Tuesday, May 27, 2014
The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith
On September 1, all of New York City was struck by a blackout. Lucy Patterson didn't know that the entire city was in the dark because she was stuck in an elevator in the building where she had lived her entire life. She wasn't alone. Also in the elevator is the teenage son of her building's new superintendent. He and his father had just moved in about a month ago. Lucy had watched them carry in their furniture while sitting in a coffee shop. The doormen in the building wouldn't give her any information about him. Even if she was a confident girl, he seemed too aloof to approach. Lucy is a wealthy girl from the upper floor who attends a private all girl school. Her brothers have just left for college and her parents are on a trip to Paris. She is truly alone for the first time in her life. She had just run downstairs to check the mail and grabbed the elevator. When the two of them realize that they will probably be stuck for a while, they attempt to have a conversation. Lucy finds out that Owen, who lives in the basement apartment, isn't a fan of the city. His father's job was an unexpected detour. When she asks him why he was going up, he shows her a key and says he was heading for the roof.
Having lived all of his life in Pennsylvania, Owen is having a hard time in New York City, as is his father. Turns out, his mother died in a car accident while trying to light a cigarette. His father was out of work and a cousin offered him the position in one of his buildings. Now, instead of waking up to sunny window and the birds chipping, he sees a mold stained, cracked ceiling and a sliver of light bleeding through the barred window at the top of the wall. The city is closing in on him and the roof of the apartment building is the one place he feels free. It's not too long before they hear someone knocking on the elevator doors. Owen gets up and knocks back. The elevator door is opened and Lucy and Owen crawl out. They find out that not only is the city in a blackout, but it looks like it may be part of the Eastern seaboard. They head towards the stairwell and are reluctant to part. Lucy offers Owen a flashlight, but he declines. Hearing her footsteps fading away, Owen changes his mind. He runs back up and Lucy meets him. He does want that flashlight. The two of them climb to Lucy's apartment.
Finding only one flashlight, the two of them head back down and into the city to get some supplies. New York is so different in the dark than what Lucy is used to. They find some water and batteries and stand in line for free ice cream, since it's melting anyway. Owen shows her the stars unobstructed by the city lights and Lucy is fascinated. Heading back to their building and make the climb to her apartment. It’s hot and they lay on the tile kitchen floor. Owen notices that the refrigerator is covered in postcards. Her parents send her one from every trip they go on. They soon head for the roof to get some air. The two of them talk about the constellations and all of the postcards on Lucy's refrigerator that her parents have sent her over the years. Lucy asks Owen if he could go anywhere in the world, where would it be. It is a question Owen has often wanted to ask. He talks about wanting to head off for college on the West Coast while she would like to visit all of the places on her postcard collection. Lucy watches Owen fall asleep before her eyes drift closed.
Lucy awakes the next morning to the bright daylight and finds Owen gone. She heads back to her apartment but the power isn't on yet. She debates going to the basement to find Owen but doesn't. When the electricity comes back on, her parents call. Instead of coming home to check on her, they have made arrangements for her to fly and meet them in London. She will be flying out in a couple of days; she doesn’t see Owen again before she leaves.
It turns out that Owen’s father is suffering from heat exhaustion after trying to get back home during the blackout. Their cousin, the building’s owner isn’t happy that Owen’s father was MIA during the blackout. The water pumps need to be able to pump water to the upper floors. Owen handles the tools while his father tells him what to do. The two head out to sightsee in Times Square when the building is back in order. Stopping in a souvenir shop, Owen buys a postcard to send to Lucy in the heat of the moment. Meanwhile in London, Lucy does the same thing. She buys a postcard and sends it to Owen. When Owen and his father arrive back at the building, they see their cousin and a plumber. Turns out the basement flooded because the water pumps weren’t tightened. Sam fires Owen’s father. The two men decide that this is their chance to head west
Back at home, Lucy is checking the mailbox when she sees Owen. She finds his postcard and laughs. She tells him that she will be moving to London. Her parents’ are keeping their apartment so she will be back for summers. Owen keeps quiet that he had his father are leaving. She tells him that he should be on the lookout for a postcard as well.
After just one night, Owen and Lucy cannot keep their minds off of one another. Even though they should be growing closer, geographically, they are moving away from each other. Postcards turn out to be the way the keep in touch. Will something come of their continued relationship or will the increasing distance drive them apart?