Caroline Clough


                                                                                      Veronica Mars                                                                

Somebody threw a bottle through the window of my car (a blue 1991 Volvo sedan named Lola) at some point after five o'clock Thursday evening and before eleven o'clock Sunday morning.  I discovered the violation when I got into the driver's seat of my car and looked in my rear view mirror to pull out into the narrow alley behind my apartment building. The hole in my back window is about the size of an eighteen-month-old baby with jagged, rectangular edges where the glass shattered but did not fall. At first I assumed the hole was a result of the windy, snowy weather we've been having. Lola is parked under a tree and it wouldn't be impossible for a limb to fall and do some damage. But inside Lola I found a completely full bottle of Ning Xia Red, a dietary "supplement" drink the color of rust that I've never heard of since I keep my supplements limited to a once-a-day vitamin at bedtime. The bottle was on the floor of my backseat and it most certainly didn't belong to me.  I concluded that the weather was not responsible for my car's gaping wound; instead it was, in all probability, a human being.

If I were Veronica Mars I'd take the bottle and bring it around to all the local convenience stores and ask a) do they carry this beverage, b) do they remember selling this beverage to any person or c) do they have surveillance cameras? Then I would get a description of the person who bought the beverage and get a sample of their DNA (or maybe just a finger print) and compare it to the DNA (fingerprint) on the bottle and then I would taser them and bring them to the police station. Then Logan and I would have a fight but I'd realize I couldn't live without him and he'd realize that I had made him a better person and he couldn't go back to his bum fighting/hard drinking/married woman sexing ways.

 That is, of course, if I were Veronica Mars.

 Every life has mysteries that have dots that need connecting. Some mysteries never get all the dots connected and remain forever unsolved. In my own life there was The Case of the Maybe Unfaithful Boyfriend of the Owner Whose Dogs I Sometimes Watch. I have tried in the past to write about the series of events that led up to my sometime employer google-chatting me and asking whether I knew if her boyfriend had sex with someone else. The barest of facts are as follows:


1. The guy told his girlfriend that he, too, was going on a weekend business trip thus my services were needed to watch the dogs.

2. He never left, but did encourage me to stay in the apartment and act as if he wasn't there.

3. I woke up to the sounds of drunk people crashing around the kitchen and laughing too loud (at least one man and one woman) in the especially early hours of the morning.

4. The dogs were anxious and hanging out exclusively by the master bedroom's door.

5. I heard people having sex. In fact I heard a woman say 'is this your side of the bed'.

6. A cell phone, other than my own and located in the master bedroom, rang throughout the next day and was, eventually, picked up by a woman who asked me if I was the guy's "roommate."

7. The guy told his girlfriend he slept on the sofa and it was a buddy and his girlfriend in the bedroom.

 I will never know if my interpretation of these events is accurate. My interpretation being that the guy is probably an asshole and a liar. I was extremely diplomatic in the chat with my employer, leaving certain facts out since they were, in any court of law, circumstantial. The problem with most mysteries of this variety is that the person who could, potentially, reveal the last few dots would rather not (or you wouldn't believe them even if they did). And without the last few dots you can't be entirely certain that you know what the final picture will really look like. 

 If I were Veronica Mars I would track down the contractors of the buildings on either side of my own that are currently getting condo-ized. I would ask them if they have surveillance cameras for their property. If they said yes, which is not all that likely, I would ask to see the footage for Thursday night through Sunday morning. Perhaps the jerk that threw a bottle through my car window passed by a camera. Then, if I were Veronica Mars, I would make a superbly designed flier with stills from the footage. I would put them up all over a six-block radius of my apartment. I would talk to bartenders, taqueria cooks and homeless old ladies. I would even inquire at the CTA kiosk and ask if anyone rushed through the turnstiles in a suspicious fashion. There would be a series of clues and false leads but ultimately I would track down the culprit. There would, most definitely, be revenge. The vengeance could come in a number of forms depending on the suspect. Veronica Mars' retaliation could be airing video footage of them doing or saying something that they would rather keep secret; for another it could be a damning fax to border control, keywords: steroids and smuggling.

 That is, of course, if I were Veronica Mars.

Vengeance isn't really in my nature. I let things go most of the time. And most of the time there isn't that much to let go. Fellow students don't go out of their way to frame me for drug use, plagiarizing or murder. I'm not even sure that they bother talking about me behind my back. Those in my life who have died weren't murdered. I have never been trapped in a refrigerator that is on fire nor have I ever been dosed with GHB, let alone three times. My boyfriend doesn't sleep with my nemesis and then lie to me about it. In fact, my boyfriend doesn't even live with me. When we did live together, my boyfriend's biggest offenses were disapproving of my watching any television, disappointment in my lack of enthusiasm towards walking and making me brush my teeth and wash the dishes without the water running. And, actually, when I think about it, I'm not sure that I have a nemesis he could sleep with regardless of where he lived. It's good that none of these things have happened to me but it does leave me feeling a little empty. I mean, every time Veronica gets into a scrape someone helps her out of it. You know who loves her because they always save her. How am I to figure out who loves me if I never need saving?

 If I were Veronica Mars I would contact the new age spa down the street, whose glass door I noticed this morning, was similarly smashed. The women would be strange and quirky and have some sort of forgiving and karmic way of looking at the damage to their property and I would suspect one of them of keeping a secret. Perhaps she had a less enlightened boyfriend, or she moonlighted as a prostitute and her pimp came around looking for his money. If I were Veronica Mars any person I spoke to would somehow lead me to the perpetrator, to the asshole who threw a bottle through my car window and then didn't even have the decency to steal something.

 That is, of course, if I were Veronica Mars.

There wasn't much in the car to steal: a transportation pass and graduate school ID, an unused, oversized sponge, maps for Southern and Eastern states, a collection of easy word puzzles, many empty cigarette packs, a non-functioning car radio, and about eighty five cents (mostly in nickels and pennies). If they had managed to get into the trunk, well, they could have helped themselves to paintings I made when I was sixteen that my mother gave me three months ago.

My day was easily ruined by the vandalization of my car. I had plans. Plans to work on my novel and plans to eat dim sum with a friend. Instead I called auto repair stores and the police. I quickly found that auto repair stores are never open on Sunday and that the police will not come and investigate what they consider a mundane crime, even if you have evidence that could lead to an arrest. I made an attempt to tape some garbage bags over the window's hole so that the rainy snow or snowy rain wouldn't soak the back of my car. I kneeled lightly on the backseat, aware of the shards of glass under my kneecaps and stretched the bags oh-so-carefully to the edges of the remaining window.  But each time I pressed the tape to the glass, more sharp splinters would fall. Eventually I got the top of a Rubbermaid storage container and propped it up in front of the hole and stuffed bags around the edges. After finishing the incredibly makeshift cover, I returned to my bedroom and watched Veronica Mars for the rest of the day. Until Tuesday morning, when two young Latino guys drove up in a white truck and replaced the window while I puttered around the house, I was always surprised to find my car still in its parking space. It seemed like the car was destined to go missing, how could it not with such an inviting opening?

 If I were Veronica Mars there would be a reason that some jerk threw a bottle through my car's rear window. The ruined window would be a warning to get out of someone's personal business … or else. If I were Veronica Mars there would be obvious suspects and less obvious suspects with motives and reputations preceding them. There would be Weevil, the Hispanic motorcycle gang leader (with a bit of a golden heart, maybe just the left ventricle) or, perhaps, a member of the Fitzpatrick family (the local Irish gang). Then there would always be the father of my murdered best friend. The suspects could, at times, include a love interest or two, often with a fear that one of them (Duncan Kane) was my half-brother and the other (Logan Echolls) was a murderer.

 That is, of course, if I were Veronica Mars.

 I want to talk about, just for a second or more, Logan and his love of Veronica. In the beginning of the show he was a pretty big asshole with a low dose of psychosis and an abusive celebrity father. His only soft spot was for Lilly Kane, his dead girlfriend*SPOILER SENTENCE* (who was fooling around with, and ultimately killed by, Logan's father).  But at some point he began morphing into a less psychotic version of himself. Suddenly his face contorted into puppy-dog pouts and soulful gazes and, though it was strange at first, Logan turned into a pretty decent (if incredibly flawed) guy. But, then, he does go through a heck of a lot for a 17 or 18 year old (I'm not even getting into the story of his mother or the beating he took on the bridge). His love of Veronica is enviable. He perpetually has that look that most of us only get in the early stages of a relationship and, even then, usually after sex. The main problem, as I see it, is that he wants to protect Veronica more often than she needs protection and can never see when she, in fact, is trying to shield him from danger. But the moments when he comes through for her, whether it's punching an undercover ATF agent in the face or saving her from being raped and having her head shaved in a college parking lot, are epic, complete with stirring music with emotional vocals and, in most cases, a passionate embrace. When I found my car damaged I called my boyfriend in Georgia and, though sympathetic, he wasn't much of a help. How could he be? Living nine hundred seventy nine miles away like he does.

There was a Bard College sticker on my car. If I were Veronica Mars I would explore that avenue of investigation. I'd procure the names and addresses of all residents in a three block radius and cross-reference them with some database of college alumni. I'm not exactly sure how Veronica would do this; she would probably use the internet and one of the many fake accents she has at her disposal. But she would find out that some gal lived two blocks away, went to Bard's rival school (which, technically, doesn't exist … unless you count Vassar) and had ample opportunity to pick up some weird supplement drink and hurl it directly at the sticker and then on through to the inside of my car. When I went to the gal's apartment to confront her, I would find that there was a telescopic camera at one of her windows, pointing directly at my apartment and parking space. The gal would say it was for bird watching but when pressed, she would admit to everything.

 That is, of course, if I were Veronica Mars.

 I get moments, when out on one of my apartment's porches, when I realize how many people could, potentially, be watching me. Last night I looked south and saw what looked like fire but I also saw the shadows of people standing near the blaze. I wondered whether I should be calling the fire department until I realized it couldn't be fire because there wasn't any smoke. The people whose shadows I could see must have been holding some sort of light that visually crackled and flickered like fire. I watched for a while and the flickering stayed consistent, never engulfing the wooden deck from which it emanated. If I saw that, then those same people (along with many others) could see me smoking a cigarette or taking the groceries out of my car.

 Though I recognize that I’m not Veronica Mars and no one is interested in tracking my every move, I still find myself performing for an audience. The way I ash my cigarette, where I put my cup of tea and which book I read all give me meaning to an anonymous audience and so I choose carefully and deliberately ignore the outside world. I think about my routines and realize I'm fairly predictable. I cross streets at the same corners. I stay home after five on most weekdays. I go downstairs to get the mail in socks and I never check my rear-view mirror for a possible tail. But, of course, no one is following me so it really doesn't matter how predictable or performative I am. My life is not a series of large, terrible events that I must risk my life to figure out. My life is not a series of men who are so in love with me that they would get arrested on purpose, just so they could get put in lock up thus within striking distance of someone who hurt me. The stakes in my life are pretty low.

It's not entirely fair for me to compare my life to the life of a television character. Her life can't be anything other than suspenseful, mysterious, overly dramatic and strangely heartfelt. If the show wasn't successful at that specific combination I wouldn't watch it. I wouldn't think about it constantly. I wouldn't, in the middle of real-life conversations, use Veronica Mars in an effort to prove a point. I wouldn't suddenly wish that my boyfriend was the kind of guy who sent flowers as opposed to picked them himself. I wouldn't, for that matter, get mad at my boyfriend for not being the slightest bit interested in Veronica Mars. 

 Someone threw a bottle through my car window two weeks ago and if I were a television character I would have done something about it. My actions would be far more daring than filing a pointless police report over the phone and paying three hundred and eight dollars and fifty two cents for two guys to come to my house and replace the damaged window. It would be a mystery that unfolded for months after the initial crime and ended with someone dead and a strong boy's arms crushing my small frame, kissing my blonde hair and crying over the miracle of my survival.

Caroline Clough received her MFA from the Art Institute of Chicago. She runs a charming food-oriented blog called Meals I Have Eaten.