Chapter 18 Summary
The eighteenth chapter, “The Obscure Object,” begins with Cal recounting her romances. One of his first partners was Oliva, who had been raped at thirteen. Both of them were intellectual enough to succeed in college, but they were immature emotionally. Cal explains that her unusual anatomy was a sort of “starter kit” for Oliva. Cal has other romances, but each of them becomes harder and harder since she knows they will always have to face the “great fact of my condition.” It was different with the "Obscure Object," because they met in “blissful ignorance.”
Callie is in eighth grade at Baker & Inglis School for Girls, and one of her favorite teachers is Mr. da Silva. Though Mr. da Silva is from Brazil, Cal explains that it is difficult to see his Latin American origin. He loves European literature and he is still “keyed up” over a trip to Greece that took place six years prior. Callie loves Mr. da Silva’s English class, in which she and several other girls are reading Homer’s The Iliad. Though the other girls find the constant deaths monotonous, Callie loves it. The class changes one day when a new girl is transferred into class. To protect her identity, Cal refers to her as the "Obscure Object," an allusion to the film That Obscure Object of Desire. Cal explains that the hero of the film literally carries a sack for unknown reasons, and that Callie feels as though her feelings for the Obscure Object are like a sack that she carries. Cal recalls that it was not uncommon for the girls to have a “crush” on one another at Baker & Inglis School for Girls, but that even in the eighth grade, Callie understood that her feelings were different.
Mr. da Silva decides to have the class perform Antigone, and he casts the Obscure Object in the title role. In spite of her ambivalence toward class, the Obscure Object is a natural star, and she insists that the girls memorize all of their lines. Callie, who is cast as Tiresias because of her hair, volunteers to help the Obscure Object memorize lines. Callie meets the Obscure Object at the latter’s house and the two girls hit it off. The Obscure Object admits to Callie that she is glad that they are studying lines together because they would never have interacted together otherwise.
The night of the play is a disaster. One of the girls, Maxine Grossinger, has an aneurysm while on stage. The Obscure Object turns to Callie for comfort and Cal admits that
while Mrs. Grossinger tried to breathe life back into Maxine’s body, while the sun set melodramatically over a death that wasn’t in the script, I felt a wave of pure happiness surge through my body. Every nerve, every corpuscle, lit up. I had the Obscure Object in my arms.