Pairing: Simon & Garfunkel
Summary: What if they didn’t meet as teenagers, but at a later time? Could you imagine them falling in love again?
Review: Thanks for beta'ing it, Nofritari!
Disclaimer: Even though this story is based on several things both Paul and Artie said over the years, this is in no way biographical. It’s an exploration of an alternative timeline.
Here's the 8th chapter of Stranger to Stranger. Drama strikes!
Chapter VIII: Reconstruction is a lonesome art
Paul wasn’t sure what exactly happened a few weeks earlier. All he knew was that he was on his own again. Ever since they broke up, Art hid away in the exact sciences part of the building, he even didn’t come to the teachers’ canteen most of the time. Paul only saw him a handful of times and every time when Art noticed Paul in the room he very quickly disappeared again. Paul was worried about him; he looked pale and gaunt.
Paul wasn’t happy about his decision, but what choice did he have? He vowed to Joanna he would be there, he did no such thing to Art. What kind of man would he be if he didn’t honour his vows? He would be a cheating man....He was a cheating man and he needed to get his life back on track. Only then he could help Joanna get her life back on track as well. They owed it to their baby daughter. He was sorry for Art, he really was, but they couldn’t go on with this charade. Paul’s mind was made up.
Art was barely present, a ghost of a man, shadowing through his life. He had lost a bit of his sparkle lately; all his colleagues noticed. Some of them guessed what had taken the colour of his cheeks, only a few knew. Art wasn’t good at talking about his feelings, so he didn’t. He just quietly went on, focussing on his work, ignoring the stabbing pain in his side and the heavy weight on his chest. Even if he was a man to talk about his emotions, in this case, he couldn’t. It could put both him and Paul in great danger; still a lot of people were violently opposed to the idea of two men romantically involved. Even though Art didn’t agree with Paul’s way of going about their love affair, he agreed it couldn’t be in the open. He never expected Paul to openly show his feelings in public, but he had expected more devotion, less distractions, more passion and decisive actions. Paul had given only a measured amount of devotion and passion. He seemed mainly distracted by his family life and he hadn’t made any decisions in how to deal with that situation. Instead, he kept putting Art aside trying to save what was left of his marriage.
Art knew the school was buzzing with rumours. Some teachers and students had turned their backs on him, some even publicly cursed him. In his current situation the insults were hitting him even harder, but he didn’t have the energy or will to fight them. Instead he kept his head down and didn’t respond. If he kept quiet and out of trouble, it might go away over time.
Art wasn’t the only one who noticed the increased upheaval in the school about sexuality in its different forms. Paul noticed and seemed to put in extra effort to appear male and very straight. It hurt and annoyed Art. The Headmaster noticed as well and worried about the integrity and decency of his school. He took a head on approach to tackle the problem by calling an extra meeting to discuss the problem with his staff and how to deal with the ongoing and persistent rumours, and last but not least, remind them they were the students’ examples.
The Headmaster stood, hands clasped on his back, at the head of the table watching his personnel spilling into the room and finding a seat to sit. He noticed Simon sitting with the other English teachers, unusually boisterous, as if he had to prove something. He saw Garfunkel slinking in the back, on the other side of the room, stealing cautious glimpses of Simon. The Headmaster knew something was going on, and he didn’t like it. These two had been the source of a lot of unrest. Garfunkel had always been peculiar and stubborn and he had a tendency to cause trouble from time to time. Simon, when the Headmaster hired him, had a reputation of being stubborn and causing trouble. Since the trouble Simon used to cause were quite different to the ones Garfunkel usually caused, the Headmaster had not anticipated them causing trouble together. Them even getting along as well as they did actually caught the Headmaster off guard at first. Only recently it started worrying him and even more recently , since Garfunkel had taken some unannounced and unauthorized leave, it started to cause trouble. Now action needed to be taken before things went out of control.
The Headmaster cleared his throat while gently tapping his cup of coffee with a spoon. The room slowly went quiet and eyes were expectantly looking at him to open the meeting.
“Some of you may have noticed the school has been restless the last couple of months,” he started.
Some teachers nodded, the two teachers this speech was mainly addressed to weren’t actually facing him. Garfunkel was staring at Simon, Simon was staring at his cup of coffee.
“I would like to remind all of you to leave your private affairs outside the school. In this school all the teachers are expected to behave in a professional way. You are expected to be an example to the students. So no affairs, not with students nor other teachers.”
The Headmaster studied the faces of his staff. Some of them were nodding again, others were just attentively listening. He noticed Garfunkel actually looking at him, but quickly averting his eyes when the Headmaster looked straight at him. Simon was still staring at his cup of coffee as if more interesting things were happening there. No facial expressions betrayed his emotions. Garfunkel on the other hand did seem to feel caught out.
“Now! We all have to work on getting the students attentions back to their studies and exams. Don’t give them any reason to discuss anything else. Be the right example!”
“Shouldn’t we discuss the real problem? Because it’s not going away by pretending it’s not there,” a voice interrupted the Headmaster.
“And what problem would that be?” the Master inquired.
The voice belonged to Art’s oldest and closest friend in the school, Sam. Art tried to make eye contact with Sam, but Sam was looking at the Headmaster. In the corner of his eye Art could see Paul’s horrified face staring up at Sam.
Sam wasn’t going to let this opportunity slip: “The problem of how we deal with different kind of sexual preferences. It shouldn’t be pushed away, we should discuss this.”
“And how would that solve our problems of the current unrest in the school?”
“If we can make the students see and understand what it means, you can take the misunderstanding away and open up the school for more possibilities.”
The Headmaster grinded his teeth; this was not how he planned this meeting to go: “Mister Delaware, this is a school of learning, not some hippie school for free love.”
Sam wasn’t going to give up so easily: “Sir, I don’t want to change this school into a ‘hippie school for free love’, I just want to create a better and open understanding of different ways of living your life. Aren’t we supposed to teach the students how to get on in life after school?”
“Mister Delaware, that’s quite enough. School rules have been set at the founding of this school and I see no reason to change those rules.”
“But sir...” “I said that’s enough, Mister Delaware!”
Sam finally gave up looking accusingly sideways at his friend. Art finally got his eye contact, his face telling Sam it was not the right time. Sam sighed, shook his head slightly trying to express his confusion at Art not taking the opportunity with him. Art turned his attention back to the Headmaster indicating he didn’t want to talk about it.
Art tried to escape the school unseen as quickly as possible after the improvised meeting. No such luck, it bothered Sam Art didn’t join him in his plea to start discussions to open up attitudes and make things better for all involved. Sam followed Art out running after him. If Art wanted, he could be very fast, slipping through the cracks and disappearing into crowds of only five people. Not many people were aware that was another of Art’s special talents.
Sam only just managed to stop Art exiting the school grounds: “Why didn’t you join me!?”
Art pulled a difficult pained face at Sam: “It’s not the time, Sam.”
“It is the time! This is it!”
“No...” Art was already turning away from Sam.
“Art! Of all people, you should understand.”
“Understand what, Sam? That the whole world is against me? That they don’t understand... No, that they don’t accept what I am and how I want to live my life?”
“So you’re just going to give up?”
“This is not going to work, not now.”
“Why not now!?”
“Because even my own lover doesn’t believe in it. How is it ever going to work if the people involved don’t believe in it?”
Art started to unlock his car, but Sam did one last attempt.
“Forget about Paul. There are others who do believe...”
Art turned back to Sam suddenly aggressive: “Forget about Paul!?”
Sam stumbled: “I mean...”
Art shook his head, back to sad: “I can’t forget about Paul.”
The Headmaster didn’t address him personally, nor did he name him as one of the culprits, but Paul knew it was aimed at him. He could ignore it, he was ignoring it, he didn’t feel like it was about him anymore. It couldn’t be about him, because Paul was a married man and he intended to honour his vows. He needed to focus on his marriage, there was no room for sexual discoveries; he should have done that in his teens.
Paul knew he could save his marriage, he only needed Joanna to see it too. Ellis couldn’t be a friend anymore, not since he and Joanna seemed to have gotten suspiciously close. Paul wouldn’t be surprised to find him once again in his living room cosying up to his wife.
Paul turned the key in the lock and pushed the front door open. He listened in first, could only hear something cooking on the stove. Cautiously he peeked into the living room, there was nobody there. To not to look too suspicious Paul proceeded with his old routine; coat off and on the coat rack, up the stairs to get rid of his bag and back down to say hello to his wife and daughter. He executed the routine as usual, but all the while keeping a close ear on any movement from below. He could hear someone downstairs, walking around in the kitchen, the sound of plates and cutlery, the sound of running water and pots and pans being moved.
Eventually he went downstairs, first peeking around the kitchen before kissing his wife hello. Joanna gave him a strange look.
“Oh, we’re back on earth, are we?” she sarcastically asked.
Paul pulled an annoyed face: “What are you talking about?”
“You stopped doing that a few months back,” Joanna explained. “I thought you reserved that for your mistress, or did she kick you out?”
Paul picked up his playing daughter and cuddled her to the baby’s delight. Joanna couldn’t help softening at the sight and smiled at the girl’s cackle. She eyed her husband up; something changed.
Paul mumbled: “I don’t have a mistress. I never had a mistress.”
In between play with his daughter he watched his wife: “And you?” he tried to coax something out of her.
Joanna turned to him, one hand on her hip: “And me what?”
“How did you spend your day? Had any company?”
“Yes, Ellis came by, you just missed him.”
“Well timed,” Paul huffed under his breath .
Joanna squinted her eyes: “What was that!?”
Now Paul looked straight up at her: “You’ve been spending a lot of time with him,” he accused.
“Don’t you think that’s a little suspicious?”
Joanna’s mouth twitched in irritation: “To some, maybe, but I can spend my time with whoever I want. It doesn’t mean something immoral is happening.”
“Why don’t you spend that time with your girlfriends?”
“Why can’t I spend that time with Ellis? He’s a good friend and he was the only one who noticed what was happening here.”
“What was happening here!?”
Joanna couldn’t help raising her voice remembering the injustice being done to her: “You cheating on me with some floozy from the city!”
“I wasn’t cheating on you with some ‘floozy’ from the city!” Paul now also raised his voice.
“Surely, you weren’t spending all that time practicing with Art!?”
Paul fell silent for a bit; he better be careful now: “Nnyes...I was...with Art, all the time.”
Joanna knew something was wrong, but she couldn’t quite tell what.
Paul recovered: “Call him! Ask him! Ask anyone; they’ll all tell you I was with Art.”
Paul seemed so determined, Joanna suddenly wasn’t sure about her accusations. She turned to the food trying to figure out that nagging feeling. Something was wrong, but what?
They ate their dinner in silence, both eyeing the other one up, trying to detect some suspicious behaviour, trying to discover what was going on. Paul figured saving his marriage could become quite a struggle; he didn’t seem to be on the same page with Joanna any longer and they had trouble finding each other. Whatever needed doing, Paul was prepared to do it.
It had been while a while since Paul made advances to his wife. Not that they didn’t have any sex anymore; Paul let Joana seduce him, if only to cover up his cheating with Art. His heart hadn’t been in it and he simply went through the motions. Joanna seemed distracted as well, but Paul didn’t think about it twice. He did his duty.
This time he intended to focus his attention totally on Joanna, like he used to when they were still dating. Paul told himself women still excited him, that Joanna still excited him, he loved his wife. Something had changed, they were both suspicious of each other, their actions didn’t flow naturally but came out of habit instead of passion. As Paul readied himself to penetrate her he couldn’t help but notice how strange the situation seemed. His final proceedings also felt mechanic and they couldn’t seem to find the flow and organic rhythm. He definitely had better sex. He closed his eyes and searched for an image that excited him. He found soft blond curls, a strong hold on his arms and an embrace tighter and more passionate. It did the trick and Paul soon emptied himself and collapsed next to his wife. He even kissed her before rolling onto his side and falling asleep.
The Headmaster’s speech to the teachers initiated a flurry of reactions and actions. Some teachers became more strict in maintaining decency around the school pulling students in romantic encounters apart. Others started discussions with their students about what was accepted and what was not accepted. And there was a third group wanting to take matters in their own hands to rid this school of all perversions. It was the latter group that seemed to catch the most attention. Instead of calming rumours down, the discussions became more heated and the attitudes more aggressive. Some students and even teachers came out with threats, singling students, and sometimes even teachers out.
Art saw this happening. He wasn’t exactly an activist, he was just one person with a very strong opinion and ideas. He didn’t like what the school was becoming, nor the two opposing movements gaining ground and seemingly wanting to fight. Art didn’t want to fight, he just wanted to love whoever without having to explain himself. Actually, right now, he just wanted to forget all about love altogether, because it hurt too much. But time did what it always did and dragged the people along with it. Art wasn’t immune to it; he received some threats as well and Sam advised him not to stay late in school, but go home early every afternoon to avoid trouble. Art was willing enough to do that, anything to get him as far from Paul as possible.
He couldn’t avoid school altogether; he still had classes to teach. Besides that, he promised the Headmaster to be at his best behaviour. He knew that speech was for a great part addressed at him. He knew if he put one foot wrong, he was out. So he felt no desire to take part in any of the movements, discussions and protests. He just came to school to teach.
Art put the students to work trying to solve a mathematical problem. He sat behind his desk watching over his class, measuring the level of knowledge and skill among his students. It was also a way of taking the students minds off of the discussions and the tumult. It took his mind firmly off of Paul and prepared his students for the upcoming exams. It was strange, since he wasn’t on a stage singing anymore, he didn’t seem to feel much like talking in public either. These days he taught by practice, let the students try and figure it out for themselves. He couldn’t get away from explaining nor from discussing solutions to problems. In these cases he tended to dive deep into the problem, forgetting everything else happening in the world. It was a way of dealing with life’s problems.
But life had a tendency of catching up with man, and no matter how deep Art pushed his head into the metaphorical sand, even he had to face the music from time to time...and so did his ex-partner Paul.
After class Art wandered into the teachers room to get himself a coffee before retreating into his office. Since it was lunch break, most teachers were present eating their lunch. The usual groups seemed to have broken up and new groups formed. Art was very aware of being watched when he poured himself a cup of coffee. When he was on his way out, coffee in hand, one of the teachers out of one of the more traditional minded groups, stood up to confront Art.
Art stopped since his path got blocked.
“All right, Lester?” he carefully asked.
“We know what you are,” Lester threatingly said.
Art didn’t want any trouble so he looked around for a way out and saw Paul sitting on his own. He wasn’t facing them, but Art knew Paul was listening. He also knew Paul got abandoned by the other English teachers who were now in Lester’s lunch group.
“Well?” Lester forced the case as he shoved Art.
Some hot coffee spilled over Art’s hand and he was very tempted to throw it in Lester’s face. He kept calm instead.
“Lester, I don’t want any trouble, so could you just let me pass?”
Lester responded: “We don’t want any trouble either. So you either take your dirty business somewhere else, or you learn how to behave. If you don’t, we will teach you.”
The room had grown very silent. Paul shrunk in his seat as if he hoped he would become so small he wouldn’t be visible. His hands were gripping his cutlery so tightly, his knuckles were turning white. Art, still not in the mood for confrontation, tried to push past Lester.
Lester stopped him: “You and that Bob Dylan wannabe. Bob Dylan at least writes quality songs, not that dribble you two shriek.”
Art’s demeanour changed- hard, unimpressed expression on his face, his eyes a sharp blue piercing stare straight into Lester’s eyes.
In a menacing voice Art returned the threat: “If you dare to make any more insulting observations about our music, I will teach you a thing or two,” emphasizing the ‘I’ and ‘you’.
Stunned by Art’s sudden aggressive change of attitude, Lester let him pass and exit the teachers room.
Paul let a breath escape he didn’t realize he was holding. He had to grab his chance and get the hell out of there before they recovered and turned on him. Even though the ‘Bob Dylan’ remark hurt, the sensible part, the part of him who wanted to stay out of trouble, kept him quiet. As quickly and silently as he could, he packed up his stuff and left. When he was outside Art had already disappeared. Paul was somewhat relieved; he didn’t feel like facing him, even though he wanted to thank him for defending their, his music.
The incident divided the two camps even further. Not just the teachers, but also students. Art knew he was right in the middle of it, but he was more worried about Paul, because he seemed to be deep in denial. Of course Paul knew how people thought about same sex relations, but Paul didn’t feel it was really aimed at him; he wasn’t gay, he was married with a child. He kept reminding everybody, but public beliefs could be persistent. He even went as far as saying that same sex relations were unnatural, anything to get himself out of this mess. People weren’t convinced, they made up their minds.
It was a Thursday evening and the last teachers were leaving the school to go home, Paul was one of them. He said his goodbyes to some of the teachers and walked alone to his car parked at the far end of the parking lot. Paul always enjoyed the last walk in the fresh air before surrendering himself to the school atmosphere and there always seemed to be more places available than closer to the school.
“Sir!” a familiar young man’s voice called out for him.
Paul looked up to recognize one of his students: “Jenkins. How can I help you?”
“Sir, the homework you gave us for tomorrow,” the boy pulled out his English grammar book.
“I don’t understand this question,” the boy said holding up the book just a little too far away for Paul to be able to read the question.
Just as Paul bent over the book to read the question a hard knock between his shoulder blades pushed him to the ground. He could feel a fist slamming into his jaw pushing his face into the dirt, then a foot kicking against his ribs knocking the air out of his lungs. Disorientated he tried to stop the blows and kicks first. When that didn’t work he tried to roll over and crawl away, but the fists and feet kept hitting him hard in his face, his ribs and his back till everything finally faded to black.
Art was one of the last ones out and he was pausing to light a cigarette for the walk to his car when he heard the commotion. When he looked up he saw youngsters running away and teachers rushing to the far end of the parking lot. Art dropped his cigarette and started walking towards the hassle, at first not wanting any of it, but at the same time afraid of what he was going to find there. He sped up his pace when the first teachers came running back to the school and started running when he noticed one of the teachers had blood on his hands. His worst fears became true when he arrived at the scene of the crime. Two teachers were kneeling down next to a bloody body, and Art pushed someone away to get closer. He recognized the coat, dirty and ripped in places. He pushed the man kneeling next to the body away and took his place.
“No no no, oh Gawd! Paul! Paul!”
Desperately he tried to lift the dirty, bloody face off the ground. Without thinking, he took his own coat off and rolled it up to serve as a pillow and carefully placed it under the victim’s head.
“Paul, can you hear me!?”
With some paper tissues he tried to clean the blood off the face, his other hand trembling while stroking Paul’s hair.
“Paul, hold on, we’re going to get you to the hospital. Call an ambulance! Please help us!”
Someone tried to drag Art away: “Art, you need to leave now.”
“No!” he hissed, not even seeing it was Sam.
Crying, he cradled Paul in his arms. If anyone tried to hurt Paul more they had to go through him; he was not leaving his side.
Art sat in the hospital, still not comprehending what happened. How could it have escalated so quickly? Art should have taken an active role; he should have done more to protect Paul. After all, he was also the one who got Paul into this mess. If it hadn’t been for Art, Paul would have been safely married with a child and no-one would have even looked at him in these tricky times.
The medical staff had to call security to drag Art away when they brought Paul into the hospital. He was told to sit quietly and wait till a doctor came to him. It had been over an hour and nobody came to tell him how Paul was doing. Art did see Joanna arriving, together with Ellis. He didn’t think they saw him. The nurses were keeping Art well away, because he wasn’t family.
Art watched doctors and nurses walking by the waiting room he was in. Nobody looked in, nobody checked if he was still there. It seemed they had forgotten completely about him. Art got up to have a look down the hallway. He noticed a desk with a nurse stationed behind it, so he walked up; maybe she knew something or could find out for him if there was any news.
The nurse was busy with files. Art was sure she heard him, but was ignoring him. Why did it seem like the whole world was against him? Art cleared his throat and the nurse looked up at him, studied his face, then smiled and said: “Just one moment please,” before turning back to her papers.
The circumstances made Art rather anxious to find out what was going on and he impatiently tapped his fingers on the desk, which seemed to annoy the nurse, but not speed her up. In the end Art was out of patience.
“I’m sorry, Miss, but a friend of mine has been taken in and I like to know how he’s doing.”
The nurse sighed, paused looking like she was deciding how to deal with Art, then she put the file on a pile of other files, gave Art her best fake smile and inquired: “What’s your friend’s name?”
“Simon. Paul Simon. He got beaten up.”
The nurse’s face turned serious and she picked up a phone: “Hello emergency? Yes, I have a Mister....” she looked back up at Art.
“Garfunkel,” Art provided the information.
“I have a Mister Garfunkel here who likes to know how Mister...uh...” she looked up at Art again.
Art was getting very irritated with this woman and he couldn’t hide this irritation when he repeated Paul’s name to her. The nurse seemed equally unimpressed with Art. After what seemed like a phone call of 30 minutes in which not only the nurse acquired the information Art was looking for, but also private conversation seemed to have happened, she finally hung up the phone and turned back to Art.
“The doctors are just finishing with him.”
“How is he? Is he going to be fine?”
“I don’t know, you’re going to need to ask the doctors.”
Art nearly grabbed the nurse and pulled her over her desk. Instead he asked: “Where can I find the doctors?”
“Your friend is in Intensive care, ask there.”
Art made his way to Intensive care, but was very quickly stopped.
“I’m sorry, sir, but you can’t go in there.”
“I’m looking for my friend. Paul Simon? He’s been brought in today. I just want to know if he’s going to be okay.”
This doctor was friendlier and more understanding than the nurse.
“Your friend is in good hands. I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask you to leave.”
“Is he going to be okay?”
“I’m sorry, sir, but at this moment we don’t know. It depends on how he will do the next few days. I’m afraid you’ll have to leave now. We will keep you informed.”
“You’re a colleague, aren’t you? We’re keeping the Headmaster informed and the Headmaster keeps his staff informed. Sir, you really have to leave now.”
Art understood at this moment he could only wait, so he turned and left.
There was no way for Art to get close to Paul, he was stopped at every corner and turned away. He hung around in the hospital till dawn, then went straight back to school. He could at least try and find out who did this to Paul.
There was a strange atmosphere at the school. Classes were going ahead, not to teach, but to explain what happened and what was expected of students and teachers alike. There seemed to be policemen everywhere. Art was told all his classes were suspended till further notice and the police wanted to talk to him; he had to stay at school for now.
Art sat in his office, not able to do anything useful, his mind kept wandering back to the hospital were Paul lay fighting for his life. Around lunchtime two police officers came to his office. They asked about Art’s relationship with Paul. Art first downplayed it, saying they were colleagues and became friends. Then the officers referenced the rumours. Art took his time reacting to it. Should he lie, or tell the truth? It could hurt both his own and Paul’s situations. When one of the officers forced the subject Art decided to admit a bit of the truth: Yes, he was in love with Paul. What of it? Did they consume the relationship? What did that have to do with what happened? Art knew what it had to do with what happened, but it was still a private matter and that truth wouldn’t find the attackers.
The conversation continued into an even more disturbing direction. The officers told him people noticed they weren’t talking anymore. Had something happened? Did they fight? Was it possible Art wanted revenge? At this point Art was losing his patience with the officers and was deeply insulted by the suggestions. He told the officers in strong language he would never hurt Paul, but if the attackers somehow presented themselves to him, he would make them pay. With that last remark the conversation ended. Before they left Art’s office they told him not to stray too far.
Art was left in his office, his hands squeezed into fists. Maybe it was his exhaustion, maybe the anger about what happened, but at some point Art left his office in a blind fury, marched to Lester’s office and burst in. Lester was in, sitting behind his desk grading essays. He looked up in surprise, didn’t get the chance to do or say anything. Art grabbed him by the collar and pulled him over his desk.
“Did you set them up to do it!?”
“Do what? Beat that little bastard up!? I did no such thing.”
“Don’t lie to me!”
“I’m not lying, though that little bastard needed cutting down to size.”
“Are you trying to be funny!? I’m really not in the mood!”
At this point Lester put his hands against Art’s chest and pushed him away. Art stumbled backwards, but charged forward the moment he regained his balance. Lester caught him and threw him aside to the floor.
“I told my students the truth about you scumbags. I told them what they needed to know, to prevent you dragging them and this society down. I did not tell them to beat up that little rat."
By that point other teachers had emerged attracted by the noise they made. Just as Art was to attack Lester’s leg someone grabbed him and pulled him out of the office. Minutes later he was sitting in the Headmaster’s office, a grim and angry looking Headmaster looking down at him.
“I can no longer tolerate your behaviour,” he told Art.
Art knew where this was going: “Sir, Lester’s been...”
The Headmaster interrupted him: “Enough, Garfunkel. You and Simon started this unrest in the first place and it has to end. I see no other option, especially since you keep abusing your promises to clean up your act. Besides that, your behaviour seems to worsen involving other staff members, even attacking them. You’re fired.”
Art tried again: “Sir..”
But the Headmaster cut him off immediately: “You’re fired, Garfunkel. Go get your stuff and leave!”
It was strange, he didn’t really notice; he had been feeling so nervous and scared for Paul, he only cried the first few seconds after finding Paul lying in a puddle of blood. After that his mind had been constantly racing: Would he make it? Who did this to him? What should he do? What could he do? Going around in circles, the emotions building up, he couldn’t hold it together any longer and he cried for hours.
After the Headmaster fired him Art went straight back to the hospital and once again tried to get to Paul. He ran into Joanna who was only just trying to cope with the persistent rumours about her husband and Art. She confronted him, asked him if it was true. Art was in no mood to lie, so he admitted Paul and him got intimate. He could tell that up to that moment Joanna never believed it. The colour drained from her cheeks and a myriad of emotions played across her face, from confused to surprised and from sad to angry. Art knew immediately that was a mistake, because Joanna acted quickly and had Art banned from the hospital. He was thrown out by two security men and told not to try and creep back in, because they would have him arrested.
Now Art was back home in his little apartment. There was nothing to do, nowhere to go. The last two days played through his head over and over again, from seeing Paul lying bloody on the ground to being kicked out of the hospital. What a mess. How could things have gone wrong so badly? Why didn’t he take the right precautions? Why did he lose control? He sat in the middle of his living room. All the rooms reminded him of Paul; the desk where Paul would sit to write a song, the chair where he sat to play his guitar and sing with Art. The small guest room Art lay him to sleep the first time he took him home and the bedroom where they made love to each other many times. Only that small space in the middle of his living room didn’t hold any memories of Paul. It didn’t help, it didn’t relieve the burden off of Art’s shoulder, or the knot in his throat. The room was confining and made it hard to breathe.
Around midnight Art found himself on a bus travelling to the hospital again. He walked into the hospital without being stopped straight to Intensive care, straight to Paul’s room. There was no-one to stop him, maybe he was just lucky this time. When he walked into the front room he did see Joanna sleeping in an hospital bed, but she didn’t stir so he moved on straight to the glass partition behind which Paul lay. It was the first time Art saw Paul since that fateful evening. His face was swollen and black and blue; Art didn’t even recognize him. There was a tube in his mouth and a machine pumping air into his lungs. Tears started to force their way out again. Art wanted to talk to him, tell him it was going to be all right, touch him, hold him, till he was all better and safe within Art’s care. Art was about to open the door into Paul’s room when a body pushed between him and the door.
“What are you doing here!?!?” It was a very angry Joanna.
Art stammered: “I...I...I just want...”
Joanna’s voice was a low menacing hiss: “Leave my husband alone, you dirty...”
“Please, Joanna. I just want to...”
She raised her voice: “Get OUT!!!”
Within a few seconds two men appeared, a doctor and what looked like security. Art was swiftly escorted from the room, taken to the police station and put in a cell. Really a perfect end to a perfect day, Art sarcastically concluded. Sitting in that cell he finally noticed how exhausted he was and he soon fell into a restless sleep.