“The Chivalrous Cavalier”
by James Neenan
I watch my companion, Jerome Beaman sip his chocolate milk in front of a cavernous fire. In just twelve short years on this planet his face is distorted with signs of torment and anguish. The tarnished looks of fifth grade are beginning to take their dreadful toll. I have brought Jerome to my home on this fateful night to unwind. For it is to be a slumber-party of sorts, and my dear mother has been instructed to put out the chocolate milk and retire to her respective quarters, leaving my companion and I to unwind and brood, solemnly, in peace.
Why, you ask, is it necessary to console my disrupted companion with a creamy glass of thick chocolate milk in front of a roaring fire? The answer to that, dear reader, can only be captured with a tale of grave misfortune. One can obviously guess that there is a girl involved. For even in one’s greatest moment of triumph the simple downward gaze of a doting maiden can pierce one’s heart like a Rhinoceros tusk through a nobleman on safari.
Now, sit, dear reader, and allow me to recollect the fateful afternoon in which our beloved Jerome attempted to woo the hardened heart of one, Abigail Foster. For this tale is one of dark, iniquitous tidings of love lost, never to be recovered. This is the tale of the hopelessly romantic, heavyset gentleman, whose bride was never caught, and whose soul will forever pine.
It was an icy December afternoon when Jerome took his seat next to me in Mrs. Kelly’s history lecture. He bounced into the room five minutes late from recess, taking pains not to disturb the class, as was his custom. Mrs. Kelly was going over slides on westward expansion and the Polk administration. Though, as scintillating as the lecture was, I could tell Jerome’s attention lay elsewhere. It was apparent that Jerome had his own destiny to manifest later on that very same day, though, what grave tidings were to await my brotherly comrade, not even I could guess.
I sat and watched as he lusted after the shimmer of Abigail’s silky blonde hair, held up in all its perfection by a patterned velvet scrunchie. She possessed the sexual prowess of Aphrodite, and the budding beauty of a young Drew Barrymore. Unfortunately, Jerome possessed the looks of a recently blinded Cyclops. He later confessed that he knew it was the proper day to begin their courtship, for the god’s had professed such a message that very morning as he gazed at his well-sculpted hair in the vanity of his bathroom mirror.
Elaboration aside, I must admit, that on that particular day Jerome did appear quite fetching. His hair was perfect and elicited the all too enticing aromas of lilac and geranium. It gleamed in the noisy fluorescent lighting of the classroom like phosphorous on moonlit stillwater. As if chiseled from of a block of marble, extra body styling gel held each singular strand perfectly in place.
I noticed he had managed to prep himself unto the likes of an English nobleman, ready to release the hounds prior to the master hunt. He confessed to sitting before his vanity like a king ready to execute forty commoners in the name of pestilence. Eyebrows slicked down, hair gelled and combed to perfection, nails trimmed, teeth flossed, he was ready to conquer anything set before him. Anything, that was, but his own girth.
I do not wish to dwell on such a miniscule issue as one’s corpulence, however, in that fragile state of adolescence it was a problem that he constantly reverted back to with hatred and angst; one that consumed him like a raging torrent of napalm, set to ingest a village. I can remember endless nights spent together when he would wax on about Greco-Roman aesthetic conceptions of beauty, as if through simply discussing it, his own body would transform into that of a young Hercules.
But let us not wallow amongst the tedium of mere appearance. For Jerome was a linguist sculpted out of the ashes of the immortal bard himself, held together by the romantic charisma of Johnny Keats and the sensual sensibilities of Percy Shelley. If anyone could swoon the hardened heart of the lovely Abigail, it was our dear protagonist.
Now, dear reader, listen as I explain the situation as best as I remember it. I peered on with interest as Jerome cautiously withdrew a singular chocolate rose from his backpack, and oh, what a rose it was. Only the largest bag of Reeses Pieces one could conjure rivaled the unadulterated magnificence that was carved into the delicate petals. He must have paid nearly six dollars of his hard-earned chore money for that rose. It was clear, his sweat and blood went into the purchase of such an item of tenderness; sweet sultry chocolaty love, all of which foiled by a girl who knew better than to date a handsomely romantic porker such as Jerome. It was meant to capture her heart like a moth to a flame; she was to be his mosquito, and he, her bug-zapper.
He stroked the token with loving affection, and put it back into his bag. There was no question about it. Cupid’s notorious arrow had struck our dear Jerome in the backside and that was that. Then the bell rang. I watched as he slid from his desk like a tender piece of veal down a lord’s gullet and shot toward the hallway. I gathered my bag and various schooling devices, careful to linger just inside the doorframe, poised just out of sight, ready for any mishaps that might befall my well mannered brother-in-arms.
As the class filed out, I silently pondered what sort of gentrified banter Jerome was planning on thrusting to Abigail’s lofty consideration. Jerome and I were of the same mind, and very often, thought alike in times when the brain’s faculties are extended to the farthest reaches of thought. I sat and considered which routine Jerome had prepared for this particular afternoon.
Perhaps he was to give her the Superman, Lois Lane, routine in which he catalogs and diagrams his worth in terms of strength and courage. Then again, perhaps he will launch into the noted “grow old with you” routine, detailing fanciful incidences, of soaking each other’s dentures in the same solution, or lovingly changing out each other’s over-filled colostomy bags. What brass that kid had. You scoff at such propositions, but really, what did our dear Jerome have to lose? Really, what could be more romantic than a cute elderly couple happily changing out each other’s personal waste receptacles as if they were simply taking out the trash? In my mind, nothing. Then again, I too reside in a state of unreturned affection and will probably never find my own, dear, sweet, beautiful, Lois Lane. But alas, it is Jerome’s fate we are discussing here, and I shall do my best to stay with our portly protagonist.
I lowered myself calmly inside the doorframe, just between the abridged door and the wall so as not to be seen. She brushed past me out into the hallway. I knew from her first step out the door that this was going to end poorly for our dear hopelessly romantic companion.
And so I sat, and listened.
“Hey, Abigail, can I talk to you for a second?” It sounded like a kazoo solo plunked into the middle of a Mozart concerto.
“Hey, Jerome, what’s up?” Her voice seemed to lilt for a moment, then falter. The tension was so palpable it was beginning to grow legs and prance around the room in mocking joviality.
“I’ve been thinking a lot about this, my dear, sweet, candylicious, cherub of Eden.” (He actually talked like that.) “And I think that it is about time for us to begin our courtship indefinitely. For it is written in the stars that we are destined to be together. Our separate paths are predetermined to cross like Peter Parker and Mary Jane.”
What a routine choice! Bravo, old boy, I thought.
“Of course,” he continued, “our love will not include that whole emo phase that Parker went through, which was totally lame, but I digress.”
Agreed, good friend, but you seem to be faltering a bit. Stay the course.
“Now, what do you say, my dream among dreams? Will you take this rose, in acceptance of my love and fortitude, so that we may remain together, forever?”
Although the thick classroom door shrouded my vision, I could clearly hear Jerome get down on one knee and present his crown jewel, his Excalibur. He gave her the chocolate rose. (And no, the Bachelor had not been invented yet- those dogs possess as much romantic sensibility as a fraternity brother set loose in a Guadalajaran stripclub)
I sat, with bended knee and bottled up breath, considering what sort of look our fair Abigail would display for our
“We’re in fifth grade, Jerome. My parents won’t let me date until sixth. And why do you talk like that? You are so weird,” she said.
Jerome’s silence was all that followed his tirade of sentimentality. It spoke volumes.
I could vaguely make out the sounds of her footfall, as she strode off down the hall. I got up off my knee and entered the hallway, only to find Jerome, sitting, back against the wall, in disbelief. Not a word was exchanged between us. We were of the same mind, and any conversation would have been frivolous in his current situation. I helped him off the floor and escorted him out into the sunlight of the parking lot, where we entered my mother’s mini-van; heads held a bit lower than usual.
A thousand fiery suns could not have blistered his heart more than her rejection of his token of affection. The wind was out of the sails, the pooch-screwed. In that instant, our wonderful little blubber-bubble was but another fifth-grader, internally sobbing to himself at the rejection before him. I knew at that moment, how young Keats felt at having the lovely Brawne slip from his fingers like a perspiring glass of sherry from a debutante’s grasp.
In Jerome’s case, I blame courage, as it was the dreadful proprietor on that fateful afternoon. Without its blinding hopes and glimmers of a beautiful future, he would have relented prior to his embarrassing escapade of foolish self-mockery.
I wish she wouldn’t have shrugged away from him on that fateful Wednesday afternoon after he handed her a proclamation of undying love manifested in the form of a rose made from the finest silk-chocolate; but such is life. The deck was obviously not stacked in his favor.
The logical question at such a juncture would be to consider the emotion of embarrassment. Was he, your dreadfully handsome protagonist, embarrassed at having his hand rejected by the one he loved? Pah, certainly not, dear reader. For Jerome possessed the strength of ten men in the face of adversity. Fie every cretinous dog that turns in glee at the onset of another’s torment. For those willing to naysay the bold actions of the hopeless romantic are not fit to gorge upon the same sloppy ground beef concoction served in the lunchroom. Those willing to harp on one’s failed chivalrous conquest should be drawn, quartered, tarred, and feathered, all at once, if possible. The loathsome hags, hell-bent on relishing in the mockery of another are not fit to change the piss-pot of a kindergartener! At least our good friend Jerome had the courage, nay the strength, nay the cold-blooded cajones to say what he felt at the time and mean it. To be a romantic is no mere walk among the primrose path. It is a quest for the undying love of another, it is a lash along the chest at every heartbeat that beats for another; and it is a kick straight to the balls with every sentiment not returned.
It is now that I express my wish to encourage any and all dire Romeos to persevere in their own conquest for their personal Juliet. It is a long and frustrating world that must be taken with care. The road is dangerous and wearisome, yet is one that must be undertaken by those who possess the gumption to tackle even the most radiant of beauties. For who among us does not wish to share a gleaming, dentured smile with their significant other, well into the future? After all, an existence without mutual deterioration among couple’s body parts is frankly, an existence not worth fighting for. We should all aspire to grow old with one another, saggy paunches and all, and for that, I say persevere in the name of love.
And so we sit and gaze into the crackle of the flames before us. I watch as Jerome gulps down his glass of chocolate milk- so sugary, it could rot the steel frame of a tractor-trailer. Wrapped in the shrouds of his Batman pajamas, my dear friend Jerome is a man in recovery.
I watch as he pours himself another glass of the silky ambrosia and slams it back with ease. He nods and signals for the yearbook. I carefully set it in his lap. I suppose it is time, after all. Flipping through the book at random, I gaze on in admiration as a smile plays out across Jerome’s lips. With an extended forefinger directed at a young girls portrait, Jerome holds the book up for my approval.
“Lauren Ramirez?” I say.
“Do you doubt my skill after my most recent floundering?” He says.
I slam back my glass of chocolate milk. It is so sugary it stings the back of my throat. I cough and regain my composure.