INTRODUCING… Great Expectations, Chapter 38, adapted to fit the formatting of my brain.
I’m sorry that I’m not sorry.
It was May of the twelfth grade when Estella returned to 1860 Satis Street, and to me. I must say, she proceeded to make the next few weeks duly some of my most joyous and most miserable. One afternoon, she, with her shining cascade of chestnut hair, bright doe eyes, and ability to make my throat tighten and heart stutter and lungs seize… uttered my name.
My internal organs spasmed accordingly. I gazed at my angel clad in white Prada leggings, a papery satin Juicy Couture blouse, and Jimmy Choo boots encrusted with what looked like pink diamonds as she chilled me with a flinty glance. Her eyes were so cold that I half-expected the yellowed ceiling above our heads to hail icicles. It was maddening to hear her call me by name and yet spurn my advances every time I tried to make her love me. Not that there was a deficit of suitors in any sense; even as she tossed her oversized Louis Vuitton tote bag into my arms, a gaggle of boys clutching elaborate flower arrangements and chocolate boxes swarmed to her shoulder, each vying for a better angle from which to impress her.
“Pip, you’ll drive me home today,” she declared imperiously, snapping her fingers for emphasis. A crestfallen curtain dropped over the enraptured face of every boy as she daintily shut her locker door and turned to me. A few of them stared at the closed locker with a kind of lost intensity, as if their juvenile affections had been shredded with a file and tossed inside to die of neglect, along with their chances with scoring brownie points with the local Taylor Swift. I turned to smirk at their silly, sappy expressions as they watched us walk away together.
Then, Estella looped her arm in mine and—my brain swiftly launching itself off a hypothetical cliff—I assumed a slavish expression that rivaled the combined effect of a hundred pubescent admirers.
Her mom was looking at me weirdly. I shifted uncomfortably in the creaky and antiquated parlor chair from across the love-seat where Estella and her mother sat together, each shrouded with some sort of queenly impenetrability. Estella stared down the grandfather clock as her mother continued to glare at me with piercing eyes, all the while grilling me on how many teenage boys Estella had reduced to a sobbing, lovesick ball that day. Miss H. slowly stroked Estella’s hand as she spoke cuttingly of broken hearts and adolescent cruelty, clearly deriving much pleasure from my stumbling, muttered responses. These were such activities that Estella and I frequently suffered through for hours at a time in previous afternoons. I was beginning to think that the older woman was a bit of a sadist.
This afternoon, however, Estella’s hand either tired or the clock lost its charm, as after some time of this inanity, her patience appeared to dissipate all at once. Miss H. squawked loudly as Estella pulled away and made to leave the room.
“What! I’m not done harping on Pip’s indiscretions! You hate me!” Miss H. wailed, tearing at her cobwebby mass of hair. Estella rolled her eyes and pulled out her phone.
“Don’t be so melodramatic, adoptive mother,” Estella said dismissively. “You basically raised me to be a spoiled teenager who wouldn’t be the slightest bit concerned if the world was doomed to implode in a flurry of impassivity and hardcore metal music. It’s not reasonable to be offended by your lack of foresight. And my lack of human emotions.” The aforementioned adoptive mother gaped horribly at Estella, incensed by her previously ever-obedient daughter’s first hazard into adolescent emancipation. Apparently, she had foreseen a much different reality.
“LOVE ME!” Miss H shrieked to Estella, who simply shook her head without sympathy and finished sending her text. On my part, I felt quite moved by the entire scene—perhaps I understood the crazy old lady much better than I’d imagined.
“You don’t own me!” Estella retorted. “And why are you yelling at me? When you taught me not to love, I listened, and when I did, you yelled at me. Is that really necessary? Don’t be so irrational!”
Meanwhile, Miss H. flailed about on the carpet, the very picture of rationality and soundness of the mind.
I took this opportunity to flee the room. Neither before nor since that day did I witness such an epic battle of wills between the two Havisham women, but this was a matter of no great consequence. It was already obvious to me that Estella had no great expectations of love and that Miss H. was obsessive, given to temper tantrums, and slightly batty.
Of course, this knowledge didn’t stop me from asking Estella to senior prom. If nothing else, I’m persistent. I’d seen the loser Bentley Drummle hanging around her all week, which was just another item to add to my steadily growing list of things that maddened me. The idiot was constantly acting possessive of Estella (who we all know belongs to nobody but herself. And me.) and adopting a sickeningly cavalier expression whenever she deigned to address him. The nerve of some people, really!
But that wasn’t the worst of it.
“You know that he intends to take you to prom, Estella.”
“That could be true,” she replied evasively. She seemed to not be disturbed by this. This was disturbing. I tried a different tactic.
“You know that he drinks and smokes and does shady things after school by the basketball court, Estella—“
“That could also be true,” she said.
“He doesn’t shower!” I yelled desperately. “He picks his nose in class! He sleeps in eighth period English!”
Estella simply looked at me, unimpressed. I flung my arms around my wretched head, seething. “How could you go to prom with a guy like him? He’s so shallow that he’s named after a luxury vehicle!” It then occurred to me that she never actually said that she liked him. I mopped my nose with my sleeve and sniffled wetly before getting on one knee and asking her to prom in the deepest voice that I could muster. She said no. I resumed bawling into her face without any regard for her sense of dignity or my lack of such a sense.
I swear, there has never been a more exquisitely heartbreaking or tragically romantic scene of conflict in literature prior to or since this moment. It was so amazing that I practically wept teenage dreams.
Her voice interrupted my manly grieving. “But look on the bright side, Pip…” she said gently. I widened my eyes like a child spotting an unattended ice cream sandwich.
“…At least you realize that you’re a loser.”