Convulsive Beauty

There is a beautiful garden that surrounds the murderer's house. The murderer...well that's what most people call him, but his name, his name is Joey Molina. He is an old man now, not much to look at, small, withered, like a rumpled paper bag tossed aside and left to tremble by the side of the road.

It is in this garden that we sit for long hours, saying little, him in an old wooden chair, me on a milk crate. Not many people here have anything to do with Joey, "the murderer" though I'm certain they have long forgotten the details of his crime. And I'm sure they do not look upon his garden with the delight that I do. It is much in conflict with their well- mannered lawns and pruned rose bushes, the flowers segregated by color and type. In contrast, his garden is reckless and chaotic, everything is overgrown, plants falling into plants, trees falling to the ground, tremendous blooms jump out of piles of weeds and old rusty cans, and pieces of tissue paper and candy wrappers wave from trees and bushes in perfect imitation of life. It is as if every object has sacrificed its separate identity in recognition of a bewitching absolute.

It is to Joey's garden that I come to spend the hours when I feel bored and discontented, when I feel that I can do nothing else. Enchanted and brutal thoughts fill my mind at these times, perhaps fueled by the garden's turbulent influence, perhaps transferred by Joey's sonorous, silent brooding.

I do not know quite why it is but this is true: everything I have found beautiful has turned violent and everything violent has appeared beautiful to me. The first truly beautiful vision I had when I was seven years old. Driving down a residential street my mother, in an agitated, aggravated, and confused state, ran into a young girl who was zigzagging her bike down the road. Upon impact, the girl flew up into my face, spreading, splattering against the windshield. I can still see that face: the eyes wide and wondering, the lips grossly enlarged and burning red as they pushed against the glass, the nose twisted to the side, the blond braid in a rage thumping against the hood of the car and flying into the air above her.

My mother has never quite recovered from this incident. Me, I was filled with a feeling that was quite spectacular, that I can still raise when I think of the accident. Perhaps it was my age; I had not yet been inundated by such teachings that would name such a scene grotesque. As with everything that happens there was a rightness that I felt instantly-- profoundly touching, disturbing, but still wonderful. This feeling went beyond all talk of a "poor young life taken" and so on. If there were tears in my eyes they were of the marvelous. The girl was splendid as she bloodied and bruised, and when she linked eyes with me it was in recognition of something that was so far removed from our piddling life, that it could only have been said at that instant, in that setting in just that forceful way.

Four days after the accident, as my mother screamed hysterically in the laundry room, I went back to the street where it occurred. I walked up and down the gutter, kicking up the autumn leaves that bedded there, crushing one in my small palm, watching the brittle pieces fall. There I relived the accident over and over again in my child's mind. I imagined myself as the girl on the bike. I longed to be her, not because I wanted to be dead, not because I desired pain, but simply because I found her romantic and brave and stunning. It was during these ruminations, as I bent down to run my hands over the skeleton remains of leaves, that I found a single tooth--one of the girl's, small, and white, and perfectly formed, with just a fleck of bloody gum on one foot of the root. I took that tooth home and wrapped it in a piece of purple velvet and placed it in a small box in my dresser drawer. I still have the tooth--sometimes I take it out and look at it, remembering.

A breeze blows softly through Joey's beard. He combs at it with his fingers. His hands are brown and small. They are beautiful hands, not because of what they did, but in spite of it. Beauty is not a pretty face or body, perfectly formed, rightly proportioned. Beauty is not man's attempt to order what was already ordered from the start. Beauty is not a kind act that is more likely done out of ego than out of true good will. Beauty is something that shakes you from the inside out, something you have no control over, something reflexive and brutal and shattering. Beauty is a realization of a truth that you can only explain in lies. Beauty is the pain that wells in my chest cavity when I move my eyes from the garden to Joey on his chair and back again to the garden. Beauty is the unreadable lines in his face and the sad silence that chokes him.

~~ C.L. Myers