Wednesday, March 30, 2011

#137 Straight Man

#137 Straight Man Write a fragment of story from the POV of a straight man (or woman). This straight man may adore this funny companion or he may be dead tired of the jokes. Imagine what it would be like to have to tolerate, and possibly be joined at the hip to, a comedian who can't ever be serious. 750 words.

It’s not that I hated Frank. On the contrary. I loved him, dearly. He had extremely delicate skin, so soft, almost like a child’s. Perfect, no blemishes on it. Even when he was in his later years, even after all that laughing and smiling and goofing around, stretching his features this way and that way and ways you didn’t know were possible, he never developed any wrinkles. It astounded me. It still does, to this day, astound me. He also tipped like a millionaire, sometimes 100% of the bill, to all those waitresses who looked dog tired and ready to collapse on their feet, no energy to smile or really be all that good of a waitress, but he would pay twice the cost of our little roadside meals just so they might be able to treat themselves to something nice the next day they had off. Little things like that made me love him, dearly.

So no. People who think that I hated him were wrong as wrong can be. I wasn’t even tired of his antics. The constant mugging, the practical jokes. The goof ups and the things that went wrong. Lord, the stains that I had to get out of some of his shirts, if not throw the whole shirt out altogether and start from scratch down at the department store. The joy buzzers and the whoopie cushions and every cliche prop you can imagine, strewn over the small apartment we shared in the good bad part of the city. Those things kept life interesting. I never did want to be a normal housewife, keeping doilies straight on hideously upholstered chairs, or worse, plastic on all the sofas. I didn’t want to vacuum or wear aprons or take prozac to make it through the day. I would take a good whoopie cushion over a pink pill any day.

What was difficult, what became increasingly difficult and remained difficult right through the end, was never having his undivided attention beyond when he courted. At first, I was his main audience, the one he wanted to hook. But once he had me? He knew it. And it wasn’t that he thought he no longer had to try, it’s that he no longer had to try. The only thing he knew how to do was search for another audience. Eventually, once he discovered that my dry timing could be a boon for the act, he incorporated me into it. I learned the tricks and nuances of comedy, found out that as a straight man (or woman in this case), I was actually pretty good. Talented even. I felt important, part of a team, and we were a team, make no mistake of that, a team until the end.

But never just me and him. Never just the two of us. Always he me and the imaginary people he was performing for, constantly, in the middle of every conversation. Even the one about his father dying and what we were going to do with all of his things, the constant search for approval from an imaginary audience. Part of him was with me. Part of him cracked jokes, looked around the kitchen almost confused at the lack of reaction from the countertops and the refrigerator.

I felt like I constantly had to perform in order to hold him, the small part of him that I could hold. Do you know how difficult it is to perform, all day, every day? To always put on your stage face? It takes enormous amounts of concentration. Teachers, they get it to a certain extent. Teaching for 6 to 7 hours a day, that’s a constant performance. You aren’t you, relaxed, in your own skin. You are You the Teacher. A persona.

So how could there ever be any “us”? When neither of us could be ourselves, when neither of us could be real? I don’t even think he knew what the word meant, to be honest. Real? Why real when you could be funny? Why be natural when you could be anything and everything the audience wanted with a wink and a smile and a funny song or well timed pun?

Never just Sandra and Frank. Always Frank n’ Sandy! Our stage version, what was plastered on marquee after marquee. I felt like if it was possible, he would have installed a marquee over the front door of our apartment building. It was just another theater to him.

So my one regret? That I left him without ever really getting to be with him.

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