You're not funny.
I blinked twice and I was being pulled out of that place. Someone, Warren I think, was walking me down the street. I could barely open my eyes without the sidewalk waving at me. The world was going to fall over and roll me off it. How hard did they hit me with that chair? How did they get it? I thought those chairs were bolted to the floor.
I'd never open for Easy Freddie ever again. When Warren said washed-up 80's hair band, he really meant it. They loved Easy Freddie, though. Admittedly, I didn't stay very long after being pummeled to unconsciousness, but it was clear that they hated me. Who wants a comedy act opening for a band with hits such as "Don't Close the Door on My Broken Heart" and "I've Got More Than Enough for You" and let's not forget "Satan's Den Revisited."
My father's voice was in my head screaming, "You'll never amount to anything, you lazy son of a bitch!" (He meant that, too. My dad was never fond of my mother.) I heard my dear friend Warren's voice close to my ear. I had nearly forgotten again who I was leaning against.
"I thought you were hilarious."
I rolled my head on his shoulder and tried to face him. It hurt to even raise an eyebrow. He smiled briefly over at me and then continued steering us through pedestrian traffic. If people were staring, Warren didn't make it seem like they were. I looked terrible, no doubt. My face hurt, my head hurt. There was a sharp pain in my chest every time I breathed and my shirt was sticking to me--that might have been because of all the blood. They really hated my jokes.
"No." I shook my head, or tried to. He didn't look at me but his lips tightened at the challenge. "You didn't, Warren."
"You didn't, Warren! " Warren replied in a high-pitched voice he'd later explain was his best impression of me. I'd reply by punching him in the face. No reason for only one of us to have had all the fun, eh?
"Yes I did, Jason," he corrected me, but something he saw in my face made him pause. "You're right… I didn't."
Aw, bless him. He did look guilty then. Warren, despite being the slimiest, most two-faced, thieving bastard in the whole street, was still a caring friend.
I could kill him now. I'd make it look like an accident. But just when I raised my hand to strike him down I accidentally hit myself in the face. I then believed my arm to be broken. Instead I used my words as if they were a punch in the face.
"No, you didn't."
Asshole, my mind added, but I had sense enough not to say it aloud. I didn't want him dropping me on the sidewalk and leaving me in a pool of my own blood.
A stretch of silence followed, only interrupted by the sound of my right foot dragging on the sidewalk and several people groaning in disgust at the sight of my blood-soaked shirt and mangled face. Taco meat came to mind. I certainly felt like taco meat.
"Maybe what you did in there is funny to you but it's just not funny," Warren rushed out in a semi-sympathetic voice. He seemed to be choosing his words rather carefully, I thought sarcastically. "… not jokes to them?" He finished finally.
I tried giving it actual consideration instead of attempting to hit him again but it made my head feel even worse. It dropped forward as he set me down on a bench. It took my eyes a while to focus and a lot of my strength to lift my head. We were in the park. He sat down beside me and rested for a moment.
"Never mind, I just confused myself." I had just started to feel better when he added, "Do you know what a funny joke is?"
I looked down at my arm to see if it was indeed too broken to hit him with but it looked fine. It just looked out of place. Instead I spent my energy feeling around for cigarettes in my jacket pocket. It seemed like hours before I finally got one to my mouth and when I did I realized that I had somehow lost my lighter in the fight. Warren produced one and leant over, lighting my cigarette for me.
"Do you think I would have done that if I didn't?"
"The crowd rushed you and nearly beat you to death," Warren said as if it didn't happen all the time. "Maybe you just don't know any funny jokes."
"Do you have to say it like that?" I groaned, feeling worse by the second, but then I thought of something. "Okay, there is this one joke I know. My uncle told me."
"Yeah? Why didn't you start with that?"
Warren would never shut up about this. I ignored his comment and pushed forward to the joke, "My dog has no nose."
I saw him looking at me strangely when I turned my head. His large mouth was stuck open as if his new job was catching flies.
"Oh my God! That's terrible!" Warren shouted and then punched me very hard in the shoulder. It did indeed feel as if my arm was dislocated. "I mean, really! What happened? And what does that have to do with what we were just talking about here?"
"No! That's the joke!" I spat, clutching at my shoulder in pain.
Then I was laughing. It was something I couldn't explain. I mean it was funny. Last week when I had signed up for the whole thing, I had an audition. There were no laughs then but they'd hired me anyway. Needless to say I didn't think I was getting paid for it now after the audience response. But maybe "not funny" was what they were looking for. You're not funny, I told myself inside my head, and a little piece of me died.
"That's a terrible joke," he spat back at me in disgust.
Warren turned his head quickly away from me as if he couldn't stand the sight. I could really pick some stupid friends.
"You were supposed to say, 'How does he smell?'"
"Why?" He still wouldn't look at me. Warren stared out into the park, glaring at the geese chasing children with loaves of bread around the pond as if they greatly offended him. "Why would I say that?"
"Kind of like a knock-knock joke where you have to say 'Who's there?'"
"Whatever, I'll do it right this time," Warren said with a sigh, reluctantly giving me his attention. "Anything else I should know?"
"No." I was an inch away from burning him with my lit cigarette. "My dog has no nose."
"How does he smell?" Warren answered in monotone so childish that I was on the verge of a laughing fit.
I started to laugh for a minute because, really, the joke was just so terrible and I was sure that Warren would join me, but it did take him a while to understand things. My laughter died when I again tried to look over at Warren and saw him staring back in horror. I stared at him for a moment, trying desperately to convey that there would be violence if his brain didn't work faster.
"Oh, I get it." His face relaxed and I sighed in relief. "It's not very good, is it?"
Things stopped being slightly fuzzy with funny little halos all around, but as my vision returned the pain worsened. All I wanted to do was to go home and have a shower and never speak of this again.
"I'm just not funny, I guess," I said resignedly.
Admission was the first step of recovery, said the alcoholic 15-year-old mother in the after-school special I was forced to watch because I couldn't find the remote last Wednesday. At that time it didn't make sense. It still didn't make sense, but at least the phrase was relevant to my situation.
"No, you're funny. Only you could get into a mess like that and come out with possibly fractured ribs and an obviously broken nose."
He made as much sense as that after-school special I mentioned earlier. Warren put his arm around my shoulders and squeezed me mercilessly. I heard something snap.
"Yeah. That hurts a lot."
He leaned over and whispered into my ear, "Makes you look like a tough guy."
"No, it doesn't." I felt myself blush hotly for a reason completely hidden from my conscious mind. My skin prickled all over. Pain didn't exist. That fat man must have really let me have it with that chair to the back of the head. "Really?"
"Yeah. All beaten and bloody--"
My mind wandered and something made me seriously wonder what Warren was up to.
"No, you're right." Warren moved away and stood up, facing me. He was smiling. "It makes you look like a jerk."
"Nice," was the whisper under my breath as I took his hand to help myself up.
I could plot his death tomorrow.
In actuality, I wouldn't seriously plot his death until December 29th, 2009--The Great Gravy Fiasco in which I accidentally called him a "a big fat gravy bitch" in front of his parents (he kept stealing the gravy boat and some times even yanking it from my hand as I was ready to pour) and he retaliated by throwing hot gravy in my lap. This would result in me having to abstain from masturbation for one week and having no choice but to plot his death after four days of frustration.
Since this is well into the future, it didn't really matter now. At this point in the past, I was willing to forgive him anything. I didn't know at that time that he went around pouring hot gravy all over people's sex lives. It was Christmas for Christ's sake.
"Think you could just walk me home without another word?" I asked in a voice almost too small to hear.
"You don't want to go to a hospital?"
He shifted his hold on me as my weight nearly pushed us both down on the pavement.
I shook my head; I wasn't eager to explain why or how all my injuries happened and I definitely didn't want to wait for hours wearing the clothes that bitch threw three of her Long Island Iced Teas at (she was a regular at that club and an admitted alcoholic). Even if we went to the hospital now, I definitely didn't want to go in smelling of sweat, blood, alcohol and shame… although, come to think of it, they probably get that a lot.
"I just want to go home right now."
"Will you pour me a drink?" I asked absentmindedly as I limped to the bathroom without aid, bracing myself against the wall with the arm that wasn't dislocated.
"Are you sure you should? You're beaten up pretty badly." Warren's voice actually sounded concerned and I tried to ignore it.
I opened the medicine cabinet without chancing a glance at myself in the mirror and grabbed the rubbing alcohol. Warren seemed tense and he was trying to lean against the open bathroom door as if he couldn't care less, but when I closed the cabinet I saw his expression in the mirror.
"I could help you out here," he attempted once more, again sounding sympathetic. It was making me angry.
I gave him a scathing look when he reached for the rubbing alcohol in my hand.
"I'll drink this if you don't pour me a drink."
He disappeared and I waited, listening to his footsteps to make sure he was just going to the kitchen. Warren wouldn't leave me like this, though. He was a bad friend most of the time but he wouldn't leave me here, no matter what I said.
Heaving a sigh, I set the bottle down on the sink and shut the bathroom door. I braced myself for the mirror. Best to get it over with quickly. My tongue ran feverishly all over my teeth, feeling something loose near the back of my mouth. I pressed at it, it gave and that was all I needed to freak out completely.
Leaning against the sink I opened my mouth wide in front of the mirror, searching for the loose tooth with my finger this time. When I found it, I didn't know what else to do so I pulled it out. I let out a short exclamation and the tooth fell from my fingers and bounced down the sink's drain. Perfect.
"You all right?" Warren called from outside the door.
"It's here." But the drink didn't appear in my hand. After a tense minute he scratched at the door and whispered, "Can I come in?"
My good hand opened the door and took the drink from him but just as I was about to shut the door on his face he forced his way in and told me to hold still.
"What are you doing?!" I shouted as he grabbed onto my dislocated arm.
"You don't want to go to the hospital, you made that known. I'm helping."
I was blinded by pain for a good 30 seconds and I could have sworn I heard a very loud popping and cracking noise in the vicinity of my shoulder, but after that it was over and I gave Warren the punch I'd been saving up for him ever since he had to drag me out of the club.
"What the hell was that for?"
"I didn't hear you laughing once."
"No one else was laughing."
"That's not completely true …" he trailed off with a strange smile on his lips, one that nearly split his face in half. He was still rubbing his cheek absently, looking through me as if reliving the moment.
"What do you mean?"
"That guy that hit you in the back of the head with the chair?"
"Do you remember what you said to him after he hit you?"
I thought about it and I really didn't but that wasn't a surprise to me. It had been the most painful thing that had ever happened in my life--aside from Warren fixing my arm. I shook my head and looked at him expectantly.
"You said he looked like a huge hairy nut-sack shoved into a tight little sweater made of cat hair."
We both laughed for quite some time and I nearly fell over several times and had to hold myself up with a hand on the rim of the bathroom sink. Warren was laughing so hard that tears were coming to his eyes. I had known him for several years, more than I could remember, and I had never seen him react like that to anything I've said or done. The thing was, I only vaguely recalled saying that.
"Are you sure?" I asked after finally collapsing on the side of the tub, clutching at my sides and feeling a dull sort of ache all over my face from stretching sore muscles. "Did I really?"
"We could call him up," Warren suggested with another evil sort of a cackle. "He was the drummer for Easy Freddie."
That sent us both in to fits of laughter again and I knew that if I really was going to pursue this comedy thing, I would never be able to go to that club again. However, when and if I made it big, I was going to call that asshole a huge hairy nut-sack on Saturday Night Live.
"Okay, Jason," Warren choked out between childish giggles. I had never heard a man giggle before. "You're funny, all right?"
"All right," I said, standing up with the biggest smile even though it felt as if it was tearing my face in half.
"Can I help you get cleaned up?" he asked, matching my smile as he reached for a hand towel. "You've got some fresh blood coming out of your nose."
I stood still as he wiped my face, and decided I'd wear these injuries as many painful badges of honor. Warren kept talking but all I heard inside my head was, "You're funny, all right?"