First Read: Oryx and Crake Chapter 6 cont. (Oryx-Pixieland Jazz)

Enter Oryx.

(Even though I had planned my next response to focus on the progression to chapter 8 (as far as Asperger’s U.), I realized upon completing Pixieland Jazz  that because of space and time constraints, I had failed to document one of if not THE most significant moments in the past chapter; Oryx’s origin story. And so, I would be remiss if I did not give this section the attention it deserves after having paid so much attention to Crake and Jimmy/Snowman.)

The preceding sections of chapter six that culminate in Pixieland Jazz (Oryx, Birdcall, & Roses) describe the apocryphal origin story of Oryx and Crake’s titular female protagonist. Born from a small struggling village in a South-Eastern country of indeterminate name (“A village in Indonesia, or else Myanmar? […] It wasn’t India though. Vietnam? Jimmy guessed. Cambodia? Pg. 180, Oryx), the unnamed girl who would one day grow up to become Oryx is sold by her parents, along with her three siblings, to a foreigner named “Uncle En”: an alias for a faux-benevolent businessman whose trade included child labor, high-level grifting, and sex trafficking.

Despite the fear that accompanied her purchase by Uncle En, Oryx still believed that her Mother had a love for her and her siblings, but that the harsh realities facing her village made selling their children into forced labor the more attractive alternative to slow starvation, crippling disease, and painful death. Oryx first hand begins to understand the necessity of not only love but monetary worth, “…but love was undependable, it came and then it went, so it was good to have a money value, because then at least those who wanted to make a profit from you would make sure you were fed enough and not damaged too much….there were many who had neither love nor a money value, and having one of these things was better than having nothing.” (Pg. 197, End of Birdcall)

Oryx, now named “SuSu”, and the children are shepherded to a major metropolitan city, nondescript save for being a smelly chaotic congested epicenter of tourist trade.  She and the other girls are put to work as flower girls, exploiting their inability to communicate and their meek exotic appearances to evoke pity and plentiful coinage out of affluent tourists, “Who could resist her? Not many of the foreigners. Her smile was perfect – not cocky or aggressive, but hesitant, shy, taking nothing for granted. It was a smile with no ill will in it: it contained no resentment, no envy, only the promise of heartfelt gratitude.” (Pg. 201, Roses) Oryx’s brother is ill-suited to this trade and is threatened with being sold to another less “benevolent” child trafficker who would either put his life in mortal danger, take him as a personal sex slave, or both. “Oryx saw her brother’s face darken and grow hard, and she wasn’t surprised when he ran away; and whether he was ever caught and punished Oryx never knew. Nor did she ask, because asking – she had now found out – would do no good” (Pg. 203, Roses)

In one form or another, Oryx has always had her life “owned” by someone else. Whether it was her parents, her village, Uncle En; Even the other child workers, who traded her among one another between their cramp sleeping room. So the day that Uncle En tells her to allow herself to be abducted by a foreigner instead of alerting the police is a day of major significance for her, because on that day Oryx  made the first step to crossing over into the threshold of physical and emotional power.

Oryx becomes the centerpiece in a sex grifting operation by Uncle En. She is lured by foreigners to faraway hotels for sex and, unbeknownst to them, being tailed by Uncle En. She then proceeds to engage in sexual foreplay with these tourists, only to be interrupted by Uncle En barging in to rescue her and threatening violence and police action. The tourists, terrorized by the threat of being locked up in an unwelcoming prison in a foreign country with now reliable way out, plead for their lives and throw enormous amounts of money at him to buy his silence, unaware of the scheme going on behind the scenes.

“So that became her game. She felt a little sorry for the men: although Uncle En said they deserved what happened to them and they were lucky he never called the police, she somewhat regretted her part. But at the same time she enjoyed it. It made her feel strong to know that the men thought that she was helpless but she was not.” (Pg. 206, Roses)

And just when Oryx had grasped after a shred of mutual power and affection with Uncle En, it is just as quickly dashed away. A tall man comes to the apartment where the children are housed  telling them that Uncle En has sold his business and they now belong to him and his associates now, likely a lie to cover up the truth that En’s body was found floating face down a dirty canal the other day.

The children are then transferred to a different location, a lush and expensive mansion where their diets and living conditions are drastically improved. But as Oryx adeptly says, “Everything has a price”. The name of the place they live in is called “Pixieland”.

It turns out her new owners are the creators of the “Tart of the Day” online series, the one that Jimmy and Crake find themselves watching in their reckless adolescent youth. In the movies, she and the other girls are subjected to all manner of depraved and humiliating sex acts, all of which Oryx cannot help but describe in a dry tone that borders on physical boredom.

Through her sexual favors with the camera-man Jack, Oryx learns how to read and speak in English, a skill which she sees as an appropriate trade because it has allowed her to speak with Jimmy and tell him her story.

Oryx’s blase attitude concerning her past as an indentured sex worker isn’t surprising  as it was the only life that she knew and even if she was capable of being aghast at the things that she had done or had been subjected to, that spark of an impulse was snuffed out and deafened a long time ago to cope. However, we also get the impression that despite her terse and emotionless narration of the past, she is not entirely proud to share her experiences with Jimmy, lest she lose the respect and affection she holds in his eyes. “More often than not she acted as if she wanted to protect him, form the image of herself – herself in the past. She liked to keep only the bright side of herself turned towards him. She liked to shine.” (Pg. 209, Pixieland Jazz)

Jimmy constantly interrupts her story in order to glean as much visual and physical information as possible, as though to somehow amass enough so as to one day find the men who “manipulated” her and seek out revenge as some unspoken form of personal repentance. It’s more than just anger at the manipulation of a loved one, it’s repressed guilt for the act of having watched this atrocities take place, masked as righteous retribution. Oryx tells Jimmy to let the past stay in the past, that it was a different time and a different place and there is already so much ugliness in the present. Despite all that has happened, Oryx manages to find the beauty of the world removed from it’s ugliness, if only to survive it.

“Why do you want to talk about ugly things?” she said.

Her voice was silvery, like a music box. She waved one hand in the air to dry the nails. “We should think only beautiful things, as much as we can. There is so much beautiful in the world if you look around. You are looking only at the dirt under your feet, Jimmy. It’s not good for you.”

She would never tell him.Why did this drive him so crazy?

“It wasn’t real sex, was it?” he asked. “In the movies. It was only acting. Wasn’t it?”

“But Jimmy, you should know. All sex is real.”

Oryx and Crake; Fan Cover Art by Angelica Alzona

(Next Installment: Oryx and Crake Chapter 7-8 (Sveltana-Asperger’s U.)