Until I met my girlfriend, the only holiday I cared about in April was 4/20. I’m sure when I was younger, I cared about Easter, but we’re not talking about baby Jim; we’re talking about grown man Jim. Jim, who’s got a car note and is paying $1700 in rent every month. Jim, who’s got $13,400 in his savings account, pulls in $120,000 OTE and is living with a girl who’s crushing it even more than him. Nancy makes $140,000 OTE. She pays the other $1700 for rent, and when the utility bill arrives, she covers all of it. I know, it’s pretty sweet. She’s the only girl I’ve ever lived with and the only one I’ve ever considered not living without, but there’s this one thing: She’s crazy on the first day of April.
Let me tell you about April Fools’ last year. We were twenty-nine. Mind you, Nancy had never mentioned her obsession with the holiday. I woke up thinking it was just another Thursday. It was six in the morning, and I went to the toilet. As soon as my ass kissed the seat, there were a dozen sharp explosions; PAP! PAP! PAP! Violence erupted underneath me. I sprung from the toilet, but my boxers around my feet tripped me up, and I fell forward. I reached for the towel rack, which was foolish; it immediately broke off the wall from my weight. I slammed to the tile floor. I was shaking, freaking out, wondering if I still had an ass when Nancy burst through the door, cackling like an evil hen. In between her laughing fits, she explained that she put poppers under the toilet seat. Only then did I realize it was April Fools’ Day.
And that wasn’t even the end of it. She did all these little things too. Things that even made her life worse, like she switched our dressers so that my socks were in her panty drawer. I had to ask her where my underwear was when she was in the middle of brushing her teeth, which caused her to cackle again. Her laughter flung bubbles of foam out of her mouth, and they splattered onto the mirror.
Toothpaste came back to haunt me during dessert that night too. She put a plate of Oreo’s and milk in front of me and said she was sorry for pranking me. Of course, I was relieved. I’d hated the day; I was thankful she’d seen that and put a treat in front of me to make amends. I dipped an Oreo into the milk, put it into my mouth expecting deliciousness, and almost vomited when I got the minty taste of Crest toothpaste; she’d substituted the creme filling for it. She laughed and laughed and said things like, “Babe, that was too good.” And, “I can’t believe you fell for that.”
April Fools’ this year has me super worried, and she knows it; she teases me all the time. I told her I wasn’t a fan of being pranked, but she said she still plans on celebrating. She’s explained that April Fools' is her family’s big holiday. Growing up, it was the only one they ever got excited about. She wouldn’t give it up, she told me, it came with the package.
I talked to her dad about it on the phone a couple of weeks ago. We get along pretty well. We both like the Warriors, Coors Light, and Nancy, so that’s a good start. His advice was to play the game. He said if I didn’t try to prank on that day, then I wasn’t celebrating, and nobody liked a scrooge. He told me when Nancy was in middle school, he had a Math teacher tell her she flunked a test just so he could see how she would react that night. When she came home and tried to hide the news from her family, her dad faked a call from the teacher right in front of her that brought her to tears. And then, when she was crying, and at her most vulnerable, he and the rest of the family shouted, “April Fools’!” He told me she loved it. He said It was one of the best. I asked him, “What are you going to do this year? Get her fake fired from work?”
“That’s actually a good idea if her boss would do it.”
I laughed at the absurdity of it; there was no way I could do something like that. But for a family that’s been practicing pranks for decades, this type of mischief was all in good fun.
In a way, I’ve been planning for this April Fools' since the day after the last one, when Nancy told me that she couldn’t wait for next year. I’ve carried the paranoia of wondering what the hell was going to happen through four seasons, and now the pressure has reached its breaking point. The day is near. I came up with my prank ideas by doing some googling and consulting with her father over email. As a newbie, her father advised that I stick to the classics; getting fancy meant getting caught.
She and I have talked about the day with our friends, who all say that we’re crazy but that it's cute. The friends she’s had the longest seem thankful they’re no longer at risk of Nancy’s tricks. My closet friends are still in disbelief that Nancy legit celebrates April Fools'. I’m a little amazed that I’ve bought into it too, but I think my acceptance is part of the aging process. Everyone has their thing, and for relationships to work, you have to be cool with it. She’ll let me hotbox the living room on 4/20, so I’m going to give her hell on 4/1.
Grown man Jim felt silly using hairspray on the toilet paper roll in the middle of the night, but it had to be done for the sake of the prank. That morning I was already awake when the mattress on her side lifted, and I heard her feet press on the hardwood floor. I must admit a smirk came across my face; something was exciting about pranking. I was looking out the window at this tree that had sprouted a bunch of green leaves when she started peeing. I don’t recall the impetus for leaving the door open when we pee, but because of it, we know the sound of each other’s stream and understand what’s going on in there when the doors closed. In the beginning, I didn’t like the that there was a signal that we were defecating, but I’m ok with it now. This is what people do. They get to know each other.
The stream stopped, and I heard the sound of her fidgeting with the toilet paper. My smirk grew. Then, she shouted.
That couldn’t be it, I thought. I held still, pretending to be asleep. I wanted a better reaction.
“Babe!” She yelled, “Get me some toilet paper.”
She must have known that I was awake, but I wanted more. I wanted admission. I barked back, “What is it?”
“The gag? The hidden toilet paper edge. Good one. Now get me some T.P., I need to wipe.”
“Good one.” That’s all I got from her for my first prank, for doing something I didn’t even want to do, something that forced me into a Walgreens to buy hairspray. It was all so disappointing.
After I’d handed her a fresh toilet paper roll, Nancy told me that I’d better watch my back. She winked at me. It was all a game, but it was still worrisome. I didn’t like surprises, especially ones that put me in a position of embarrassment or harm. I asked her if we could just call a truce.
“There’s no truce on April Fools'! It’s not over until we go to bed. I hope you have more than that for me because I’m coming for you.”
She held eye contact with me for too long, and though her stare had a glint telling me she was teasing, the majority of her gaze conveyed a frightening dominance. A child screams for his life when a loved one continues to tickle him after he’s asked them stop. It feels like his insides might explode if it keeps going. Could she sense the same fear in me?
I thought the shower was my safe place, and yet, I still checked my lufa to see if she put anything on it and my soap to make sure it was actually soap. I thought I was safe because we had a glass shower; I could see anything that she tried to do if I just kept my eyes open. Have you ever held your eyes open after you got shampoo in them out of fear that if you closed them, your girlfriend might throw a snake at you?
As I was drying off, I caught a whiff of me, and I didn’t like it. I smelled terrible. There was a sour stench on me, and I dry heaved. I sniffed my opposite forearm, and it was just as putrid. What did she do?
“Babe!” She said from the hallway.
“What’s that smell?”
“I don’t know, Nancy. What is the smell?”
“Smells like chicken soup.”
She waltzed into the bathroom, pinching her nose shut. She grinned like a bully who got her lunch money.
“What are you showering with? Chicken soup soap?”
“Soup soap?” I grabbed my body wash out of the shower and smelled it. It checked out; it smelled like Old Spice’s “Nightpanther.”
“There’s nothing wrong with it.” I said.
She laughed like Cruella De Vil, and I knew that evil had been done.
“What is it?” I begged.
She told me she put a chicken-flavored bouillon cube in the s. I had to get a screwdriver to dislodge the rest of it. Before I took my second shower, I Slacked my boss that I was going to be late for work. He gave the message a thumbs up.
When I got to the kitchen, there were Buckeye Candy’s on the table. She was eating them.
“I made these for us.” She said, showing me the peanut butter insides of one.
“They’re great with coffee.” She raised her mug to me as if to toast.
I was skeptical of the Buckeye’s and the coffee, so I ignored them. My focus was on the pictures of John Stamos that I’d put in every single frame in the house, his face covering mine. Nancy loved John Stamos. It was one of the clearest facts I knew about her youth; she was obsessed with Full House, and he was her favorite character, the man she drooled over in high school. While other girls wanted Usher and Justin Timberlake, her allegiance was to John Stamos. I’d spent forty-five minutes in the heart of the night meticulously folding photos of him into the frames. I had to pay $14 to print them out at a FedEx Office the day before. Even grown man Jim, who’s got some money in savings, questioned the cost. All of this effort for a prank and Nancy was oblivious. I couldn’t stand it.
“Do you notice anything different this morning?” I asked.
“What? That you smell like chicken soup?”
“No. But you did.” She laughed.
“Did you notice anything in the hallway?”
“No,” Her eyes darted to the hallway but didn’t find anything. She hurried out of her chair, “What is it?”
Despite the $3,400 rent, our apartment wasn’t big, so it didn’t take long for her to see that I’d put pictures of Stamos’ precious face in all of the frames. Not only did I prank her, but she also didn’t even notice it. A kind of disappointed smile came across her face, and finally, I thought I’d won. I’d done something good.
She walked over and pushed me backward.
“What the hell was that for?”
“You’re not supposed to tell me!”
“You didn’t notice.”
“That’s fine, that’s the point. I’m not supposed to notice. This would have been even better if I didn’t notice until tonight.”
She let out a furious groan, “Why’d you have to tell me?”
April Fools’ Day is no different than other major holidays in that there are specific rules that one must follow. This was my first experience of not following one of the rules: You should never tell on your prank.
Back in the kitchen, I tried to console her, but she seemed genuinely upset. To try to appease her, I partook in the food she made. The coffee was gritty but tasted normal. I hoped she hadn’t put any ex-lax in it, and I would have asked her if that was the case, but her gloomy demeanor prevented it. She sat there quietly with a frown on her face and offered me a chocolate ball. My gut told me she poisoned the food, but I ate it because I thought it was better to play along and preserve the holiday cheer. The ball tasted fine; it was just chocolate and peanut butter.
“I thought this was going to be a prank.” I confessed.
“No.” She said, “You want another before I put them in the fridge?”
“Sure.” She put the others back and left one out in front of me.
“I have to go now.” She said.
I only had one more prank planned, and she would find it as soon as she put her shoes on. I had doubts that the stunt would live up to its merits given Nancy’s mood, but I had to play it cool and let it happen. I didn’t want to chance giving anything away.
I took a bite of the last Buckeye. As soon as my teeth passed the chocolate shell, there were cobwebs in my mouth. I dropped the chocolate, and scraped white cotton strands from my tongue with both my hands.
“What the hell!” I spat.
Nancy burst out in laughter.
“Chocolate-covered cotton balls.” She said. She was happy again.
Moments later, while I held my mouth under the faucet, working on getting the cotton out, I heard the happiness drain from her. There was a loud groan.
“Everything, ok?” I asked.
“A fake spider in my shoe? C’mon, Jim. What am I, five?”
I thought of baby Jim at that moment, a boy with no sense of the world and no way to solve any of his problems. All he was good for was creating them. I felt much like I did on so many Christmas mornings when I'd start a fight with my brother over presents; I felt like I ruined the holiday.
My love for Nancy compelled me to correct my wrongs. One might think it foolish to dedicate more energy into the day when I’d already done so much and failed, but I didn’t even think of the alternative. I had to prank Nancy in the best possible way. I wanted to show her how much I cared.
You can find anybody who works in tech on LinkedIn, and many people have their direct phone on their profile page. This was the case for Nancy’s boss, who I cold-called. Her name was Monica. She answered the phone by saying, “This is Monica.” I explained my situation to her, emphasizing how much the day meant to Nancy, and then I asked, “Can you please fake fire Nancy?”
And she did. Tech companies are so cool.
Nancy called me crying from the parking lot. She was babbling on about how she got fired, how it didn’t make any sense, and how she couldn’t believe it. When she got into the car, we changed to FaceTime. I saw her puffy eyes and the back of her hand wiping tears from her cheeks. This was what it was all about.
“Babe,” I said. “I have something to tell you.”
“What? Are you serious?”
“April Fools’, babe!
“Are you serious right now?”
“Are you serious?” She asked again.
“I’m serious. April Fools’.”
“I can’t believe it.” She said, “That was so good.”
“You liked it?” I asked.
Nancy nodded. The way she looked at me made me feel like a magician.
“I love you.” She said. "That was the best."
It was Grown man Jim’s turn to cry.
That night before we went to sleep, she showed me pictures of a car identical to hers that was all smashed up. Next, were photos of her with a bloodied face and black eyes that she’d taken while standing on the side of a road. I would have been startled, but she was laughing.
“This would have been so good.” She said.
She had her makeup done so that it looked like she’d been in an accident, and she went to the junkyard to take the photos of our car’s doppelgänger. Her April Fools’ joke was faking a car accident. I told her she was crazy, and she laughed.
Soon that end-of-the-day tiredness seized us, and we turned to go to sleep. I knew more about Nancy than I did when we woke up because of April Fools’. It was a nice feeling. The tree outside of my window looked fuller like it had sprouted hundreds of more leaves during the day. The leaves made me think about weed, which made me think about 4/20.
“Next, it's my holiday.” I teased.