I was a comic, and so was he. He was one of those Kaufmanesque types — more of a performance artist, really. Someone who'd come out in a blond wig and dance spastically until the audience laughed out of sheer awkwardness. I was more of a setup-punch gal, with bits and jokes and routines: the phone-sex bit, the abortion joke, the younger-men routine. I "worked blue," as they say. I was bawdy, and talked a lot about sex, mostly about how I wasn't having it. I was recently single again after a failed five-year relationship, and each audience was a one-night stand helping me to let go.
I didn't like him. I didn't hate him, the way I hated some other comics, with their racist, homophobic bullshit, but I didn't particularly like him. A few of my female friends had made out with him, and I didn't like the entitled, self-satisfied way he smirked in their presence. He was a little handsy, a little bratty, a little look-at-me — overcompensating,
I assumed, for years of being picked on in high school for seeming like a drama-club fag. But we traveled in the same circles, and often, after a late show or an open mic, a bunch of us would go out and get some three a.m. coffee and fries. We'd recap the night, gossip, put each other down. Then I'd go home to my two cats, smoke a joint and fall asleep on my couch because my bed was too empty and too far away.
We were out in a group at the diner after a show one night. It was four a.m., and everyone was getting ready to leave. "Hey," he leaned toward me, his voice low. "Can I crash on your couch? I don't want to ride the train this late at night."
He sounded like he didn't want any of the other guys to hear him, afraid they'd rip on him for being scared of the subway. What're you, a pussy? I felt for him. I realized he was just as vulnerable on a late-night subway ride as I was, skinny twerp that he was. "No problem," I said sympathetically.
I lived only a few blocks away; we chatted as we walked. He asked me where I'd grown up, where I'd gone to college, all that getting-to-know-you stuff we'd never discussed in our year or two of associating on the comedy scene. I let him into my place, where my cats sniffed his pant leg; I fed the monsters and started rolling my joint. "Nice place," he said, putting his bag down on the rug.
"Thanks," I said, lighting the joint and taking a deep drag. I offered it to him, but he waved it away, looking around the room like he was interested in finding something in particular.
"Can I check my email?"
I waved an arm towards my laptop: go ahead. He sat down at my desk, calling up Hotmail, then chuckling at something in a way that let me know I was supposed to ask him what was funny. I could tell it was an email from a girl, the way he smirked at the screen. He chuckled again, sneaked a sidelong peek in my direction, then gave up.
"Check this out," he said, typing in another address. Up came an amateur porn site. A topless, buxom Latina girl in red pleather pants glowered at the camera. Now I raised my eyebrows, bemused. At least half of my act was based on me being a feminist, busting on men for being horndogs, claiming that women were the superior sex because "at least women don't put cameras in the men's toilet."
"Isn't this hot?" he asked, spinning around in my desk chair towards me, his face eager, patting his thighs. "Here, come sit on my lap."
"You're no fun," he whined.
"Um, no," I said, still bemused.
"Why not?" he whined. "You're no fun."
"That's right," I said, and hit my joint.
"I can't believe you're not into this. Look at this girl's ass! Look how hot she is! You don't think she's hot?" His tone was incredulous, almost accusatory, like I was anti-female for not admiring this woman's ass.
"She's very nice," I said. "Just not my thing."
"What is your thing?"
My thing was smoking joints and reading true-crime books about women who killed people. My thing was petting my cats and watching reality television. My thing was fantasizing about my ex-boyfriend of five years begging me to come back to him, and me saying no. "Not that," I said.