Sometimes the quietest people lead the most disturbing lives.
Had Jayne been plain and simple, no one would have noticed her, which is how she wanted it. She did everything she could to hide in the shadows. She wore men's jeans and bulky sweatshirts. She wore no make-up and tied her long black hair up in a messy looking bun on top of her head. She wore glasses, even though some reports stated that there was no glass in the frames.
We usually saw her pouring over books in the academic library, and on rare occasions one of us had a class with her. These were the curious days of being college boys, and that curiosity sometimes got the best of us.
"I'm here to get an education. Please, try to understand that."
Jayne's oversized green eyes were always so piercing when she stared at you and spoke her standard response to any attempt to approach or make conversation with her. There was no way to get past the wall. It had been made very clear, and dozens of our fellow students could attest to the fact that she wanted nothing to do with anyone. We could not help but laugh at the concept of someone who was so serious about the academic side of college that they tuned out everything else. There had to be more to Jayne than that. She was too dark and mysterious, and so we launched our own private investigation.
Most ideas one gets without putting a lot of thought into said ideas are bad ideas. This was certainly one of those cases. Miles and Don and I marched off to the dormitory where Jayne lived and situated ourselves in the lobby. We pretended to watch confrontational afternoon talk shows with enthusiasm as we waited for her to come off the elevator with her well-worn book bag over her shoulder heading out towards class. It was time to begin the madness.
Jayne was the only person we knew of in the dorms who did not have to put up with a roommate. Space was so limited, especially after this construction company accidentally leveled Barker Hall, that sometimes three or four students would share a twenty square foot room. Jayne got her own room at the end of a hall. When we got there, the door was locked and the sign on the door told us visitors were not welcome.
I Am Not Interested
Miles would not be thwarted. He was the type of guy who got into extreme sports and waxed poetically about mountain climbing being a way to bond with his bipolar father. He wanted to climb the wall and get into Jayne's room via the window, which was open on account of the warm and humid weather. Don and I were just starting to think this was all a bad and crazy idea. Miles was determined to change our minds.
"A great adventure not taken is an opportunity wasted."
We didn't watch. We couldn't bear to watch. As Miles scaled the side of the dormitory, up three stories of brick, we stood by the door hoping that Jayne had more than one class this afternoon. We sincerely hoped no one looked up on his or her way from class. To see this muscular, wild-eyed man with dreadlocks walking up the side of a building would certainly be reason to alert campus security.
When the door opened from the inside, we did not know whether to be relieved or nervous. Miles ushered us in and pointed out highlights of this mysterious young woman's room. There were no electrical lights, aside from a green banker's lamp on her desk. The rest of the room was illuminated with candles and brass kerosene lamps.
"Dude, this is way, way too freakin' weird."
We were just getting warm. Throughout the dimly lit room, which made us understand Jayne's need to study in the library, we made curious discoveries. There were piles of children's coloring books, all colored in by someone who had a lot of trouble staying inside the lines. Inside the cover of each coloring book were the words Colerd bi Nathan. Even Miles was starting to act a bit afraid. We thought about leaving right then and there, but Don made a sudden discovery that made us change our minds. He pulled out a big black leather art portfolio from behind the bed and opened it on top of Jayne's black satin sheets.
"Holy sheet, man, she's absolutely perfect!"
There is nothing quite like opening an art portfolio filled with tastefully photographed nudes of a woman in front of three horny college boys. It is even more of a vibration when those nudes are of a woman you've been curious about for most of the past semester. Flipping through the portfolio, we found dozens of color and black and white shots of Jayne. Her physical form was as close to perfect as anyone could be. Don's summation of her perfection was right on the money, but not as far as Miles was concerned.
"Ever hear of airbrushing, shit for brains?"
Miles closed the portfolio, pulled it away from our hot little hands and prying eyes, and slipped it back behind the bed. Then he pointed us towards the door. He insisted we had to get out of there as quickly as possible. Something didn't feel right to him. We were too close to the edge. Jayne's life was somewhere we didn't need to trespass. This was out of our league. He advised us to go back to our dorm rooms and drink beer, smoke grass and watch MTV. Being a senior in his fifth year to our status as freshman gave him that right. We didn't belong here and Miles considered himself a fool for ever suggesting this adventure.
"Our next adventure will involve something less dangerous.
Maybe we'll steal dinner rolls from the cafeteria."
We did as Miles said, but we were wary of his true intentions. His curiosity levels were through the roof, whether he admitted it or not. Our gut instincts told us that Miles would return to this room on his own. There were too many unopened drawers and sealed boxes we had not so much as touched. This mystery had more to it than just badly colored coloring books and nude photographs. Gosh, they were so tastefully done. I mean, honestly, we are talking very, very tasteful photography.
We opened the door slowly. There was no one wandering around out in the hallway, so we moved quietly and quickly towards the elevator. We pressed the "down" button and waited nervously. The door opened and we stepped on board, finding ourselves sharing the ride with a seven-foot tall bearded man wearing a black cloak and combat boots. He did not speak a word or acknowledge us in any way. When we got off on the first floor, he remained on board the elevator and went back up after we departed.
"Some kind of freak, eh?"
Miles walked away from us quickly, almost tripping over his own feet as he did so. He was holding a big Ziploc bag in his left hand, the size they use for freezing whole chickens. He did not have the bag before we got on the elevator. Don and I figured somehow the cloaked weirdo had handed the bag to him during the elevator journey. We rushed to catch up with him, but after falling over a trash can, Miles broke into a sprint and out raced us to the courtyard. We gave up our pursuit after he disappeared over a rise and into the woods behind the dormitories.
"Well, he's never been normal."
We turned to walk back to our dorm, considering the advice of Miles to be wise at this point. After a few beers and a couple of joints we would feel okay again. We'd stop thinking about Jayne and her photographs. As long as we stayed together, the sexual fantasies that were reeling through our minds would not push us towards bad behavior. We would be okay. Don and I would enjoy the rest of this sunny afternoon without getting into any more trouble.
"You little bastards enjoy what you saw?"
Kettles Johnson was the resident manager. He oversaw the dorms and made sure everyone followed the rules. How he managed to know about us breaking in to Jayne's room amazed us, but Miles' climbing up the wall operation had probably given us away. Kettles told us both to follow him to his office, and solemnly we followed. We wanted to seem as repentant as possible so we could get back to the dorm for beer, grass and MTV. That made sitting there across the desk from Kettles Johnson all the more difficult. He fiddled with a pen, filled out some documents that had nothing to do with us, leafed through a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit calendar and then finally got around to speaking to us.
"I have a master key to all the dorm rooms.
When would you boys like to make a return trip to her room?"
”Sir, we swear, it was all Miles’ idea.”
”Miles ran, he’s out. I’m your partner now.
Don’t try to fool me with the innocent act.
I know who you two are and you are right.
It is up to us to help Jayne with her problems.
Dammit boys, I love her!”
We thought about saying “huh?” in response to what Kettles was telling us, but we bit our tongues simultaneously. We just nodded and did not say another word. Kettles handed us special badges, designating us “Special Resident Assistants” and told us to meet him behind the Corwell Amphitheater later that night for “further instructions.” We thanked him and were about to leave when Don realized we were low on beer. Being underage, we always needed to find someone to buy for us, so we figured this might be an opportunity.
”Sure, boys, no problem. We’re partners now, right?”
Thus ends Part One of the Tragic Beauty Anthology
Continue to Part Two: Every Tragedy is a Beauty that has Passed