Chapter Two

When Carys turned the corner from the entrance area into the hallway on Tuesday morning, Jami was sitting in the same spot as she had been Monday, watching for her. They smiled and waved as soon as they saw each other. Carys jogged up to Jami and stopped.

"You're here!"

"I said I would be."

"I know, but I realized last night that I never did ask you for your phone number or your last name. Then I worried all night that you were a figment of my imagination or something, and wouldn't be here today, and I'd have no way to find you."

"I'm boringly easy to find." Jami unzipped a pocket in her pack and handed Carys a business card.

"Jami Barton, Photographer," read Carys. There was a phone number, email address and web address. "Thanks!" She tucked the card into her pack. "I don't have a business card, though I really should, for clowning. I just haven't gotten around to it."

"You are Carys Douglas, and I know your phone number and email address."

Carys laughed. "Hey, I'm the one with the Sherlock Holmes fixation. I assume you went to the authorities?"

"Yes. I told them I would be photographing the clowns today and could I please copy down their names to simplify keeping notes on the photos? Since I'm already helping teach the photography workshop, they just printed the class list for me. I'm also good at looking sweet and innocent." She tilted her head, widened her eyes, wet her lips and affected a kind of smile without a smile that left her lips partly open and her face with an obviously happy look.

"You certainly look..." Carys broke off to give her head a slap. "Stop now, before you get in trouble, for a change, you dumb clown."

Jami frowned. "I hope you have a sturdy head, Carys. That's at least the third time you've done that in the past 24 hours."

"A hard head is what I have. You got that right. So I take it you have the okay to come with me this morning?"

"No problem. Ms. Steffani, the photo instructor, said I could take the morning session away from the class for this."

"Great! You can see us get into clown and everything. Now where did David get to? He was right behind me." She looked back down the hallway and beckoned for David to hurry up.

When David arrived she made introductions. "David. Jami. David is another one of the theater geeks at my school, and my partner in clown. Jami is going to shoot us this morning."

Affecting a look of horror, David said, "I knew it was too good to last. I only regret that I was not able to push the gay agenda to its full conclusion. Go ahead and shoot!" He stood straight and closed his eyes. When he opened them Jami was holding a camera and had just taken a picture.

"Good Lord, you're fast!"

Jami blew along the top of the camera and returned it to a side pocket of her pack. "I always have a camera within easy reach."

"You better watch out with her, Car. No telling what will show up on film at eleven."

"David!"

"Don't hit me! I'm not in clown yet!"

"You're always a clown, you buffoon!"

"Did she say we were friends? I think I need to reevaluate our relationship."

Jami couldn't help laughing. She stood up and grabbed her bags. "Which way to clown alley?"

"Whoa! She knows the lingo, Car. I tell you, this is one on-the-ball chick." Carys glared at him. "How about if I shut up?"

"Don't mind David, Jami. He's actually quite harmless, but he can get carried away. Not that I ever do."

"I think you're both very nice."

"Hear that Car? She likes me!"

"I like you both." She looked at David, then at Carys. She and Carys continued to look at each other.

"Ahem. I see," said David. "There's like, and then there's like. Well, we need to get going. I'll lead, just in case you two aren't paying attention to where you're going."

"Ignore him. He's just being difficult," said Carys. She slung her pack over her right shoulder and picked up her bag with the same hand.

Jami put her camera bag over her left shoulder, and picked up her pack with that hand. While she was walking next to Carys she touched Carys's left hand with the little finger of her right hand. Carys took a quick look up and down the hallway, then hooked her little finger around Jami's.

"Talk to me about clowning," said Jami, as they walked toward the auditorium. "How did you two get the idea to be clowns?"

"For me," said David, "it was Halloween. One year when I had outgrown last year's costume, I decided to be a tramp, a hobo with a sad face. My mom and I whipped together a costume from some old clothes of my dad's; a battered hat, a bandanna on a stick, the whole stereotypical gig. Then I said something about a face, and my mom found a picture of a tramp with a sad face. We used a burnt wine cork to make me up. The next day I looked at the picture and found out it was Emmett Kelly, one of the most famous circus clowns of all time. I started learning more about clowns, eventually found a clown class, and here I am."

"It was clowns at the circus, for me," said Carys. "My family went every year when I was little. I know some kids are scared of clowns, and most kids want to be acrobats or lion tamers, but I was fascinated by the clowns. I started trying to be a clown at home. It took a while for my mom to figure out what I was doing, then she helped me make a costume. It was some time before she'd let me do real clown makeup, though. I just used grease pencils to draw eyebrows and designs on my face at first. I eventually found a clown class, too, and learned how to really do it."

"Is it hard?" asked Jami. "Clown faces all seem to be different. Does it matter much what you do?"

"Oh, yes!" said Carys and David together. David continued, "Each clown face is different, but you always do the same face, at least after a while. Your face and your costume and your name go together to make a particular clown character."

"The faces aren't as easy as they look," said Carys. "Your face has to fit your clown personality; and it has to fit your real face, so expressions you make work on your clown face. It also has to stay on through hours of sweating."

"That's the worst part," said David, "powdering to set the makeup so it lasts."

"So being a clown is quite a production," said Jami.

"Definitely. Designing and making my costume, finding shoes and props and everything, it took me all one summer, and it wasn't cheap, either," said Carys.

"This leads me to the usual big question," said Jami. "Why?"

"It's a kind of theater you can do on your own," said David. "Some people even earn a living at it. There are lots of opportunities to do parades and festivals and events. There's a whole thing about Clown Ministry, and there are Hospital and Hospice Clowns. I don't know if I could do that. I haven't gotten up the nerve to try."

"Clowns in the hospital? Sounds kind of, well, macabre."

"I imagine there's a fine line, yes. But there are kids in hospitals, and kids dying in hospices. They often don't get much attention. Who wants to visit a dying child? It's not a side of life most people want anything to do with."

"There's actually a whole world of clowning that most people don't know about," said Carys. In a softer voice she added, "It lets you be a different person, too, one you get to design yourself."

Jami was about to ask another question when David turned into a hallway by the auditorium and announced, "Here we are, backstage. We use the dressing room, through here." David saw Jami and Carys unlink their fingers, winked, then preceded them into the dressing room.

Two other students were already there. Four more came in soon after they arrived. Carys introduced Jami around, explained she was there to take pictures today, and then she got to work. Each clown had a locker in the dressing room for their costume, and each clown had their own makeup kit.

"We all have previous clowning experience," said David. "This is kind of an advanced class. We work on our clowning skills, especially skits."

"Who teaches the class?"

"A couple who have been clowns for more than 20 years. They should be here soon. One of them went to a real clown school."

"Clown school?" Jami had taken out a camera, changed lenses, fiddled a bit with settings and was thinking about how to shoot. The light was difficult. Very bright around the mirrors, very dim everywhere else. She decided the best thing to do was to shoot in the mirror or obliquely, catching one person at a time. Maybe later she'd bring a tripod and use a wide angle lens to capture the whole scene.

David had continued talking while setting his makeup out on the counter at an open spot next to Carys. "About forty years ago there was a big shortage of circus clowns, so Ringling Brothers started a circus clown college in Florida, which is where a lot of circuses spend their off-seasons. For thirty years they trained a lot of circus clowns. Now, of course, the problem is that there are almost no circuses left. But clowning remains popular."

"What's the difference? Isn't a clown a clown?" Jami was moving around, taking a steady stream of shots.

"Oh, no," answered a girl applying white makeup all over her face. "Anyone can paint on a face and wear a few silly clothes and call themselves a clown. Which is okay, but circus clowns are, I guess you'd say more rigorous, and know more about working in groups, as part of a bigger show."

"Then there are several types of clowns," added a boy who was putting white on only part of his face, and a pinker color elsewhere. "I'm an auguste, the only one here. Carla," he indicated the girl who had just spoken, "is a white face like the others, and David and Carys are tramps. Those are the three main classifications."

"It's kind of unusual for a girl to be a tramp," said Carys, "but that's what I eventually decided I wanted to be. I started out as a pure auguste, though."

"Okay, Jami. I'm going to powder my first layer," called out David. "Watch out!" He was holding a sock full of powder in one hand, and began pressing it all over his face, shaking up the sock frequently. A cloud of powder formed around his head.

"Wow!" shouted Jami. "You're all going to do that?"

"You bet. More than once."

"Maybe I should go check out the stage while the dust settles. I don't suppose you all want me taking pictures of you getting into costume, anyway."

"No way. Shoo!" said one clown, taking her powder sock out of a plastic bag and wiggling it at Jami.

Jami grabbed her camera bag and turned to leave, almost running into a fully dressed white-face clown standing at the door watching. "Hello, there youngster! I hope you're not shooting all my clowns? They need to be alive to practice!"

"Um, I'm using blanks. They'll be okay."

The clown laughed. "You have a sense of humor. I think we'll keep you. Who are you, by the way?"

"I'm Jami. I'm helping with the photography class, and I'm Carys's friend."

"Ah, Lovelorn could use more friends. Come out on stage and I'll explain up to what we are."

Jami was still talking with the adult clown couple when the students began to come out of the dressing room. The two tramp clowns emerged first, followed by the auguste. They walked up behind Jami.

"Hello, Jami," said a sad voice.

Jami turned to find a dejected looking clown holding a permanently drooping bouquet of plastic flowers. The clown's nametag read: Lovelorn.

"Lovelorn? Do I know you?"

"No one knows me. No one cares. I'm lorn because no one loves me." Then Carys dropped out of character for a second. "It's kind of a pun on my other name. The root of Carys is Welsh for love, and the tramp is always a sad clown." She resumed her sad face and looked at Jami, holding out the wilted bouquet.

"Are you always sad?"

Lovelorn nodded, made an exaggerated sniff, pulled a large bandanna from a pocket and dabbed at her eye, then used it to blow her nose, loudly.

Jami laughed. "You are wonderful."

Lovelorn's expression remained sad, but Jami saw a smile in her eyes.

When all the clowns had come out of the dressing room, Jami asked them to let her photograph each face, took a posed group shot, then stayed to watch and photograph their practice session. When the clowns headed back to the dressing room to get out of clown, Carys told Jami she'd meet her for lunch. Jami went off to a quiet spot to upload the batch of photos to her laptop, then headed to the cafeteria to beat the rush.

She went through the line for her usual small lunch, then found a table. She kept an eye on the door and waved when Carys entered.

"Hi, Jami! I'm glad you can find a table before I get here. I don't have to lug these through the line." She dropped her bag and pack. "Be right back."

When Carys returned with her heaping tray, they ate slowly and talked about the clown session that morning.

"Why do you have the gym bag? Don't you leave your clown stuff in the locker?"

"Most of it. But the clown costume is kind of hot, and we're working on skits and juggling and all kinds of clown business, so I sweat a lot. I'd be one stinky clown by Friday if I didn't take some of my stuff home each night and wash it."

"That makes sense."

"Some of the kids take a shower in the locker rooms, but I'm not a big fan of showering with other people. I'd rather wipe down with a towel and shower when I get home."

Jami looked at her tray and didn't respond immediately.

"Does the idea of sweaty clowns strike you as particularly horrible?"

"No, it's the idea of showering with other people."

"Oh. Right. Yikes. Is that one of the reasons you're doing home schooling?"

"One of the reasons, yes."

"Sorry. Let's change the subject. When are you going to make prints of the photos you took this morning?"

"I'll do that tonight. It's too hard to concentrate in the lab. The equipment is okay, but it's not what I'm used to."

"Is your class in the lab every afternoon?"

"Yes. The students take photos in the morning and work on printing in the afternoons. Ms. Steffani and I were able to swing the loan of some decent printers and software from the photo store where I work part time. We show the students how to upload their photos and do some simple editing and correction."

"You know how to do all that?"

"Sure. I've been using computers since I could sit up. I've been doing photography for at least ten years."

"Wow. But you use different stuff at home? Like Mac instead of Windows?"

"My laptop is an Apple. I have a Windows machine, though I only use it as a glorified printer driver. All it has on it is Photoshop Elements. On my big computer I run Linux. That's where I do web stuff and photo editing. But I prefer to not fiddle a lot with my photos after I take them, other than to crop and adjust for a particular printer. I'm kind of a minimalist that way. I don't want to loose what the camera sees."

"Ohmygosh. So you're a serious geek grrrl."

"I suppose so."

"And you only pretend to look sweet and innocent?"

Jami ran a finger around the top of her iced tea glass. "This morning you made a comment, about clowning, that it let you be a different person, one you get to design yourself?"

"Yeh. It's not like being in a play, where you learn a role, perform, then it's over. I can be a clown my whole life if I want."

"Do you want to be someone else?"

"Not instead of. In addition to, an extension of. I don't want to be the same person all the time." Carys frowned. "That's not exactly right. This is hard to say so it makes sense."

"I understand," said Jami.

"I don't want people to look at me and label me. I want them to look deeper, to realize how complicated I am. Does that make sense?"

Jami nodded. "And I do want people to look at me and label me. I don't want them to look deeper and find out how complicated I am."

Carys looked at her. "Is that completely true, Jami? You don't want anyone to figure out how complicated you are?"

"Okay, I mean in general. I know it's contradictory. If I protect myself, I can't speak out about the problems that intersex people have."

Carys sighed. "I hear you. Being safe and being outspoken are definitely not compatible. I've found that out."

"You said you're in a GSA. I'm just me."

"In theory there's a whole GLBT community out there."

"Right. How well do they understand you? Protect you?"

Carys sighed again. "Not very well. I don't even have my own letter. In practice, unless you're a G or an L, you're just a freak, despite what people say about inclusiveness."

Jami poked Carys's hand with a finger. "Hi, freak."

Carys grabbed the finger. "Yo, yourself."

"It sounds like we're opposites."

"But we're not."

"No, we're not."

Carys lifted her soda can with her other hand. "I propose a toast. Solidarity of the fringe letters!"

Jami clinked Carys's can with her iced tea glass. "An injury to one, is an injury to all!"

They realized then that David was standing next to the table looking at them. "I have no idea what I'm interrupting, but it's time for the afternoon session, kids."

"Thanks for the reminder, David. We've been talking, and kind of forgot the time."

David smiled. "And the rest of the world?"

"No, actually, we've been talking about the rest of the world. Very deep intellectual stuff. Postpostmodernism and the deconstruction of queer identities. You know."

"Uh, right. See you, clown. You too, Jami." He walked off, shaking his head.

"But we were!" Jami giggled.

"Truth can be stranger than fiction."

"I suppose we should go."

"Yes," said Carys. "Should I come up to the lab at break?"

"I'd like that."

"Can I call you tonight?"

Jami hesitated. "I'm going to be really busy working with the photos I took today. It's not that I don't want to talk with you, I do, but I get totally focused when I'm working and kind of forget about everything else."

"Like me?"

"No, dummy! Half the photos I took were of you. I'm not going to forget about you. But I have to pay attention to what I'm doing."

"Okay," said Carys, "I understand that." Carys looked at Jami, swallowed. "Maybe it would be better if I just sit and think some tonight. I feel like I have so much to say to you, but I'm not sure what words to use."

Jami nodded. "We can talk some at break. And tomorrow."

"And tomorrow and tomorrow?"

"Let's not get into that particular Shakespeare quote. Relationships in Macbeth did not tend to work out well."

"True." Carys smiled. "I guess I'll settle for counting the hours until I see you again."

Jami looked at the clock on the wall. "We'd better get going."

"Yikes! Yes!"

* * *

Jami was already in the hall at break, watching for Carys. They started walking, happy for the chance to talk. "How's the script writing going?"

"Good, I think," said Carys. "It's a group project, and we're keeping it going at high speed. It'll be rough, but we'll have something to read on Friday."

"Read?"

"Kind of a performance. We'll stand up and read what we've written, each of us taking parts. Maybe you can come and listen?"

"Can I come and take pictures?"

"I don't see why not. I'll ask. Can you get away from your class?"

Jami thought a moment. "I think Ms. Steffani is planning to show slides and maybe a video Friday afternoon. That's not anything I'd need to be there to help with."

"Cool! Okay, I'll ask about you taking photos, but you're kind of semi-staff here, so I'm sure there won't be a problem."

They walked up and down the hall, talking and ignoring everyone else, until the break was over.

"Good luck with your printing, Jami."

"I'm planning on being here early to set up my little show, so I'll be in the hallway on my ledge, as usual."

"I'll see you then."

"Yes. Good-bye, Carys."

"Bye, Jami. I'm going to sit and think about you tonight."

Jami looked concerned, then remembered their conversation at lunch. "Just remember that I'll be looking at your clown face all night," she said.

Carys smiled, decided not to say anything else, turned and walked quickly away.

Jami watched her, bit her lip, and walked back into the lab.

"Jami?"

Jami looked up. "Yes, Ms. Steffani?"

"Are you okay?"

"Yes, sure. I was just thinking. I'll get to work."

Jami and Carys, thought Ms. Steffani, are more than a little attracted to each other. I wonder what's bothering Jami about this? Parents? Or something else?