I’ll be writing for the next month, the last month of my twenty-eighth year, to purge stories from my “romantic” history (inspired by recent abandonment).
In an effort to not be such a bitch, I’m going to protect the anonymity of my past lovers by calling them all Eddie. I have thereby entitled this series, “Eddie, I hate you”.
I meet Eddie in a comedy bar.
I learn that I am funny when I move to Montreal.
For reasons untraceable, I extend myself far out of my comfort zone, deep into the sunken-but-cool Montreal comedy scene and I become fortuitously attached to my Comedian ego.
It begins with a lesson.
Two months into theatre school, I discover my comedic appeal.
We are forced to take an acting class, taught by a notable Canadian theatre personality, a tremendous performance artist, writer, actor and, at times, a clown.
Most of the exercises are intimidating, vulnerable and impossible. Without texts, students are asked to intimate consequential relationships, working only with silence, the slightest assortment of abstract props, and the teacher’s loud vocal instructions which he shouts from his seat at the front of the studio. The goal of the exercise is to pace a gradient, allowing for a scenic climax based solely on the failures and successes of the actor’s actions. The drama becomes high quickly. A student’s success is noticeable. The class either reacts or they do not. Laughter or absolute tension, the reactions are visceral, the room changes and it becomes clear to the actor that they are either Working or Breaking It.
The technique of “reading an audience” is sometimes important to an actor but always important to a clown and especially important to a comedian. I stand on stage in front of my class and they laugh. I do nothing, I say nothing, I am being forced to stand here, I am not sure what to do, I am not sure I care to even be good at this, I am in a room full of teenage actors who are all staring at me and I am a twenty-five year old writer who came to writing school but somehow ended up on stage. I have bad stage fright. I have terrible anxiety. It cripples me. My mouth dries up. My stomach needs immediate relief. I sweat. I quiver. I need to sit down. But, when they laugh: I am fine. I am calmer.
The weeks go by in this classroom and I realize that my instincts on stage, without words (which I am used to clinging to), without limits (the teacher encourages Ultimates and Heights and Impossiblities, always looking to a scene partner for boundaries but never projecting boundaries on the scene without reason), without care, I become Funny. I am Funny.
I fantasize about being funnier.
Weeks later I find myself on a stage.
It’s a famed comedy club in Montreal. I googled “open mic comedy Montreal” and found this phone number, this address, I ended up here, I am here now and I have invited two dozen people from my school. I am number thirteen to perform.
“You have five minutes, we put a light on at four minutes, we start blinking the light at five”
I have rehearsed and rehearsed, speaking into my phone, listening back, the same five minutes. For weeks.
I do it.
I am holding a mic, I am telling jokes, when I do not have a joke I just stand there and people laugh. I listen to the undeniable reaction of the room. I clown. For five minutes. It works.
The night is fun. A lot of people came, had fun, we all went out together, it was just an evening out with people. I did a weird thing. I did it.
I am in Puerto Rico with my parents.
I am writing a play I think I have already written but I am writing it again because it is supposed to take me an entire year to write it and I do not want to tell my teacher that I am sorry but this is too much time for me because I am just that good. I stare at the screen for flaws knowing that I have, up until this year, not really understood what my flaws are.
I get a message on Facebook.
A local comedy producer in Montreal saw me perform the other night.
She invites me to come to her open mic. She has a weekly show. Maybe when I am more comfortable, she says, I can perform on her show but for now I am welcome to check out her mic.
This is very exciting.
I am funny.
I know I am funny because this woman who I do not know but who knows comedy well enough to be at an open mic looking for comedians, she says I am funny.
I stare harder at my screen.
I make my play funnier.
I return to Montreal.
I go to the producer’s open mic. I introduce myself to her. I have no idea what I am doing.
It’s just after winter break so the mic is pretty empty. The Anglophone comedian population has not returned from visiting their families for Christmas yet.
There are six people performing that night (really no one at all, I would soon learn, as the line ups to get on the show grew longer weeks after).
I am hosted by a man I’ve never met. I perform second-to-last.
I do very well.
It is the exact same five minutes I performed weeks before. I have not written anything new but, it works again. I am shocked.
I came here alone. I came to a bar alone and I performed for people I don’t know and I did well. I feel funny. Not good, not bad: Funny.
I keep going.
I go to this open Mic every week.
Soon I meet Eddie.
I do not like him.
He’s standing beside me at the bar, presumably everyone’s good friend. He is loud, he’s intimidating and he literally looks down at me when he speaks to me. Most people are taller than I am so, without me even knowing, that’s probably happening all the time but I notice with Eddie it is an extended down-stare.
He has just broken up with his girlfriend.
He jokes about it onstage.
I start to wonder if I like him.
I start to wonder if I am attracted to him.
I have been going to bars alone, performing as one of the only female comics, getting laughs and compliments, making friends but I have not yet really run into anyone I find attractive. I wonder in my head if I could think he is attractive. If I can just: Decide.
Eddie starts making jokes about us both being Jewish. He centers entire conversations with me around this commonality between us. Something happens to me when he speaks to me: I say nothing. He speaks a lot, loudly and he does listen when I speak, if I speak but I have nothing to say. I can think of nothing to say. I get anxious around him. I mistake my anxiety for attraction.
Eddie messages me on Facebook.
I have an entire conversation with him during class.
We start speaking regularly and then, when we see each other at mics, we have a friendly connection but it is loose and strange. It is not actually friendly. It is “friendly”. I am always nervous. I am never sure we are friends.
These nights at comedy shows become long. I stay late. I am drinking all the time. I am out with men all the time. None of them are really paying attention to me and I constantly feel out of place. I do not know how to be as funny or as vivid as anyone, I am intimidated and embarrassed constantly. I feel as alienated as I have felt in most environments, most social environments, especially except now I feel more alienated because I realize I will never be a Funny Man and I do not know how to remain confident around an entire room full of Funny Men. These are not stupid men, they are anything but shallow, they are actually too intelligent most of the time, they are Funny, they are usually sad, they commiserate in the bars over beers and jokes, I sit and watch, feeling like an empty chair.
Eddie speaks directly to me.
A lot of our conversations are about sex. I am, most of the time, pretending to be someone I am not because I have nothing to say so I make up things. I am pretending to be more experienced, more bitter, more forward, more careless. I am trying to keep up with him. I am trying to be a Male Comedian.
I feel I have a friend.
We stay late together at the bar.
No surprise, I take him home.
Eddie sits on my couch. It is the middle of winter. He lives really far away from me. We have previously hinted at having sex with one another. Now we are here. Eddie stops everything.
He pours out a lecture. He just broke up with his girlfriend. He is not looking for anything right now. “If we have sex it can’t be weird afterwards.”
“No I mean it. I have had sex with other female comedians and it gets weird afterwards and I don’t want it to be weird afterwards.”
Eddie, why be here, then? Eddie: WHY COME HERE if you have this issue where you fuck female comedians because you cannot help but see them as sexual objects, a habit which becomes increasingly clear to me, if that is your problem that you are so solemn about and you feel you need to be so responsible about with so much stressful thoughtfulness: What the fuck are you doing here?
We have sex.
It is forgettable. He comments upon things throughout, it feels like sitcom romance. He leaves laughing. I see him the next week.
It is weird. Of course it is weird but I am determined to be cool.
Our friendship continues not because I like Eddie and trust him and want him around but because I want to be cool. I want to be able to be cool.
He becomes more visible in my life. The more depressed he becomes about his ex-girlfriend, about finding someone new, about having to move out of Montreal, about life in general, the more text messages I get. Long conversations.
With questionable ease, I feel special. It feels good to have a friend outside of my school, it feels like I have accomplished life in a way, to have moved cities and made one friend from my independent excursions in my independent life.
I sleep with Eddie one more time, on his birthday. He tells me he never sleeps with someone more than three times and I do not get it but I also am kind of done with sleeping with him so I laugh at his idiotic self-mandates.
He leaves but he keeps talking to me.
Eddie makes me his wingman.
New female comics come to the bar, he tells me he thinks they’re attractive and he makes me his wingman. I comply.
Something happens to me, something I completely regret doing but I for some reason do at the time: I talk women into taking him home.
I start proving to myself that I can keep a friend. First I made a friend, pat on the back but now, I have to keep a friend, something I am terrible at doing. I have had people come in and out of my life constantly, not just friends either, really important people and I find I cling to people when I feel that they are just on the edge of leaving.
I know Eddie could hate me at any moment. His messages to me, the late night phone calls where he begs me stay on the phone until he walks home the hour and a half it takes him, where he complains about his life, where he threatens to kill himself, where he takes advantage of my vulnerable availability, those exchanges prove to me that his presence is as precarious as steam.
One evening Eddie and I take a woman home together. It is obviously his idea. I know it won’t happen. This woman is intelligent. She is also, I can tell, only seemingly innocent. We take her home and we tag team this talk, this discussion, this pressure-filled pep-rally regarding threesomes and how normal they are.
I have never had a threesome.
I could do it. It would just be another weird thing I do while in Montreal.
“Worse comes to worse, we’ll just sleep with each other and call it a night” he tells me at the bar which is obviously a winning statement because it got me in a cab with him and this other woman who I know he would rather be taking home alone but I could not manipulate that situation for him so, he settled for the threesome.
This poor woman is sitting in my living room with us and she does not live far. She could, she should leave at any moment. I have no idea what I am saying but I am telling her how normal it is for people in the comedy scene to sleep with each other. She is new. This might have been her first or second mic. I hate myself as this is happening but Eddie is smiling at me and I keep going.
I do not want to sleep with him either.
I am putting both myself and this woman at risk.
I am just not operating properly.
I may have been slightly possessed, corrupted because I felt out of place and clung to the most comfortable form of friendship I could find. Pathetic. For whatever reason, I was just sitting at a new low. It is lonely to be in a new city. Sometimes we become new people. This time is one of those times.
The woman leaves.
Eddie walks her out.
I sleep alone.
Eddie and I have a list’s worth of these types of experiences while he is in Montreal. Soon he moves to Toronto.
The phone calls increase.
I hear from him constantly, long one-sided conversations about how his life is terrible, stories about sex, dating, work, family.
I take the phone calls.
When I visit Toronto in the summer, I see him. He wants to see me. He pressures me into doing comedy with him. One evening, he forces me to meet him at a bar and then never showesup.
Another evening, we go to several bars together, one of his friends aggressively hits on me and when I say I need to leave, he just lets me leave, upset and frightened.
I am living in North York and he is living in similarly destitute suburban family dwellings.
Eddie and I meet downtown for a mic. We meet up with two other friends.
At the end of the night, I tell him I can get us a cab and drop him off half way to his house.
We get in the cab.
He starts texting me.
“Hey, want to have sex now?”
“I don’t know”
Eddie takes my hand and places it on his erection.
We ride in the cab like this. I have no idea why but my hand starts moving. I comply.
Eddie stops the cab somewhere at College and Bathurst.
He takes me down a street he had already once used for a hook up.
He drags me into an alley between two houses.
Between these two houses, we begin. Eddie turns me around. I grip the houses, wall to wall, staring at the ground. I wonder about many things. Eddie finishes partially on my leg, partially on the side of the house.
We leave. He is laughing.
We get to College St. He says “ok, bye”
I say “alright”
I go home.
I wake up itchy.
My leg is stained red from his semen.
Alcohol made it ok the night previous. I will just pretend I am still filled with alcohol. At least until the itching stops.
I get messages from Eddie about how gross we are.
I do not think we are gross because I decide it never happened.
I see little of Eddie after this encounter. We still speak but he wants to do comedy all the time and I do not feel comfortable in the Toronto scene.
I head back to Montreal. I feel noticeably less comfortable in the Montreal scene.
I get sick.
I think nothing of it having anything to do with sex but I am really sick: fatigue, headaches, aches, joint stiffness. I feel diseased.
I begin seeing doctors.
I am tested for all kinds of things including STIs but I have nothing.
I get a message from Eddie telling me he has warts. I tell him that sounds shitty. He tells me I gave them to him.
“How do you know it was me?”
“Because it was you”
“But what about all those other girls?”
“What other girls?”
“You’ve been with other girls.”
“No, it was you.”
This is the moment I learn never ever to lie to a man about who I am.
We built our friendship on conversations about grit, grit that I did not know.
He thinks I have been more promiscuous than I have been.
He thinks I am a willing whore.
I try convincing him that it is not me who gave him warts.
I get more tests done.
I have my cervix scraped out just in case I have HPV. I check myself constantly for warts. The doctors say I am fine. I can see that I am fine. I have nothing. I tell Eddie, I have nothing.
But, he will not let it go.
I get messages constantly: How are your warts? Constantly.
I stop talking to him.
I know it was not me.
But, he knows something different. He knows all my lies. All my lies give him the confidence to push me towards hating myself, towards assuming a rotten version of myself, towards shame.
I come home early for winter break because I am quite sick and I am trying to investigate things with doctors.
Eddie keeps asking me to hang out. He keeps telling me my sickness is in my head. He keeps telling me to smoke weed and get over it. He keeps insulting me.
I ignore him.
I do not know what else to do.
His personality prevents my courage.
We do not speak for years.
Eddie is engaged now.
A month ago he sent me a message “Hey I am engaged.”
I felt genuine joy. Now he has a real partner. They can have real conversations.
I think back to how frequently I listened to him grieve over his own life for hours.
I listen now to the hush of my air conditioning.
Clearly, Time has ushered in improvements.