The Sun beat down on the residents of Los Angeles with an anger. The Silverlake boys and girls hid their fair skin inside the coffee shops, emphasizing the fading of the hipsters. The Malibu beaches were filled with everybody but the rich. And in Studio City, The Van Man's Van pulled into the Mobil at the corner of Ventura and Vineland. He needed gas. He had run empty only a few nights before coming home from the 24-Hour Fitness, the night of his meeting with the Headless Horseman, and he had to sleep in Van Nuys. All night, frightened by the sounds of the homeless rummaging through garbage cans with his blade and bat by his side. He wasn't going to run out of gas again.
Van Man pumped the gas into the van. Out of nowhere, a homeless girl approached him. In the few seconds that passed before their interaction, Van Man was struck for an eternity. He couldn't believe what he was seeing in front of him. He thought her beautiful, but Van Man didn't understand why she had oil and dirt smudges on her face, neck, clothes and everywhere else. Of course, he had seen homeless before. He had seen young and homeless. He had seen gorgeous women with no self-confidence, too. But The Van Man had never, ever seen a Homeless Beauty. Her soft features peered out from behind the dirt and smudge. Van Man was taken aback by her black hair and dark skin, she was a Roman Goddess he had never read about. He thought her the possessor of the softest eyes he had ever seen. And he looked deep into her eyes and could see they were destroyed, crushed. Worthless eyes. She was timid at first and did not want to ask. Homeless Beauty wiped a couple of loose hairs off her forehead and spoke.
"Huh?", replied Van Man.
"We're trying to get back home and we don't have enough money for the bus ticket. Can you help us?"
"Um...I'm sorry, I'm paying with a card."
"Oh, okay...", said the defeated Homeless Beauty.
She was embarrassed. Van Man could tell that. She turned and walked off from where she must have come. Van Man instantly felt horrible and began to justify to himself why he didn't give some change to the Homeless Beauty. He couldn't rationalize a damned thing. As he pumped the gasoline, Van Man thought about those eyes filled with worthlessness. He asked himself questions that he would never be able to answer. Was she swindled by the world? Did she come into it broken? Broken little girl from a broken little home on a broken little street in a broken little town and now in a broken big city. Van Man finished pumping the gas and boarded his van. He thought about driving by the Homeless Beauty as he left the gas station, but he couldn't even look at himself in the rear view mirror to check his hair. Van Man pulled out a single dollar bill from his wallet. He walked over with a smile to the Homeless Beauty and her Homeless Dude. The Dude just sat on the curb and stared blankly, straight ahead. Van Man thought that there might be something wrong with that Dude. Homeless Beauty looked over to Van Man as he held out the dollar bill. She smiled warmly. As she grabbed the dollar, Van Man told her he forgot that he had this last one. She was graceful in her movement as she took the money and sat back down with Homeless Dude. Van Man walked away and got into his van. He was sad.
As Van Man cranked the grizzly bear engine of his van, he thought again. Is she on heroin? Did she start dating that broken Dude and he got her on it? Promising her broken heart the world, saying that the truth of the world is on the spoon...made of that stardust. Or maybe they got on it together. Fueled by the energy of new love and sex between fellow black sheep. But they discovered something greater than the new sex and love and laughter between them. The greater thing joined them even deeper. That greater thing became a Hellraiser Box and they opened it together.
Van Man pulled out of the lot and passed the Homeless Beauty. He smiled at her and she smiled back. He knew she still had that little bit of whatever made her beautiful in the first place. He knew that she wasn't completely gone. She wasn't completely defeated. Van Man knew that her beauty, which she always equated with an art that was original to her soul, was still very meaningful to her. She probably even caught a glimpse of herself in car windows from time to time, very quickly fixing her hair so the owner didn't spot a homeless person peeking in their vehicle. As The Van Man and his Van pulled off into the heat and traffic of Los Angeles, he knew why The Sun was so mad. And he was sad.