Previously, on Save the Pearls: After being swept away from camp by a river, Eden and Bramford snuggled, then insulted each other, and then Bramford put Eden on his shoulders so she could ride him back to the rest of their party.
So the chapter opens with Eden still perched on top of Bramford:
The mysterious maze of the jungle swallowed Eden into its dark, forbidding folds. Like craggy monsters, an army of trees reached for her.
Which is predictable, since, you know, she is sitting on the shoulders of a hulking 6+ foot tall Catman.
So Eden is all disoriented, but she thinks about how Bramford will protect her since he’s a “mighty predator”, and that makes her feel better. But then she worries out loud that the Huaorani will leave without them, or something. Bramford tells her to STFU because he’s trying to navigate, and she’s surprised he doesn’t know the way back exactly. When she expresses this, Bramford replies like this:
“Shhh!” He pinched her thigh.
I’m not sure if this is supposed to be the equivalent of the Dog Whisperer’s “Tsch!” or a kinky barely-restrained bit of corporal punishment. Eden yelps in pain, though, and Bramford yells at her to be quiet!
Eden stared at the large hand that gripped her legs and fumed. Some predator.
And this just adds to my confusion. Was the aggressive pinch supposed to be weaksauce or a show of manly dominance? Because it really sounds like Eden is unimpressed.
But Bramford’s pinching game increases after Eden gets some cobwebs stuck in her hair and screams:
Each time she made a noise, Bramford squeezed her again. In return, she groaned. From despair or pleasure, she couldn’t say.
This is seriously the worst road trip game ever.
I guess Eden stops whining though, because next we get a few paragraphs of imagery. Now that Eden’s eyes have adjusted to the dark of the jungle, she sees all sorts of things, including:
Masses of sensuous orchids wrapped their spindly roots around tree trunks. Their passionate colors and exotic smells amazed her.
So, um, yeah. The jungle itself is a virile symbol of fucking.
She also sees some monkeys, and wonders if they’re judging her for being white.
Nothing continues to happen: Eden thinks about how steamy the jungle is (compared to the dry heat of the underground tunnels), and gets all sweaty. As she gets thirsty, Bramford hands her the water gourd, which I think is supposed to show how intuitively connected they are.
At each mysterious croak from the dark recesses, Eden pressed her knees tight against Bramford’s neck. Her fears drove her to cling to him. To her delight, a soft, low murmur rumbled through him. It washed over her, calming her anxiety and yet, arousing her desire.
This is clearly supposed to be hot. If you think it’s hot, well, you do you. But let’s remember that Bramford is charging through the jungle at top-speed, and Eden is SQUEEZING HIS NECK WITH HER THIGHS. It just sounds distracting, and a little bit dangerous. It’s just not the time or place for erotic asphyxiaation.
So then Eden’s all like “why am I feeling this way?” and thinks Bramford is “as mysterious as this jungle.” And she angsts about how can she ever trust anyone again after Jamal’s betrayal?
Some parrots take off, and Eden worries that there’s something lurking nearby. Bramford sniffs the air, and tells her that there’s a storm coming. Eden asks how he knows, and Bramford tells her that the jungle has quieted down and that the temperature has dropped. Then he condescendingly asks Eden if she can feel it. Eden says that she’s not getting data anymore (as she no longer has her life-band). Bramford’s response to this is really bizarre:
“Before you would have noticed the signs.” [ . . .] “About a million years ago, when you looked something like me.”
- First, I just love how Bramford seems to have forgotten that like two days ago, he was also a lowly human living in an underground dystopia city.
- Does Bramford think humans evolved from panther/snake/eagle hybrids?
- And Bramford doesn’t even need to go back a million years to find a time when humans would have been more attuned to nature. I feel like his Huaorani pals would probably be similarly aware of environmental changes, and they’re modern humans.
Eden asks Bramford what he means:
Even uglier than now? And yet, Bramford wasn’t ugly, was he? He was raw and sexy. Maybe she wouldn’t have looked so bad.
Bramford affirms Eden’s inner monologue:
“I bet you would have been one hell of a she-cat.”
Does Victoria Foyt not realize that humans didn’t evolve from jungle cats?
So some lightening flashes overhead, and some thunder rumbles. Eden gets freaked out, which is understandable, when you consider that she’s lived underground for her entire life and has therefore never had to deal with weather.
But no, it’s not the weather itself that’s freaking Eden out:
The lack of weather alerts from her sensors unnerved her.
Did she get weather alerts while living underground? Why? Did the author think literally anything through before typing it out?
So Bramford laughs, and Eden again laments the loss of her Life-Band. Bramford tells her that if she just watches and listens, she won’t need a Life-Band, and that her “basic instincts” can tell her everything she needs to know.
Because reading environmental cues is instinctive, and not learned, or anything. If you hadn’t noticed, there’s a very strong Noble Savage/anti-technology thing going on in this novel that only gets worse from here.
Eden thinks that Bramford’s brand-new genome might be giving him a leg up on perceiving small changes in the environment (which, I don’t think she’s wrong there). And then for some reason, she thinks about how Emily Dickinson was a shut-in, which reminds her of a poem:
To make a prairie it takes a clover
and one bee,—
One clover, and a bee,
The revery alone will do
If bees are few.
But, Eden tells us, she doesn’t have a very good imagination because of all the Oxy she’s been doing her whole life.
Yeah, I don’t get what any of that has to do with noticing subtle environmental signs.
But Eden starts brainstorming (for some reason), and imagines herself and Bramford as a “half-natural-Pearl, half-beastly-Coal” centaur. This makes her laugh. Bramford asks her what’s funny, and she tells him that he would never understand. Because I guess rich, cultured Black people don’t know standard mythological creatures in this universe?
But so even though Eden tells Bramford that he wouldn’t understand, I guess he actually was supposed to beg her to enlighten him as to what was so funny:
He didn’t even pry. The selfish beast simply dropped the subject and ignored her.
How rude, I guess? You know that if he had asked her to explain what a centaur is, Eden would have complained about how pushy and obnoxious he is.
Eden fumes about how they’re nothing alike at all, but then it begins to rain. This cools her off, but also gives us this unfortunate line:
Soon, her perch grew wet. Bramford caught her waist as soon as she began to slip.
And I’m not even sure if that’s supposed to be innuendo.
So then Eden starts back on the “wow he’s so in-tune with me” thing (despite having just thought about what a dick he was), and wonders if she can become as in-sync with him as he is with her. For some reason, this makes her want to “run her hands along his face,” and:
She clung to him, pressing her hips against the back of his neck.
So basically she’s just grinding on him right now, which is so, so unattractive to me. But Bramford likes it: he starts breathing harder and stumbles.
At this, Eden offers to walk, thinking he’s getting tired. So much for reading Bramford’s body language, I guess. But then Bramford gets offended, and snaps at her, and the two get back to their adorable dynamic where they insult and accuse one another of ulterior motives. This again escalates to physical roughness: Bramford grabs Eden by the waist, and she raises her hand to slap him. He catches her hand, and tells her that this is his world now and he can see everything.
But the chapter ends, as Eden thinks:
Really? Could he also see her absurd attraction to his beastly self?
I’m fairly sure he can, because she is not subtle about it at all.
And yes, this makes two chapters in a row that are basically just alternating between feeling utter loathing and firey passion without contributing anything to the plot.