It Started Before the Bus ride. Eleanor’s story started way before that bus ride in August 1986. Before the Asian kid let her sit down, before the comic books and mixed tapes. Long before the first time Park laid eyes on Eleanor, the new girl with the crazy clothes, before the first day he tugged at her sleeve and took her hand on the bus, before that first awkward kiss on the side of his grandparents’ house. It started before that first day at the new school. Eleanor’s story began long before her bruised and tired mother picked her up from the Hickman’s, after asking them to keep her for a few days and a few days turned into a year.
Eleanor is the oldest of five children, two sisters and three brothers. Her parents divorced after years of partying and found her mother Sabrina, struggling to provide. It must have been so wonderful for her mother to get the attention of a younger man like Richie, who lived in the town and had noticed her walking to work every day and eventually offered her a ride. I’m assuming the drinking and emotional and physical abuse started after the relationship evolved. When she and the children were dependent on the income from his construction job and needed the roof over their head. Eleanor and her siblings were not afforded the luxuries of things like toothbrushes, shampoo, or even properly fitting clothes. They were living in poverty and being neglected and emotionally abused.
Eleanor was always the bright and creative one, a little quirky, untrusting and super defensive. And not without reason, she has a daily routine of hiding from bullies and trying to be invisible. From the criticism of her own father, dodging the bully at home and then the bullies at school, Eleanor could not see herself the way Park did. He thought she looked like art, “She never looked nice. She looked like art, and art wasn’t supposed to look nice; it was supposed to make you feel something” She was in the shadow of her beautiful, statuesque mother, and because she was not skinny she felt less than. She had learned how to dress to hide the tears in her clothes and herself. Her image was standoffish and probably meant to keep people at bay. She thought Park, the weird Asian kid was stupid for being nice to her.