Tuesday, December 22, 2009
This morning, I stood at my wife's door. Todd, my tag along friend, found out she now lives with her mother and is penniless, the way I left her, eighteen months ago.
TODD: Ring the doorbell, Eric.
ME: I can't do it. I put myself through the most wretched year of my life, and she stands there and looks at me that way.
TODD: Uh... Eric... you haven't even seen her yet.
I was livid.
ME: I'm a human being. Not a piece of dirt. I deserve better.
TODD: You haven't even rung the doorbell yet.
I didn't hear him as I slammed my fists and head against the door.
ME: How dare you! How dare you!
The door opened and I fell to my knees. I looked up to see my wife staring down at me, holding a tiny bundle in a pink blanket.
MY WIFE: What are you doing here?
Her eyes held back a rage, like the Hoover Dam about to bust loose a tsunami.
ME: I came to get my CDs.
She stepped back for a moment and then returned, dumping an armful of CDs on top of me and shutting the door behind her.
I stood and opened the door.
ME (shouting in the doorway): My Mr. Belvedere Christmas CD better be here, because Lord help me, I will make your holidays hell. I better not be coming here and you guys are all laughing, unwrapping presents, listening full blast to my Mr. Belvedere CD.
MOTHER-IN-LAW: Eric, is that you?
My mother-in-law came to the door.
ME: Yes, it is. I don't have time to chit chat, Mrs. Pattkins. I'm just here for my Mr. Belvedere.
MOTHER-IN-LAW: Don't you want to come inside to meet your child?
ME: Well, I could use a glass of water...
I stepped inside.
MY WIFE: Mom, he doesn't care about his child. He's been AWOL for over a year.
I followed my wife's voice, toward the kitchen. Todd was right behind me.
ME: Do I just help myself? I mean, I don't know. I haven't been here in a while.
Inside the kitchen, my wife stared up at me with the same rage, still holding her pink bundle.
MOTHER-IN-LAW: Who's your friend?
ME: Do you have any Perrier?
MY WIFE: I want you out of this house.
My mother-in-law took the bundle from my wife.
MOTHER-IN-LAW: This is your daughter, Jessalyn.
ME: If your Perrier's flat, then it's okay. I can do without. Do you remember how long it's been since you first opened the bottle, approximately?
My mother-in-law handed me the bundle, and I held it.
MY WIFE: Mother, no...
MOTHER-IN-LAW: He should know what he left behind.
I looked down. A tiny face stared up, with big eyes.
ME: She's so light...
I looked up at my wife. She glared back at me with a tired expression. I turned to Todd. He had tears in his eyes.
I held my daughter close to my chest.
MY WIFE: You'll hurt her...
My wife took the baby away.
ME: Can I move in?
MY WIFE: There's no room for you here.
ME: I can fix things around here, and do all the man stuff. And Todd can move in too and stay my best friend. He sleepwalks though, and sleeps in the nude, and wrestles people, but it's not offensive in any way 'cause he's still asleep, right, and he doesn't know what he's doing, even though it's like eight hours a night. You get use to it though, searching for alternative methods of catching up on your sleep throughout the day.
MY WIFE: You are not staying.
MOTHER-IN-LAW: Give him a chance. He is the father of your daughter.
ME: We are going to be so happy, the five of us together.
I hugged Todd.
ME: We found a place to live! We finally have a place to live! I am so happy! Merry Christmas Todd! It's easy street from here on out!
Friday, December 18, 2009
Todd and I have finally arrived in my hometown of Toronto where I am to approach my wife whom I abandoned eighteen months ago, pregnant. As soon as we were off the bus, I bolted. I ran like the past was a tidal wave about to devour me. I could hear Todd trying to catch up.
TODD: Eric, please. Not like this. Not like this.
I couldn't hear him anymore. I couldn't hear anything anymore. I collapsed, passing out. When I awoke, a uniformed, female police officer with broad shoulders was shaking me.
FEMALE OFFICER: Sir... sir... are you okay?
I nodded, and looked up. I was in the middle of the city center's skating rink with children and adults skating around me, trying to avoid me.
FEMALE OFFICER: Do you know where you are?
I shook my head.
FEMALE OFFICER: Sir, can you talk?
I couldn't at the moment. I was remembering why I was back in the city and quite upset.
FEMALE OFFICER: What is your name?
I was so upset that I didn't know who I was anymore. Tears came to my eyes.
The female officer grabbed her CB radio clipped near her shoulder.
FEMALE OFFICER (into her radio): Bobby, we've got a John Doe at Nathan Phillips Square.
John Doe! What was she talking about?
FEMALE OFFICER (into her radio): He's responsive but appears to be mute.
I looked up at her, wide-eyed.
FEMALE OFFICER: Sir, don't be scared. I can help you.
She lifted me to my feet and helped me back to her police cruiser.
We were soon at her police station where I was given breakfast, an extra sweater, and patted on the back for the rest of the day. I became the station mascot, and Martha, the officer who rescued me, came to check in on me at regular intervals, bringing me treats like hot chocolate and pumpkin scones. As officers wrote reports at their desks, I made them laugh by performing pantomime and hugging them from behind when they were frustrated and angry. I performed cartwheels and somersaults and everyone applauded. It was a magnificent day.
One hour later, nausea overtook me from eating too many doughnuts and I threw up on everything: all the desks, all the reports, and some officers. Everyone took turns rubbing my back until I fell asleep in the corner. When I awoke, the entire station was staring down at me, with love in their eyes.
Martha found and brought Todd in at noon, and he pretended to be mute too. Everyone called him John Doe 2 and we piggybacked one another while running circles around the room. We shoved each other playfully into furniture, and everyone petted us and cuddled with us, and Martha asked the chief if they could keep us, and he said as long as no one came in to claim us.
But then Todd spoke.
TODD: Eric, we need to go. The time's come for you to see your wife and child.
ME: Shut up Todd!
But it was too late.
MARTHA: You can talk?
Martha had tears in her eyes. Everyone in the station grew quiet.
MARTHA: You betrayed us.
ME: Martha, I can explain.
MARTHA: We were going to build you guys a little house by my desk...
ME (disappointed): Frig!
MARTHA: and get you guys chew toys...
ME: This sucks!
MARTHA: Get out.
ME: Please Martha. We don't have to talk again.
All the officers now also had tears in their eyes, including the chief.
ANOTHER OFFICER: Just go!
THE CHIEF: Get out of here!
I walked out at a snail's pace, attempting to give everyone enough time to change their minds.
Soon everyone was telling us to leave, shouting things like, "scram", "just get out", and "my gun's pointed right at your head".
Outside, Todd turned to me.
TODD: You're ready. You're ready now to see your wife and child. You've grown so much.
ME: We had a good life in there and you blew it. You owe me a chew toy.
TODD: We couldn't live in a box with newspaper forever. I found your wife's new address. We're heading there now.
ME: Not before I get a bowl of water and some Alpo.
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Todd and I boarded a bus bound for Toronto, my hometown, to see my wife for the first time in eighteen months after I abandoned her, penniless, in debt and pregnant. I wonder what the baby's favorite color is. Mine is magenta.
We would have left earlier but we had previous commitments in New York City where we perform as a comedy duo in clubs. Friday night, after the first few minutes, we were booed at with an overabundance of graphic profanities and had to end our show which was nice since it meant getting to the alleyway at a reasonable hour where we slept for the night. Saturday night, most of the audience clutched one another as they rushed the stage to mow us down. We rehearsed for the first time ever on Sunday so that our new audience wouldn't be so stand-offish, and it definitely paid off with what I thought was a fantastic show except that we were shot at, and someone threw an axe.
As the bus pulled out of the Port Authority Bus Terminal, I went to the washroom at the back of the bus and locked the door. I refused to come out, with many passengers banging at the door, needing to "go". I announced that I was not budging until the bus driver turned the bus around. There was no way I was going back home.
The driver, a tall, burly fellow, pulled the bus over, walked to the back, unlocked the washroom door with a key, yanked me out and proceeded to shove me down the aisle.
ME: Is this a new service on the bus: drivers make sure you get back safely from the washroom to your seat? It'd be even nicer if you weren't so rough, or if you let customers actually finish before you unlock the door yourself.
BUS DRIVER: You're getting off.
TODD: Please, bus driver, he won't do it again.
ME: I won't. I promise... on my grandmother's grave.
The bus driver stopped, pushed me down in the seat next to Todd and went back behind the wheel, driving off. And I was back in the washroom, locking the door.
ME: I'm not getting out until that lard-ass bastard turns this baby around. I don't care.
Within seconds, the driver was hauling me out of the washroom and jostling me down the aisle.
TODD: Please, bus driver, he won't do it again.
ME: Yes. I promise. I swear on my grandmother's grave, and this time it's the grandmother I really like. The other one, I wasn't so crazy about.
BUS DRIVER: I don't care. You're off. Now.
ME: Please, please, please.
TODD: Please, please, please.
ME: You can't abandon me on the highway. I'll be lost.
BUS DRIVER: You should have thought of that before you decided to stop passengers from using the washroom.
ME: People started peeing in the aisle at the back. You may not know it but I could smell it.
BUS DRIVER: Let's go.
ME: Those people back there peed in the aisle! They should get off too! This is outrageous!
The bus driver heaved me toward the front.
ME: I'm just going back to my wife whom I abandoned, pregnant, eighteen months ago with a debt in the mid six figures. I've never contacted her or bothered to find out if she had a boy or a girl. I'm just trying to make amends.
FEMALE PASSENGER IN HER FIFTIES: You should let him face the music. He needs to do this.
MALE PASSENGER: Yeah. Let him take responsibility for what he's done.
TODD: I implore you.
ME: Please, bus driver. Let me go.
I started a chant.
ME: Let him go! Let him go!
I looked around for others to join in.
ME: Let him go! Let him go!
BUS DRIVER: All right, but no more locking yourself in the washroom.
ME: And no more peeing in the aisle at the back, okay everyone? Please use the washroom.
And with that I sat back down. Once the bus was back on the road, I was back in the washroom, locking the door and yelling that I wasn't coming out until the bus turned around.
But this time, the bus rolled on.
ME: Hello, is anybody listening to me?
I opened the door to take a peek out.
ME: Bus driver, there's people peeing in the aisle back here. It's the woman in the blue hat, and the man in the plaid pants.
The bus rolled on.
ME: Aren't you going to do something about it, you pee-wherever-you-want-lover? I hate you!
I slammed the door... over and over again.
ME: Turn this bus around! Turn this bus around!
I started signing like Aretha Franklin.
ME (singing): Turn this bus around! Turn the bus around before my heart hits the ground! Turn this pee-lovin' bus around!
No one paid attention.
I climbed out the washroom window and up to the metallic roof. I banged on the roof, screaming bloody murder. For an hour. Still the bus rolled on.
I swung from the roof and kicked a few windows, smashing one right through, and cracking the windshield, screeching like a banshee. Still the bus rolled on.
Todd was sitting alone in the middle of the bus when he heard me crying like a toddler as I walked back down the aisle from the washroom.
I sat beside him, still bawling. Todd put his arm around me and pulled me in so that my soaked cheek fell against his shoulder.
TODD: I'm proud of you. You're finally growing up.
I sobbed some more.
ME: I don't have any strength left in me. I give up.
I pulled out a long, thick piece of gleaming metal I had broken off during my rooftop sojourn.
ME: You have to hit the bus driver over the head with this.
Friday, December 11, 2009
My friend Todd Hubb who is a thirty-something, mop-haired, world famous motivational speaker called an emergency meeting this morning to discuss the future of our sketch comedy duo Silly Putty. We sat down in our regular McDonald's over coffee and muffins.
TODD: We stank last night.
ME: I know. I walked out along with everyone.
TODD: And I had to perform by myself for six hours in an empty room.
ME: I hate fundraisers.
TODD: We need to do something to make the experience better for our audience.
ME: One option could be us stopping performing comedy altogether.
TODD: And then what? What are we going to do with our lives?
ME: Why do we have to worry about our lives so much all the time?
TODD: I gave up being the number one, bestselling motivational speaker in America for this crap.
ME: Why are you worrying about that? Who cares?
TODD: I did this for you. To help you find your way in life.
ME: You could have tried a little harder. My life is in the toilet.
TODD: It's you.
ME: Me? What are you talking about?
TODD: You're the one ruining our shows.
ME: No, I'm not.
TODD: Yeah. You're an abomination. It's like watching a three-legged dog who can't bark or see up there on stage.
ME: What's that supposed to mean?
TODD: It's supposed to mean whatever you want to make of it.
ME: I just think you're being unfair to all the three-legged, blind, mute dogs out there. They don't deserve to be compared to me. Especially not when performing topical sketch comedy.
TODD: You know what the problem is with you? You despise yourself and the audience can sense it.
ME: And you know what the problem is with you? I hate you.
TODD: At the start of last night's show, you smashed twelve beer bottles against your head and it wasn't even in the script. You were supposed to be playing Mother Theresa. Where's the self respect?
ME: I was improvising.
TODD: Nobody was laughing, and it was painful to watch.
ME: It was painful to do.
TODD: There's only one way to fix this.
ME: We put in a bullet in Silly Putty like that kid did to Old Yeller.
TODD: Eric, you need to forgive yourself.
ME: What for?
TODD: For abandoning your wife...
I was quiet.
I said nothing.
I stayed mum.
TODD: and hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt.
I took a sip of my coffee. I put my paper cup down.
ME: What's there to forgive?
TODD: You son or daughter should be about ten months right now. You don't feel guilty about abandoning a baby? Your own baby?
ME: I have these daydreams where my kid is like eighteen and in college somewhere and he's been thinking about me his whole life, wondering what I'm like. Am I an adventurer like Indiana Jones or a philanthropist like Bill Gates or some speaker who changes the world like Gandhi or maybe I'm Barrack Obama.
Todd kept listening.
ME: And then I surprise him with a visit and my kid is all like "I knew you were special. I've always known you were someone of great importance to our world... to our history".
TODD: You are nothing like that, you moron.
ME: I have eighteen years to do something with my life. That's a lot of time. I'm not even going to start to try for another five.
TODD: What will happen is that in eighteen years, when you do meet up with your child, they are going to be sorely disappointed. And probably ashamed to be related to you.
Todd was a bit mouthy today.
TODD: Why don't you see your kid now? Be a father now.
ME: Yeah, but then I don't get to be that amazing dad when he's eighteen and old enough to recognize how awesome I am. I really want to be that cool dad who gets to hang out in his college dorm.
TODD: So you can mooch off him. Wow, in eighteen years, you are going to be an outstanding father.
ME: Shut up! You're totally raining on my parade. These are my goals in life.
TODD: Those aren't goals. They're all routes of avoidance. In eighteen years, you'll still be a horrible father because you'll have made a conscious decision to hide from your child for two decades. He or she will never forgive you. You will never forgive you.
ME: I can try. I've got two decades.
TODD: I'll never forgive you.
ME: I am never going back. Never! Do you hear me? I was exaggerating when I said I daydreamed about going back in eighteen years. I will run for the rest of my life. I don't care about no baby! So leave me alone!
TODD: If you agree to travel back to your hometown with me and meet with your wife and child, I'll make it worth your while.
ME: You don't have anything anymore. You've got nothing, like me.
Todd lifted a cheap, ripped, plastic lion mask with the rubber band snapped off. He gave me a smile weighted down with sadness and regret.
TODD: You're right. This is all I have. I've got nothing else. I found it the day after Halloween.
I reached for it.
ME: When do we leave?
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
My friend Todd and I now live in alleyways in NYC and perform sketches at comedy clubs as a duo. We've been in a rut lately since we've been doing this for almost a year now and the last time we made someone laugh was each other and that was more than a year ago when we had the giggles, way before we started our comedy duo. Times are tough, and someone outside our troupe might suggest we do something else for a living but we made a decision long ago that we would see this comedy duo thing through and we're not about to give up now. I'm still not quite clear what we meant by "seeing this through" but I hope Todd will let me know when we have finally "seen this through" because this is a terrible life we're leading.
We had a breakfast meeting at McDonald's this morning.
TODD: That was a horrid show last night.
ME: We really suck at this. What do you think we should do?
I was hoping then that Todd would say that we had finally seen this through and that I could have my life back.
TODD: Well, we did say we would see this through and I'd hate to give up now after all we've put into this. After everything we've built.
ME: What did we build?
TODD: A following.
ME: The only time anyone ever followed us is when that audience at The Crab Hut chased us off the stage and down two blocks, threatening to kill us. And then calling the police to make sure we weren't still in the vicinity.
TODD: We said that we would see this through. Didn't we say that?
ME: Yes, we did say that... and we haven't seen this through, have we? I mean, have we by now... seen this through?
TODD: I don't know, have we?
ME: Did we already? I don't know?
TODD: You don't?
ME: I do, I mean... we haven't, right?
TODD: I don't know... I mean... what do you think?
ME: I think that we... I don't know... that we haven't... have we? I don't know...
TODD: You'd tell me if we did, right? If we've already seen this through?
ME: Of course, yeah. Totally. And you'd tell me too, right, if we've already seen this through?
TODD: Absolutely. Good. Then let's keep going, okay... I mean if this is something you really want to do.
ME: I just want to make sure that we see this through. That we get to that point where we know that we've seen this through, and whether or not we're getting closer to that point or we're just about to pass it or we already did pass it and one of us might not know.
TODD: This is for you. I'm just sticking around because I gave my word to see this through. For you.
ME: And I'm with you, even though I've never liked comedy and I enjoy performing it even less. I'd rather be murdered tonight than have to go back on stage but I said I'd see this through, and I'm not going back on that.
TODD: Let's just say that if it weren't for you, I would go back on my word and not see this through, but it's you and I have to see this through.
ME: I have had the worst year of my life. I struggle every day with whether I want to live or die because I'm hating my life right now, and every millimetre of my being loathes every second we waste on this comedy thing but I gave you my word. I gave it to you that we would see this through.
TODD: I have never been unhappier. Not even when my wife macerated my heart and filched everything I worked for since I was a fourteen-year-old orphan. Nothing I have ever gone through compares to the absolute garbage that has been these past eleven months, but we have to see this through.
ME: I guess we're on the same page. We're going to see this through.
TODD: As disappointed as I am, yes, let's drudge along in this dreck of an existence and see this through.
ME: How much longer do you think we have until we see this through?
TODD: As long as it takes.
ME: I might end my life before then, but I'll try not to, just so we can see this through.
TODD: I'll try not to as well.
We both had tears in our eyes as we got up from the table, and several times we had to alternate giving each other pep talks just so we could walk out of the McDonald's and face the stark reality that is our lives.
Friday, December 4, 2009
My friend Todd and I now live in various alleyways in New York City, performing in comedy clubs as a sketch duo. This morning, upon waking, we went to McDonald’s for a breakfast meeting.
ME: I think our comedy troupe should change its name.
TODD: What’s wrong with Silly Putty?
ME: We need something with edge. What about Silly String?
TODD: What about just... Silly?
ME: Like Madonna or Cher. Just the one name. I like it.
TODD: Like Steve.
ME: Steve who?
TODD: Steve McQueen.
ME: He was always Steve McQueen.
TODD: Not if you were close to him, or married to him.
I closed my eyes, taking a deep breath, then re-opened them as I exhaled.
ME: I think our sketches should also have more edge.
TODD: What if we performed with nothing on?
ME: What are you suggesting?
TODD: Something suggestive.
ME: Too provocative.
TODD: But unprecedented.
I stood, slamming my Egg McMuffin against the table.
ME: I’m out.
TODD: Listen to me.
Todd clutched my wrist.
TODD: This is serious here. This is our future.
ME: I’m just performing for cash. I don’t give a crap about my future.
TODD: Sit down, please. I agree that we should have more edge. Hear me out. I’ve already come up with my own strategies to make our troupe a success. To make our shows even better.
ME: All right.
I sat back down.
TODD: First thing, apart from performing nude...
ME: Which I am so against by the way...
TODD: I know that. I know that. I know that because you almost quit just now.
ME: As long as it’s clear.
TODD: Crystal clear.
ME: All right - so what are your other changes?
TODD: Only one of us performs nude.
I shot back up.
ME: I’m out.
I slammed my broken-apart Egg McMuffin against the table.
TODD: This is serious.
ME: I am not getting naked. I have a little something I like to call integrity.
TODD: So do I but we need to fill those seats. We need to give people something they want to see.
ME: I will not pander to the audience.
TODD: Well said. Please sit down.
All the McDonald’s customers were staring at us.
ME: And enough with me being naked. All you want is for me to be naked.
TODD: Mea culpa. I’m a married straight man. I’m just trying to give the world what they’d pay big, big bucks to see. Mea culpa. Please Eric... please sit down.
I sat back down, and attempted to piece together my Egg McMuffin.
ME: What else do you have on that list?
TODD: I think this should really be a one-man show.
I was shocked. What was Todd getting at?
TODD: We keep all our sketches the same but to be edgier, just the one person plays both roles in every sketch. And that person is you.
ME: Keep going... I like where you're going with this.
TODD: When the audience sees your right side profile, you say your lines, and when they see your left side profile, you say my lines. You’re two people, but only one actor.
ME: I love it.
TODD: And then, one more change, and this needs to work to pull it together.
ME: I'll do anything.
TODD: You have to be naked.