The Marriage Plot

The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides Read Free Book Online

Book: The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides Read Free Book Online
Authors: Jeffrey Eugenides
Tags: Fiction.Contemporary
my friends did.” Accustomed to Alwyn’s teasing, Madeleine paid no attention, quietly slicing and eating the first of the fifty-seven grapefruits she subsisted on until New Year’s.
    Dieting fooled you into thinking you could control your life. By January, Madeleine was down five pounds, and by the time squash season ended she was back in great shape, and still she didn’t meet anyone she liked. The boys at college seemed either incredibly immature or prematurely middle-aged, bearded like therapists, warming brandy snifters over candles while listening to Coltrane’s A Love Supreme. It wasn’t until her junior year that Madeleine had a serious boyfriend. Billy Bainbridge was the son of Dorothy Bainbridge, whose uncle owned a third of the newspapers in the United States. Billy had flushed cheeks, blond curls, and a scar on his right temple that made him even more adorable than he already was. He was soft-spoken and nice-smelling, like Ivory soap. Naked, his body was nearly hairless.
    Billy didn’t like to talk about his family. Madeleine took this as a sign of good breeding. Billy was a legacy at Brown and sometimes worried that he wouldn’t have gotten in on his own. Sex with Billy was cozy, it was snuggly, it was perfectly fine. He wanted to be a filmmaker. The one film he made for Advanced Filmmaking, however, was a violent, unbroken twelve minutes of Billy throwing fecal-looking brownie mix at the camera. Madeleine began to wonder if there was a reason he never talked about his family.
    One thing he did talk about, however, with increasing intensity, was circumcision. Billy had read an article in an alternative health magazine that argued against the practice, and it made a big impression on him. “If you think about it, it’s a pretty weird thing to do to a baby,” he said. “Cut off part of its dick? What’s so different about a tribe in, like, Papua New Guinea putting bones through their noses and cutting off a baby’s foreskin? A bone through the nose is a lot less invasive.” Madeleine listened, trying to look sympathetic, and hoped Billy would drop the subject. But as the weeks passed he kept returning to it. “The doctors just do it automatically in this country,” he said. “They didn’t ask my parents. It’s not like I’m Jewish or anything.” He derided justifications on the basis of health or hygiene. “Maybe that made sense three thousand years ago, out in the desert, when you couldn’t take a shower. But now?”
    One night, as they were lying in bed, naked, Madeleine noticed Billy examining his penis, stretching it.
    “What are you doing?” she asked.
    “I’m looking for the scar,” he said somberly.
    He interrogated his European friends, Henrik the Intact, Olivier the Foreskinned, asking, “But does it feel supersensitive?” Billy was convinced that he’d been deprived of sensation. Madeleine tried not to take this personally. Plus there were other problems with their relationship by then. Billy had a habit of staring deeply into Madeleine’s eyes in a way that was somehow controlling. His roommate situation was odd. He lived off campus with an attractive, muscular girl named Kyle who was sleeping with at least three people, including Fatima Shirazi, a niece of the shah of Iran. On the wall of his living room Billy had painted the words Kill the Father . Killing the father was what, in Billy’s opinion, college was all about.
    “Who’s your father?” he asked Madeleine. “Is it Virginia Woolf? Is it Sontag?”
    “In my case,” Madeleine said, “my father really is my father.”
    “Then you have to kill him.”
    “Who’s your father?”
    “Godard,” he said.
    Billy talked about renting a house in Guanajuato with Madeleine over the summer. He said she could write a novel while he made a film. His faith in her, in her writing (even though she hardly wrote any fiction), made Madeleine feel so good that she started going along with the idea. And then one day she came

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