“Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” Joyce Carol Oates

The Sensual indiscretions of Beltane have followed us into the season known as summer, but there are no maypoles here. Herein lies a moment to explore a space both in and out of time known as the “In Between”.

The In Between is a tightrope that stretches amongst and through all pockets of space, both physical and celestial. While one may reach the In Between practically anytime, the summer months lend itself graciously to this space with its long-drawn-out days. Boredom, heat, and excitement meshing together and nearing the cusp of insanity.  There are few that actively seek the In Between while others stumble upon it either by chance, circumstance or consequence. It is a transitional space that packs both bark and bite by the very definition of its existence. One is likely to become mad while teetering between decisions that need to be made, or dreaming and waking, or moving forward or backward, even transcendence and regression.

   Joyce Carol Oates described this space best in her short story “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?”  when she coaxed our protagonist, Connie, and the reader straight into the In Between via Arnold Friend’s car that sunny summer day. Connie wasn’t special by any means, but she was always on the lookout for more. Conscious of her coquettish and provocative behavior, Connie adapted the manner of such more so as a service to the people, and perhaps a little was fed to her ego. What was a pretty girl of 15 to do? Her mother despised her, her father didn’t care one way or another, and her sister was a square. So, when she saw Arnold Friend in his convertible one evening while she herself was with another boy, what more could she do but turn her head back to let Arnold Friend know she was slightly interested?  Interested in what he and, ultimately the In Between, had to offer. A whirlwind of a space was what the In Between stood for. It was a place of Uncertainty, and Connie herself was a child of such.

Furthermore, when Arnold Friend drove to her house one Sunday morning in order to pick Connie up and escort her to the In Between, Connie shared a bit of recognition with us: “She had the idea that he had driven up the driveway all right but had come from nowhere before that and belonged nowhere and that everything about him and even the music that was so familiar to her was only half real.”

Connie fought of course. She fought Arnold Friend and herself from a reality that she always knew to be true. This – this place. The things we touch and smell, the places we see out of the corner of our eyes and even in our dreams, isn’t all there is. There is another place. A place much closer than the higher realm reached through the toil of transcendence or the inevitable discoveries made known to all at some point in the afterlife. This place is the In Between. Before relenting to the pounding of her heart, and Arnold Friend, it was said in the last paragraph of the story “so much land that Connie had never seen before and did not recognize except to know that she was going to it.”

 Even Emily Dickinson shared a bit of the In Between with us by solicitating none other than Death himself to pick up a denizen of the In Between in her Poem “Because I Could Not Stop for Death”. The songwriter Bob Dylan spoke of the In Between in his 1967 album John Wesley Harding via the song “All Along the Watchtower”. Bob Dylan too saw the uncertainty and madness that made the In Between its home in his line “There must be some way out of here, said the joker to the thief. There’s too much confusion, I can’t get no relief.”

Of course, the In Between is yet another door leading to Truth. A hazardous Straight Talk Only, if you will It is also a door that one would never forget, and never look fondly upon. What door leading to the truths of uncertainty would?

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