Back to The Beginning: Every Beauty is a Tragedy Waiting to Happen
Back to Part Three: I've Bought a Watch to Time Your Beauty
Part Four of the Tragic Beauty Anthology
It was lucky for us that Miles was not the kind of person to take orders from anyone. He had a rebellious nature, so no matter what hard feelings he held for us after we left him tied up and gagged, he was going to let us go free. It wasn't as if he had the heart or mindset required to kill us anyway. He knew the old woman was a bit crackers, even as he respected her supposed genius nature and her project to stop aging at some mystical fifty year barrier.
"Go quickly and quietly, boys.
I'll drag a couple bags of wet leaves across the floor if she demands to see bodies.
Now, get the hell out of here."
As we made our way back towards the college I began to wonder once again about the course my academic career was taking. I thought about my father and what he had gone through in order to afford my tuition. He had taken a second, part time job in a restaurant. The restaurant had a circus theme, so he wore heavy clown make-up while busing tables. Once, his big red clown nose fell in a man's mashed potatoes. The man took this as an insult and shoved a refillable ink pen cartridge into my father's ear, causing him permanent 80% hearing loss in that ear. That was nothing compared to the greater damage he suffered. The waitresses and cooks told him that what people did not know would not hurt them. Food fell on the floor, they picked it up with a chuckle and put it back on a plate and served it. One of the assistant managers took pleasure in urinating in people's custard. All this drove my father into a hermit-like lifestyle and he would never again eat food he did not prepare himself. Then he got a job working in the back room of a butcher shop...
We made it back to the campus grounds in record time. There were a number of security people and local police gathered around the theater, so we went over and stood amongst the wide-eyed onlookers so we would not look suspicious. Then we moved along slowly, heading back to the dorms to make serious decisions about what to do with the next few hours, the next few days, and the rest of our lives.
Thoughts of the future took a sharp right turn as we passed the library and saw Jayne standing outside with an armload of books staring at us. We were not sure if she recognized us from that afternoon at Kettles Johnson's room or if she was just staring for no good reason. This was an opportunity, and even at an early age we could see that. She had a lot of books and we could volunteer to carry them. If she snapped at us, we could pretend we were ignorant and socially inept losers.
"What do you two know about this?"
We knew she was talking about the stabbing of the actor formerly known as Puck, but still we responded with a confused, simultaneous "Huh?" She drew back a deep breath, sighed loudly, and grabbed my right elbow. Her grip was very strong and tight, and I could do nothing but let her drag me across the concrete walkway and dump me on the ground. Don immediately went down on his knees and pleaded with her not to hunt him down and kill him while he was sleeping.
"Look, you wimps, I want to know what is going on.
You are going to tell me.
We were in the belly of the beast now. There was no doubt about that. Scrapping around with Miles and Kettles Johnson had been but the breath of the beast. Now we were orbiting Jayne herself and she was recruiting us into her camp. We figured she thought we knew more than we really did. In reality, we had no idea what we knew and were hoping she would explain it all to us.
Don broke first and he broke easily. She glared at him in a most menacing fashion, causing him to immediately admit that we had been in her room and that we had seen the nude photographs. She didn't seem concerned about that. She wanted to know if we touched the coloring books or if, perhaps, we had dared to color in them. We both shook our heads and told her we had only been in the room for a few minutes and did not own any crayons or marking pens. She was satisfied with that answer, but wanted more. At her insistence we joined her for a cup of coffee in the school's infamous Late Nite Cafe, which was usually a haven for punk rockers and people coming off bad acid experiences.
"What did Kettles tell you about our relationship?"
Her question was one we were not prepared to answer. He told us that he was in love with Jayne, but there was little more than that. Had they had some sort of involvement outside of him staring at her through windows in a creepy fashion? That seemed to be all there was to it, but how could we tell her that. We both stared at her and shrugged, muttering simple, unconnected words like "not much" and "I dunno."
"Did he tell you about the deal I made for my room?"
Caring was something we were trying to involve ourselves in here. It was not something that was coming to us easily. It made sense that there was some kind of deal involved in her getting her own room. After all, bad decisions by a construction contractor had reduced the number of dormitories on campus and forced three and four students to share a single room. Kettles was the resident manager, so he might have been able to pull some strings on that front. In our own fantastically perverted minds, we had always just assumed she was sleeping with one or more of the deans. We answered her questions with a resounding "no."
"Look, these games aren't funny.
I have to get my degree and I have to get a respectable job.
I can't stand to be away from my son any longer.
Do you know what it is like to have the courts take your son away because they think your life is immoral?"
We couldn't say that we understood that kind of emotion. We were still working on things like how many beers we could drink in a night and how many times in a row we could bounce a quarter into a glass. This was too much like one of those "real life" problems we read about in books or saw in made for television movies. The conversation was going sour fast, but then we starting putting some thought into the whole "immoral life" thing she had spoken about. This sounded juicy and perhaps we could turn the conversation in that direction now.
"I've been able to get by for a long time on looks alone.
I don't want that anymore.
There are more important things I never thought about before.
My poor little boy without his mommy.
He's so special and he needs attention.
His father is a cold fuck who ripped him away from me by dredging up my past.
That isn't the kind of role model my boy needs."
I had a moment of clarity, or maybe it was the high wearing off. I don't know why, but I leaned in towards Jayne and put my arm around her. She started to cry, just slightly, not enough to draw crowds, and then stiffened and sat up straight. She grabbed a napkin to wipe her face and then told the waitress to give her a double tall espresso.
"That will keep you up all night!"
Don still didn't quite get it, and I forgave him. He was still thinking two dimensionally and not realizing that we were having a close encounter with real life. Then Jayne wanted to leave, even before her espresso arrived, so I stood up and helped her to her feet. I was feeling good about myself and about my ability to handle the situation, even though my only previous encounters with women had involved accidently brushing my hand against their smooth, tanned, naked knees in ice cream parlors.
As we stepped outside it started to rain.
Thus ends Part Four of the Tragic Beauty Anthology
On to Part Five: Do you cry out because the beauty is cruel?