Last December, I blithely decided to join a book club I saw advertised in Starbucks. The poster was perfectly on-point to rope me in: “Book Club Looking For Members: wine-loving student preferred.” As I’m nothing if not a wine-adoring, book-loving student, I was in with both feet, arms, legs, and my entire bank account (which, to be fair, isn’t really saying that much).
Fast forward to January 4, and I’ve finally gotten up the initiative to send the email after discussing at length with anyone who will listed why this is the best thing to happen to me, ever. I’ve always wanted to be in a book club, see, since I was in first grade and my best friend Elizabeth and I would sneak into her attic and read Pride & Prejudice (I was quite the rebellious youngster).
I receive an email back the same day, and the author sounds lovely. The email is in my favorite font (Georgia) with my favorite valediction (warmly), and she (Laken) seems like the perfect curator for a book club. She’s more type-A than I could ever dream of, and has made a short survey to “gauge my interest” that asks normal things such as nights when I’m free, books that I like, and what I think the first book we read as a group should be. Though I am not a perfectionist, I am most definitely an overachiever, and so I spend an inordinate amount of time making sure that my answers are absolutely, perfectly cool.
Ten nail-biting days later, and I have a response. The email, sent out to a list of undisclosed recipients, says that I have been accepted to the book club and that the book of the month will be Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, which was totally my suggestion and that we will meet on January 29 at 6pm. Coincidentally, I’d inhaled it weeks before and could think of nothing better than sitting around with a glass of wine and my best friends that I didn’t quite know yet.
On to January 29, the fateful evening. Six o’clock, in the dead of winter, means in nowhere Alabama that it is already completely dark and eerily much silent. I’m driving along, headlights on, following my GPS and singing along to Bob Dylan. I sail past fast food restaurants, pet supply stores, home depot, walmart, KFC until quite suddenly, I’m around absolutely nothing. Dead silence. No comforting neon lights. My next landmark, a trailer park with one lone light-pole, does little to assuage the uneasy feeling that is slowly creeping down my throat and settling in the pit of my stomach. I’m sure it will get nicer soon, I think, expecting a cheery neighborhood with a welcoming wooden sign, to pop up around the next deserted corner. Instead, I find, 15 minutes and several run-down shacks later, an abandoned dirt road, which my GPS is cheerily demanding that I take a left onto. This road, I should stress, has absolutely no lights and no concrete. It would be more fitting to call it a path, a path into the unlit wilderness.
Suddenly, the book on the seat has a new meaning. Gone Girl is no longer the thriller I had been so excited to discuss, but a rather foreboding omen. I am the gone girl. I am sweating, my hands are shaking, and I can hear my heart thump, thump, thumping in my ears as I call my boyfriend. “The house is in the middle of nowhere and I don’t know where I am and I am afraid that the book is a sign and I’ve never met any of these people and what am I thinking this was a terrible idea,” I’m expecting him to say don’t be silly, you’re making these things up (I can be terribly skittish, you see, so there is the possibility that these ladies were not the ax murderers I believed them to be). However, he seems almost as concerned as I am when I tell him that I am in the middle of the woods, not in a subdivision as one would think. “She would have told you that it was in the middle of nowhere, if this was legitimate” he reasoned, and this sage advice was enough to make me turn straight around and head home.
But I’ve looked forward to this for so long; I must be imagining things. I’m sure once I turn down the unlit dirt path, the house will be well-lit and beautiful; they just haven’t gotten around to sprucing up the entrance.
So I do another u-turn, screw up every ounce of courage that exists in my convulsing body, and head once more down the dark, dark highway in search of the “road.” I find it, turn onto it, and see the house my GPS indicates. It’s a little shack with only two cars parked out front, and one light on inside. The curtains look like moth-eaten grandmother lace, and slats are falling off of the front.
I yelp, do the quickest u-turn known to man, and high-tail it home.
After I am safely in the confines of my boyfriend’s apartment, I tell the tale and we settle in for dinner. Suddenly he runs to the window, and looks back at me in fear: “There’s a group of girls outside, and they’re burning a huge pile of books!” he yells. I blanche.
But it isn’t a joking matter, my friends, because that is the true story of how I was almost a real gone girl.