Schlock Therapy and Liquid Dreams: Chapter 23 of EL James’s “Grey”

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22 pages to go.

Let’s do this.

This chapter opens with Christian having a dream about fucking Ana against a door:

We’re fucking. Fucking hard. Against the bathroom door.

it wasnt me

I avoided covering a lot of the sex scenes in this book because they were repetitive, boring, and nearly identical to the descriptions from the original story. But as this is his fantasy dream and not a sex scene that EL James had already written the first time, we might as well enjoy a little of the writing that made EL James a household name:

She’s mine. I bury myself in her, again and again. Glorying in her: the feel of her, her smell, her taste. Fisting my hand in her hair, holding her in place. Holding her ass. Her legs wrapped around my waist.

ikea

I remember thinking this while reading the original, but so much of the sex choreography has the subtlety and grace of IKEA flat pack instructions. It’s so mechanical and specific that you can’t picture the overall scene, but instead it’s like a series of uninspiring still images of butts and hands and faces. Not to mention the fact that EL James, possessing neither a penis nor an understanding of human emotion and physicality, is even less specific about what’s happening from Christian’s point of view than she was from Ana’s — and Ana’s descriptions of sex acts mostly involved her talking about her area “down there,” or else dissolving into an elipses when things got particularly steamy.

She cannot move; she’s pinioned by me. Wrapped around me like silk.

She is immobile; stagnant; stationary; anchored; frozen; stolid; I pin her down; shackle her; yoke her; enfetter her; she is like silk; satin; cotton; tencel; spandex.

You only need to say it once, EL, I promise.

Her hands pulling my hair. Oh yes. I’m home, she’s home. This is the place I want to be…inside her…

It’s like her vagina is some kind of… dwelling, domicile, sanctuary, roost, habitat, headquarters.

Anyway, that carries on for a bit. She comes. He’s pleased that she comes.

Then it turns into a sad dream because they’re in the playroom and he goes to hit her with a belt. She looks shocked and sad, but then:

Join me, she whispers, but she’s moving backward…getting fainter…disappearing before my eyes…vanishing…she’s gone. No! I shout. No! But I have no voice. I have nothing. I’m mute. Mute…again.

Yes this is exactly what dreams are like. I bet he said all of this very clearly out loud in his sleep, too.

Also… I still love the fact that a book all about kink continues to treat kink as the deepest, darkest depravity. It’s sex! It’s some sex you enjoy! Unless, you know, he really does like beating women in an abuse, non-sexual way. In which case that’s something different.

I wake, confused.

Shit–it’s a dream. Another vivid dream.

Different, though.

Different from a man hitting your mom and forcing her to have sex with his friends? Yeah, I suppose it’s a bit different than that.

Hell! I’m a sticky mess.

Oh my God why.

Briefly I feel that long-forgotten but familiar sense of fear and exhileration–but Elena doesn’t own me now.

The text doesn’t bother explaining this, so I will. Or maybe it did, earlier and I forgot to recap it. Anyway, Elena — the rapist — forbade Christian from getting wet dreams while they were together. Which, I don’t have a penis, but I feel like that’s not possible. So I assume that what it really means is, “A shitty sexual predator made her victim feel terrible about a natural and uncontrollable bodily reaction so she could continue manipulating him.” Because while Christian-the-adult is fucking awful, I can certainly have sympathy for a child who was molested by a monster of a human being. At the same time, I can be disgusted with EL James for making him remember it as a “cute, fond memory.” I can hate everything, in short.

Jesus H. Christ. I’ve come for Team USA.

wonder

You know, this book really did need more of the crazy bullshit that we got in the original. And while this scene is terrible, I appreciate the really hacky bursts of writing that still made it through. “I came for Team USA”? It’s brilliant. Genius.

This hasn’t happened to me since I was, what? Fifteen, sixteen?

Or twenty-one? Thirty-seven? Eleventy-six?

I lie back in the darkness, disgusted with myself. I drag my T-shirt off and wipe myself down. There’s semen everywhere.

Poor Gail.

I find myself smirking in the darkness, despite the dull ache of loss. The erotic dream was worth it. The rest of it…fucking hell. I turn over and go back to sleep.

Aaaaand we get another Moldy Cheese Dream. Don’t worry I’ll spare you the details. Here’s the tl;dr: This time Mommy is staring blankly at a wall. She calls Christian “maggot.” The bad man hurts her. Christian is hungry. The bad man puts out cigarettes on Christian’s chest. Christian cries. The bad man punches Christian. EL James is a fucking asshole for making people read this.

Christian wakes up suddenly from the dream.

I’m so tired of dreams. I’m so tired of him waking up in a cold sweat. I’m tired of gliders. I’m tired of him being shitty to his staff. I’m tired of hearing about Gail cooking dinner. I’m tired of Barney. I’m tired of Welch. I’m tired of business.

I’m tired.

Startled awake again, I lie panting in the pale dawn light, waiting for my heart rate to slow, trying to lose the acrid taste of fear in my mouth.

She saved you from this shit, Grey.

You didn’t relive the pain of these memories when she was with you. Why did you let her leave?

Uggghhhh and here it is. So after two or three or howeverthefuckmany chapters of him going, “Well, I’m bad for her. She’s not into this,” his primary reason for getting Ana back is because she functions as a human night light for him.

That’s great.

I glance at the clock: 5:15. Time for a run.

GOD DAMNIT.

If she narrates a fucking shower after the run, I will throw my Kindle into the river.

Fucking jogging.

I forgot to add that to the list of things I’m tired of. I’m tired of jogging, I’m tired of texts from Elliot, I’m tired of showers. I’m tired of coffee orders. I’m so tired.

21 more pages.

Guess where he runs to.

Her building looks gloomy; it’s still in shadow, untouched by the early-morning sun. Fitting. It reflects my mood.

Is EL James intentionally making this chapter like a highlight reel of everything I’ve hated about this book so far? Fine. I’m tired of the very literal pathetic fallacies.

Her apartment is dark inside, yet the curtains to the room I watched before are drawn. It must be her room.

I hope to God she’s sleeping alone up there. I envisage her curled up on her white iron bed, a small ball of Ana. Is she dreaming of me? Do I give her nightmares?

I mean, yes. Probably.

Has she forgotten me?

IT’S BEEN THREE DAYS.

Christian says he feels real sad. He’s never felt this sad, except for maybe when he was a poor toddler.

This is too much. Pulling my hood up and leaning against the granite wall, I’m hidden in the doorway of the building opposite. The awful thought crosses my mind that I might be standing here in a week, a month…a year? Watching, waiting, just to catch a glimpse of the girl who used to be mine. It’s painful. I’ve become what she’s always accused me of being–her stalker.

The irony is that in many ways, this is the least offensive stalking he’s done so far. So the fact that he thinks that this represents a crossed line is sort of odd. Tracking her phone and then dragging her unconscious body back to his hotel room was definitely worse than jogging and driving past her apartment a couple of times a day while she’s asleep inside a locked building.

But it’s time for him to see her. Because that’s how he’ll forget about her. Apparently:

I can’t go on like this. I have to see her. See that she’s okay.

IT’S BEEN THREE DAYS. Does he think she’s just been stumbling into broken glass bottles and open manholes over the long weekend without him?

I need to erase the last image I have of her: hurt, humiliated, defeated…and leaving me.

I have to think of a way.

Ooh! I hope it’s duplicitous!

Scene break.

We open with Christian talking to Gail.

Fucking fuck me.

sketti

Back at Escala, Gail watches me impassively.

“I didn’t ask for this.” I stare at the omelet she’s placed in front of me.

So he didn’t ask for an omelet, but he waited to tell her that he wasn’t hungry after she’d cooked the meal and put it in front of him? Not at any point during the previous 15 minutes where she took out eggs, cracked them into a bowl, whisked them, poured them out into a pan, added ingredients, flipped it, and then served it to him on a plate? Did he figure she was testing out the new eggs, or?

“I’ll throw it away, then, Mr. Grey,” she says, and reaches for the plate. She knows I hate waste, but she doesn’t quail at my hard stare.

Hit him where it hurts, Gail. Call this hypocrite out on his bullshit.

“You did this on purpose, Mrs. Jones.” Interfering woman.

Yasssss.

And she smiles a small victorious smile. I scowl, but she’s unfazed, and with the memory of last night’s nightmare lingering, I devour my omelet.

I immediately thought he meant it made him think about his wet dream and wanted to eject myself into space and leave this book far behind. But he doesn’t. But Jesus, if he did.

I’m sorry.

Scene break.

i'm so bored

New scene: Christian wonders if he can just call Ana on the phone. Would Ana pick up the phone? He looks at the glider. The glider cannot answer him:

She asked for a clean break. I should honor that and leave her alone.

Yeah, but you won’t. So spare me the “I shoulds.”

But I want to hear her voice. For a moment I contemplate calling her and hanging up, just to hear her speak.

I have an amazing image of him getting Taylor to play Ding Dong Ditch with him later.

Anyway, Christian’s in the middle of an important meeting but he’s drifted off. Ros has to remind him that’s he’s meant to be businessing. They’re talking about the plans to take over Ana’s company. Apparently it’s going to be harder to buy than they thought. Does Christian still want it?

He does.

They set up a meeting to meet with the publishing people so he can buy the company Ana works for.

Then Christian asks how the business deal is going with Eamon Kavanagh, Kate’s Dad.

Ros does not answer.

Instead, we get another scene break.

copy

19 more pages.

New scene: Christian is in his psychologist’s office.

This should be great.

Christian is, once again, not paying attention.

“Christian, I’m more than happy to take your money and watch you stare out the window, but I don’t think the view is the reason you’re here,” Flynn says.

Oh wow this guy is good.

Christian sits on the couch and tells Flynn that “the nightmares” are back. Which doesn’t make sense, because what Christian intimated to the audience throughout the entire book was that he’s always had the nightmares, but they only went away when he was sleeping with Ana. But Flynn has been on vacation for the entire time he’s been with Ana. So he probably needs to backtrack and explain that the nightmares had gone, and are now back. But Flynn’s a really good psychologist, so I’m sure he’ll just roll with it.

Flynn lifts a brow. “The same ones?”

“Yes.”

So we’re just… skating right over… okay.

“What changed?” He cocks his head to one side, waiting for my response. When I remain mute, he adds, “Christian, you look as miserable as sin. Something’s happened.”

Yes that is what a psychologist would say.

Christian tells Flynn that he met a girl. Then he tells Flynn that the girl left him.

He looks surprised. “Women have left you before. Why is this different?”

Wait. Wait. I thought El Moneydick Supremo always made it sound like he dumped bitches in the dirt when they started getting crazy ideas about turning sex into a real relationship.

Why is it different? Because Ana was different.

You don’t understand, Doc! I really got off on the knowledge that she had no interest in my kink, and that I was forcing her to take part in it. All of those other women were actually into BDSM, which was a huge turnoff for me — noted abuser, Christian Grey.

He doesn’t say that. Instead he thinks a bunch of garbage:

My thoughts blur together in a colorful tangled tapestry: she wasn’t a submissive. We had no contract. She was sexually inexperienced. She was the first woman I wanted more from than just sex. Christ–all the firsts I experienced with her: the first girl I’d slept beside, the first virgin, the first to meet my family, the first to fly in Charlie Tango, the first I took soaring.

Note that none of this explains why Ana in particular is special. It’s just a re-hashing of facts about her and humblebrags about himself.

Yeah…Different.

Sure.

Flynn reminds Christian that he hasn’t actually said anything out loud. Christian says he misses her. Flynn asked Christian if he ever missed the other women. Christian says no.

“So there was something different about her,” he prompts.

I shrug, but he persists.

Yeah it’s crazy how he didn’t take a shrug as a clear answer.

“Did you have a contractual relationship with her? Was she a submissive?”

“I’d hoped she would be. But it wasn’t for her.”

Flynn frowns. “I don’t understand.”

I don’t understand what he doesn’t understand.

“I broke one of my rules. I chased this girl, thinking that she’d be interested, and it turned out it wasn’t for her.”

“Tell me what happened.”

I haven’t turned the page yet, but I swear if EL James just has Christian exposition the last 541 pages all over again, I’m going to scream.

The floodgates open and I recount the past month’s events, from the moment Ana fell into my office to when she left last Saturday morning.

So EL James does know how to sum up a conversation without typing every single line of dialog? Why couldn’t she have done this in every other part of the book? Why did I have to hear about every pot of fucking stew and the precise number of minutes it would take before it was ready to eat? And then them eating the stew? And then Mrs. Jones clearing away the stew?

“I see. You’ve certainly packed a lot in since we last spoke.”

Said the licensed professional.

He then asks Christian how he, Christian, felt when Ana said she loved him.

“Horrified,” I whisper.

“Of course you did.” He shakes his head. “You’re not the monster you think you are. You’re more than worthy of affection, Christian. You know that. I’ve told you often enough. It’s only in your mind that you’re not.”

I’m going to give Flynn the benefit of the doubt and assume that Christian conveniently left out all of the stalking.

Flynn asks how Christian feels now. Christian feels lost. Also he misses her. He wants to see her.

I’m in the confessional once more, owning up to my sins: the dark, dark need that I have for her, as if she were an addiction.

You’re in therapy. Why would you need to add a metaphorical layer to that?

Anyway, this conversation is super boring and VERY long, so let me sum it up:

Flynn asks Christian if he’s sure Ana can’t fulfill his needs. Christian says he’s sure because Ana walked out. Flynn argues that Ana walked out because Christian beat her, and because she’s just not into “the lifestyle,” but maybe if Christian was willing to have a genuine relationship, she would be willing to start things over.

I’m uncomfortable about a lot of this advice, mostly because Flynn is basically telling Christian to give up the kink entirely if he wants Ana back, which isn’t really the issue. Ana was sort of into certain parts of the kink — she just doesn’t want to be hit. And it also bothers me that Christian “beating” Ana is a quick bullet point in Flynn’s list of facts.

Flynn asks if Christian enjoyed the vanilla sex. Christian says yes.

“Did you find beating her satisfying?”

“Very.”

“Would you like to do it again?”

Do that to her again? And watch her walk out–again?

“No.”

Again, the language being used makes me uncomfortable. Because the lines between BDSM and abuse are so horribly blurred by this book. The truth is that Christian does want to do that to Ana again — he just doesn’t want her to leave. Which is not the same as not wanting to do it to her.

Anyway, Christian says it’s just not Ana’s “scene,” and he doesn’t want to hurt her like that again. Flynn asks if Christian is surprised by Ana’s anger and hurt. Christian repeats that Ana was angry, which is just confusing. Flynn asks how that makes Christian feel. It makes him feel helpless, which also doesn’t make much sense.

“And that’s a familiar feeling,” he prompts.

“Familiar how?” What does he mean?

“Don’t you recognize yourself at all? Your past?” His question knocks me off balance.

Fuck, we’ve been over and over this.

Christian misinterprets Flynn as talking about Elena, Flynn reminds Christian of his toddlerhood, which is weird because… doesn’t Christian literally describe himself as feeling helpless after many of those dreams? But fine. He’s a constant mystery to himself even when he’s totally aware of himself in other moments.

God, this scene won’t end.

Flynn asks him to talk about his childhood, and how that might be influencing his need to beat women. Christian says that’s unfair, and that Ana was a consenting adult who could have safe-worded. Does Flynn call him on his bullshit?

Nope:

“I know. I know.” He holds his hand up. “I’m just callously illustrating a point, Christian. You’re an angry man, and you have every reason to be. I’m not going to rehash all that right now–you’re obvously suffering, and the whole point of these sessions is to move you to a place where you are more accepting and comfortable with yourself.”

Because it’s ALL ABOUT CHRISTIAN.

Flynn adds, helpfully:

“Her leaving has triggered your abandonment issues and your PTSD. She clearly means much more to you than you’re willing to admit to yourself.”

It’s all her fault, sad robot, etc.

Christian wonders if Flynn is right — does he feel sad because Ana means a lot to him?

Yes.

This isn’t a question.

We already know this.

Flynn then basically tells him to go back after Ana and try a “conventional” relationship, because we all know that kink is only for sad weirdos:

“Well if she’s not prepared to be your submissive, you can’t play the role of dominant.”

Just watch him!

I glare at him. It’s not a role–it’s who I am.

This isn’t a phase, dad!

Christian then wonders if he could have a plain relationship with Ana. Maybe? He doesn’t know.

Flynn pumps Christian’s tires a bunch by saying that he’s extraordinary because he’s goal-oriented and successful. His praise goes on for a while and is such bullshit, but you get the general idea. “Christian, you make a lot of money doing business. Therefore you are a good man.”

At least — at the very least — Flynn mildly calls Christian out for not really taking Ana’s lack of experience into account, or her willingness to participate in particular acts. But it’s a bit of a throw-away line in a larger statement about why Christian is the best.

Christian flashes back to all of the wonderful moments with Ana from the last two weeks. These include: her tripping into his office, him going to her work, their e-mails, her mouth, her laugh, “her quiet fortitude and defiance” (I have no idea)… and that’s pretty much it. Christian said he loved all of it. She’s so special. It’s been a great journey.

My thoughts take a darker turn.

She doesn’t know the depths of my depravity, the darkness in my soul, the monster beneath–maybe I should leave her alone.

I’m not worthy of her. She can’t love me.

But even as I think the words, I know that I don’t have the strength to stay away from her…if she’ll have me.

I’m the worst! The very worst! She’s better off without me, but… well, what can I do? Daddy’s gotta fuck.

Flynn tells Christian to think about chasing after Ana, because he’s also the worst.

End of scene.

wrap

New scene:

Standing on the balcony, I survey Seattle at night. Up here I’m at one remove, away from it all. What did she call it?

My ivory tower.

That’s what everyone calls it.

Christian’s thinking about Ana, and thinking about what Flynn said. Could Christian just have a normal relationship?!?!?!

I mean, yes. Because that’s basically what he had for the last two weeks.

But Christian’s not sure.

Then he wonders if he can win Ana back.

Then he wonders why she’d want him back.

He sees something out of the corner of his eye (it’s obviously Leila), but then decides it was nothing (it’s Leila), and he throws back the rest of his cognac and heads back into the living room (where Leila just was).

End of another horrendous pointless terrible chapter.

12 more pages.

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