But hey! we can't all be perfect, right?
Note: lyrics used without permission: Patti Smith, "Dancing Barefoot".
"Here I go and I don't know why,
I spin so ceaselessly,
'til I lose my sense of gravity..."
(Patti Smith - "Dancing Barefoot")
His P.O.'s words reverberate like some hymn of sobriety:
"Listen, I know it's hard. I know what a pain in the ass this whole period is for...people like you. But you've got a good family, you've got someone to back you up. You've got *support*, Mr. Beecher. Something most ex-convicts don't have. It's up to you and nobody else. Work on it. WORK. For your own sake and for the sake of your family."
So Mr. Tobias Beecher *works* on it. Hard enough to keep himself busy, organized, stable. 'Order and discipline' - what one of his teachers back in Harvard had preached about, the same words that had taken an odd, sickening twist later in his life, coming out of the mouth of Vern Schillinger.
Leaving aside the 'niggers, spics, immigrants, Jews etc. tearing AmeriKKKa into pieces' part, Schillinger and his teacher's life philosophies aren't really *that* different, are they? It all comes down to control - deciding your own life, ruling instead of being ruled. Power through determination.
And Tobias is fucking DE-termined. He has to be, right? Order and discipline. (Good boy.)
Find your (pre)determined, tight circle and dance inside it. Until your life falls to shit and you can't do anything about it.
Because some things are UN-controllable, aren't they?... Or maybe you just want them to be that way. So you can just shrug, look helpless and act all deaf and dumb and innocent - "Sorry your Honor, couldn't see."
(Wasn't my fault.)
So that you don't have to take responsibility and admit - yeah, ADMIT - you wanted it to happen. Somewhere deep down, hidden underneath all the shit that makes you what you are, what you've been told all your life you are, that little hymn of sobriety cracks and tears itself apart.
This is *not* who you are, and you know it. But you don't really know who you actually are, do you?...
So it's a matter of choice, at the end of it.
Having the willpower to call your own shots, design your own (fucked up) life.
(Order and discipline.)
Make your choice and stick with it. Assess what you have, what you've lost and what you've been given.
(Don't fuck up.)
Grab your fucking life by the throat and start living it again.
And yeah, Beecher is choosing.
"I'm thinking about buying a house," Toby says, and his voice carries a weird self-assurance, a sense of confidence that Pete finds a bit...unsettling. He didn't use to be like this. "So that I can move in with my kids, you know? Close to my parents. It's a good neighborhood and they're already accustomed to living there."
"That's good to hear, Tobias. So...I take it things are starting to work out?"
"Since the last time we talked?" He raises his brows and snorts. Yeah, that looks a lot more like the man Pete knew back in Oz. "I don't know...let's just say that things have changed."--a beat: "I met someone."
"Oh?" And that's a big 'oh'.
Beecher looks at her through lowered eyelids and smiles. She smiles back because she feels she has to.
"Yeah, *oh*." One hand scrubbing over his shaved jaw, elbows on the table.
He sometimes finds himself analyzing his own body language, almost unconsciously looking for clues: it's not proper to keep your elbows on the table, don't let your ass hang off the chair, stop fucking hunching over your meal like that... (Other people might notice.) And he always - ALWAYS - forces himself to sit up straight, keep his damn elbows off the table. Not this time, though.
"What's her name?" Sister Pete asks, trying to match his newfound... cheerfulness. (Or whatever that is.)
"Julia, Julia Meyers." He pronounces her name a bit too quickly, a bit too bluntly.
Sister Pete can't help but notice just how different his voice sounds from the moments they spent talking about his wife. Gen's always been like a faded photograph, even before her death. Something fragile, not to be touched, not even with words. This Julia Meyers is something different, like he's waiting for her to show up any minute now.
"She's...she's funny. She likes horror movies." Beecher looks down at his cup of coffee, then looks up directly at Pete and grins: "She's great, you know?"
"You sound like a 14-year old. I'm surprised you didn't say she's *cool*," Pete replies, smiling back.
"Well, she is."
"And...you think that you're not cool enough for her."
"Julia's like 10 years younger than me." He suddenly looks a bit uncomfortable.
"Well, 6 actually. And she's never been married before, nor does she have any kids."
And she never went to Oz. And she never lost 4 years of her life.
(--'Stop it, Toby.'--)
She's...fresh meat. Ain't she?
Sister Pete nods and clasps her hands on the edge of the table.
"You see WHAT?"
And there he is, back again - 97B412, Tobias Beecher, To-by. *That* Toby, if only for a second. That tinge of madness and spitefulness she always suspected underneath that lost puppy appearance, underneath his newfound confidence.
She doesn't know what to respond.
One quick glance over his shoulder, elbows roughly brushed across the table, both hands over the back of his neck, rubbing. Quickfire wariness in his movement, one sharp breath of air; and he looks at her again:
She holds her breath for a second and he notices. He notices a lot of things lately. The kind of shit he wouldn't have noticed before.
"You want to see him?" Pete says very softly, the tip of her fingers digging into the wrinkled edges of her hands.
In one breath:
"Yeah, no. I don't know." He looks behind him again and breathes out slowly. "I don't know." It takes him some time before he speaks again; Pete just waits. "This is so fucking stupid..."
"What's stupid, Tobias?"
"This, this whole thing. You know, I'm having this dream and Gen--"
"You're dreaming about Genevieve?"
"Yeah. She holds me...and that's supposed to be good, right? Still...it's not." Toby stares down for a couple of long moments while his thumb rubs against the edge of the coffee cup; then speaks very quietly: "I wake up thinking about him."
"And it's got nothing to do with sex, you know? It would be a hell of a lot easier if it did."
"Would it?" She's tentative, like walking on broken glass. And she has every reason to be, because Beecher squints back at her, ugly and resentful.
"You think that's what it was all about?"
"It's not what I said."
"That's not an answer."
For some reason, Sister Pete feels like she's talking to someone else, not Tobias. Someone more like...Keller. Or maybe this is just the lawyer side of Beecher: smooth, calculated, prepared.
Maybe they're more alike than she's ever thought.
"No, I don't think that's what it was all about," she replies in a low tone of voice.
Beecher smiles again and looks outside the window.
"Funny...it sometimes seems like that to me," he breathes out slowly, watching a small child jumping around his mother, waiting to cross the street.
Well, this is a surprise, Pete thinks, following his gaze. She remembers Keller's words, spoken about a couple of months after Beecher's parole: "It was nice while it lasted. And it's over now." Words carrying a sort of detachment Pete kind of expected...but didn't really believe.
His blue gaze lingers on the slender silhouette of the young woman crossing the street with her child.
"It makes more sense that way," Beecher replies slowly. Looking back at her: "But it wasn't...right, Sister?"
She knows he's right. It wasn't just that. It probably never is *just that* with Tobias.
Some people live only in the here and now. Some live in the what will be, what they'll make of themselves, of their lives.
And some people bounce back and forth between the past and the present and what should happen but never quite does, half-willingly/half-uncontrollably scratching inside themselves for clues as to why they did what they did, what they should do. What they have. And who they are.
Twisting themselves and the world around them along the way.
"You know, I've talked to Tobias Beecher two days ago."
Tim McManus turns over to face her, holding a mug of hot coffee clasped in his palms. His eyebrows rise for a moment questioningly: 'Beecher who? Oh, that Beecher.'
People come and people go in Oz, and very few are actually remembered.
"Really? How is he?"
"He's fine," Pete replies, looking over the file of one of the new inmates. She takes off her glasses and closes the file: "Hasn't changed much."
"Oh?" And it's not a disinterested 'oh', but more of a disappointed one.
"That didn't come out right, did it?" She smiles.
"Well, it's Beecher," McManus says, leaning against the table. "With Beecher, there's never 'right' or 'wrong'. Always in the middle."
Pete squints at him through her glasses and her frail, wrinkled fingers gather over the file like in a prayer.
She's met so many 'bad men' - as Cyril used to say - during her years working in Oz, they all sometimes seem the same. One after the other, faces and names and crimes and families blend into one faceless, nameless inmate who's last home - only home - is Oz; surrounded by ghosts and hollow structures moving and breathing on instinct.
Sometimes she looks at Ryan O'Reily and sees his brother, and all that's different, all that makes - made them who they were slowly dissolves into the same insubstantial matter all prisoners are made of. Dust. Or ashes, more likely.
Shit, Ryan would most likely say.
She knows she's been doing this for far too long, and sometimes...sometimes she can't help but wonder why.
What's the point?...
Vern Schillinger smiling at her with tears in his eyes while holding up the photos of his grand daughter, this little white bumblebee barely visible through her winter clothes.
Chris Keller and his letter - empty words written and spoken by an empty man, his eyes never meeting hers, staring into complete oblivion.
Ryan O'Reily, moving though her office like a cat or a rat, some kind of an odd crossbreed between what's now, what used to be, what can no longer be. Sometimes joking about going to Nigeria, just to see if guys over there can keep their hats on like Adebisi used to - "when I get out, you know".
When I get out...
Tobias got out. And he's still in, lurking through the shadows of his own prison, his own fenced labyrinth. Always in the middle.
McManus, this man everybody takes for a delusional fool for thinking *anything* could possibly change...
Get them to see things from a slightly different angle.
Make yourself whole through them.
Shirley Bellinger still smiles and walks around in circles in her tiny cell covered with white sheets, voice scraping and lingering in darkness.
Everybody wants to get out of Oz. Nobody ever does.
O'Reily's skipping beats. O'Reily's skipping a fuck of a lot of beats lately, Chris can tell that just by looking at him when he thinks Keller's not looking; when he thinks nobody's looking. *That* in itself is evidence, right?
Then again, Keller himself ain't exactly what he used to be. He sensed it, right the moment Beecher put his arms around his shoulders and held him tight, tighter than anybody's ever held him his whole fucking life.
Something inside him...moved, like a rusted watch that starts ticking out of the blue. It ain't that great, it ain't even natural, but the little fuckin' wheels spin and the movement hums through the cheap, rusted shell and it finally starts ticking.
It's real, it's here and it's all for you, whether you want it or not. And Chris wants it - Chris wanted it, he wanted it bad.
And then Toby was gone.
But it's still ticking. And he has no clue what it is.
He looks at O'Reily through his lowered eyelids, while lying still in his bed, faking sleep.
He's always faked, sometimes thinking that was the only way he could actually see or feel or meet something halfway through.
Caught between darkness and light, movement and unconsciousness. Something should be there, right?...
The other man goes through his stuff, sniffing his clothes, one finger sticking through the hole of a ragged T-shirt; and Ryan's lost there for a second, hands crumpling the worn out fabric, figure crouched forward.
Keller stares at the rough edges of his back, his skinny shoulderblades, the vertebrae in his spine sticking out like pieces of broken branches.
It's Cyril's T-shirt.
Cyril's been dead for more than 8 months now; he just fell asleep. And forgot to wake up.
Probably the best death anyone can have, in or out of Oz.
Keller remembers - almost like in a dream - going near the pod's door, trying to stare upwards and see what all the fuss was about. He couldn't.
But he did hear O'Reily screaming for his brother, screaming for the hacks, screaming for Gloria Nathan, the woman who wasn't even around anymore to hear his screams.
And he knew something was very, very wrong. He knew nothing would ever be the same.
The kid's body was covered with a blanket when the hacks took him away, and they passed right by him. One hand slipping off the stretcher, messy, yellow strands of hair buried under the gray fabric thrown over his face.
Keller always thought of Cyril O'Reily as a kid. A fuckin' 6 feet tall six year old.
Everything seems like a dream sometimes. Most of the times.
Black and white and faded. Fading.
He remembers somebody, Sister Pete most likely, telling him we all dream in black and white, that it's how our brains work. And the moment we wake up, colors come rushing in, flooding everything.
Almost like our brains can't deal with what's inside us, what we're made of, and just gotta make something up, anything. Fast.
Hide it. Fake it.
Maybe it was Beecher tellin' him this.
Everything fades and at some point, even your brain gets tired. Snatch dreams and drown reality in them, maybe something will give. Something will cave in...
O'Reily stands up and leans against the sink. His body's shivering, his skinny knees bent a little. Keller's still watching, one arm thrown over his face. Then Ryan turns on the water and lets it flow down the draining, hunching over the metal sink.
Keller closes his eyes and turns on his side, back against O'Reily.
And dreams of dreaming Technicolor dreams.
---end of part 4---