Study Guide

The Orange Houses Life, Consciousness, and Existence

By Paul Griffin

Life, Consciousness, and Existence

He was filthy but all right. He hopped his board and slalomed the back alley trash into the street and the thickening gray of the afternoon rain. "Hallelujah," he said, opening himself to the thunderstorm. Jimmi Sixes was on a mission. He had to know: Was life worth living? (4.8) 

We couldn't have put Jimmi's inner struggle better ourselves. The guy is in a lot of emotional pain and dealing with depression, but his plight goes <em>way </em>beyond suffering. He's searching for answers to life's big questions. 

He closed his eyes but still saw her, would always see her. Why didn't he grab her as she skipped past him? Could he have stopped her from detonating that IED? What would have happened if he never signed on for overseas action, if he stayed home to be with his lady? Would he have saved his baby that night? Saved Julyssa? (8.9) 

The little girl with the bomb makes Jimmi question every decision he's ever made. He wishes his life took a different route, and he can't help wondering whether his whole life could have turned out differently if he hadn't gone to war. 

He flashed back to the desert and his armored tank rolling over towns held together by mortar thinned with dust and husk, everything ancient, so durable and fragile at the same time. (11.4) 

The contrast of an ancient place with modern technology makes Jimmi think about—<em>duh</em>—the meaning of life. He thinks about how we are all from an ancient race (read: humans) but living in the modern world. That's deep, Jimmi. 

He wrote on his arm: MAYBE LIFE'S JUST GOT HERSELF TRICKED OUT IN THE ODD SHINY MOMENT TO COVER THE TRUE BLUE UGLY, THE ESSENCE OF THE IS. (15.3) 

Jimmi's poems are written all over the city and they all touch on life, existence, and consciousness in one way or another. So what is the "essence of the is"? That's for you to decide. Write it on your arm and think it over.

What kind of a world was that? But if Joe were around, he would have said, Kid, you can't give up. You gotta get back out there. Life's too short to waste time mourning. C'mon now, Jimmi, straighten up and fly right. Let's get to work. (17.3) 

We heart Joe. Not only does the guy have a big, er, heart and pay for Mik's hearing aids, he also rallies Jimmi whenever the guy's down. So much so, that even after Joe is dead, Jimmi thinks about what he <em>would </em>have said to try to turn over a new leaf.

Jimmi didn't believe in the next world. Why then did he have the feeling Joe was looking over his shoulder as he chiseled the cave floor with a bent screwdriver and a brick? (23.2) 

How can that be? It doesn't make sense that Jimmi doesn't believe in an afterlife, but he imagines Joe <em>in </em>the afterlife. Is he just wishing his friend were around somewhere, or is Jimmi genuinely changing his mind about what happens after you die?

Now there was nobody to talk to. Maybe this was God's way of telling Jimmi the time had come to end this life filled with too many lousy surprises. (23.13) 

For a guy who seems intent on wasting away his life, Jimmi sure does read into everything. He takes his loneliness as a sign from God, even though he doesn't really believe in one or in an afterlife. Hmm… this makes us think Jimmi isn't really certain about what he believes about his own existence. 

He put the gun to his heart, pulled the trigger, click. He'd been doing this on and off for the last day, rehearsal for the real deal. (25.3)

Does Jimmi really want to kill himself, or is he just down in the dumps? It's no joking matter—yet Jimmi plays around with the gun for a while before doing anything. Perhaps he's not actually suicidal. 

At the desk they gave him what he brought in: his backpack and Joe's ashes. As he stepped out into the sunlight he felt as if Life loved him a little, but the feeling didn't last. (28.15) 

Jimmi experiences big ups and downs. When he's happy, he thinks life or some supernatural power is looking out for him, but when he's down, he's ready to throw his whole life away. 

He figured he should just step off the cliff. He took a last look at the world, his eyes stopping on that abandoned NYPD garage just east of the O Houses. The angels had blessed it with a six-winged Statue of Liberty. (31.13) 

The mural that the girls painted is symbolic to Jimmi, but it also shows us some of what he values in life. He may be a bit of a loner, but human connection holds a whole lot of meaning to him.

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