“When someone wears a choker it's their way of saying…”
I tell you holding a sweaty mike, air ballooning inside my throat.
“… I don’t need air when I consent to it.”
The crowd murmured a dry chain of laughter, that was subtle, but not a bad start to a show.
You were wearing a black lace choker. Your purple lipstick, denim jacket, and big brown beautiful eyes made me nearly whisper the word love into the mike without realizing it. I never knew clothes could look so good until I saw yours on my bedroom floor later that night.
We ate breakfast tacos and sipped wine. We talked in circles on the roof, under the stars about everything from mac n cheese to hating capitalism, to why our childhood trauma makes us funny.
I hated when you’d distract me by doing nothing. I was a puppet at your mercy. You made me feel love before I even knew what love was. Before you defined it for me. But we never truly defined it for each other, did we?
The gift of love that you gave me, almost killed me. Back then I just knew your smile was so warm and dangerous. You felt like home. I was terrified. I gravitated towards you.
“You ever choke someone out consensually?” I said to the salivating crowd. Yes, that is really what you all look like- hungry doggies, waiting for a punchline.
We were all packed tight in a brick-walled basement with no chairs, a spotlight, and a small stage in the middle with a mic. I wrote these jokes crying on the toilet, smoking weed, feeling existentially lonely.
You remember don’t you Whittney? You were there. This was after our first date, but we were still fresh. I said to come on over to one of my shows. Hear my shitty jokes. It’ll be a good time.
I didn’t think you’d come, let alone show up looking like someone I can dance with for ages.
Its always about the pause. You have to pause. Comedy is not unlike music or painting or writing, everything has to remain on tempo.
Time stops on a dime when two nickels fuck.
I looked at you, looking back at me with those sorry, puppy eyes in the crowd. You knew just as I did that we weren’t leaving this place alone.
“What do black men and the NBA have in common?”
You raised an eyebrow.
“You need a little bit of both to fuck a Kardashian.”
Unsynchronized laughter. A lot of uncomfortable white people grimaced.
I pulled the mike away and cleared my throat. The sound echoed throughout the singular speaker beside me.
“Why do nice guys finish last?” I asked the audience.
“Because they want you to cum first.”
“Let me get you in on a little secret I figured out how to lose weight super fast.” Whispering into the mike,
“I lost give or take 20 or so pounds before I found out I had type 1 diabetes. I gotta capitalize on this disability. I’m tall, white and beautiful. There's very little sympathy I can muster.”
“You know it’s crazy, one of the first things I thought about after I was diagnosed with diabetes was?”
“Damn...I could lick whip cream off a tidy and pass out, immediately.”
More laughter. I noticed a man with a thick mustache snort, raise his hand, and slap his knee.
“Y'all bitches can put me in a coma with them thangs. Death row tiddies,
weapons of mass destruction tiddies. Stay the fuck away from me, unless you're sugar-free. That’s all I’m saying.
You weren’t wearing a bra.
“… But things are different now, I’m vegan, well sorta. I’m like Tristin Thompson vegan...”
“I cheat all the time.”
A few members in the crowd laughed, some didn’t know who Tristin Thompson was.
Others were familiar with him from either NBA or the Kardasians.
“Being vegan is cool. I bath in nut milk now. I eat cereal made out
of beans, AND I even found vegan condoms, so that even my meat is plant-based.
“My dick is an eggplant now… not a sausage.”
“I also found some vegan condoms. It’s actually pretty cool what vegan condoms are made out of. You see…”
“it's a seaweed wrapped exterior, with a rice paper mesh inside, that you just throw in the garbage… because vegans don’t need condoms! Because we need to repopulate the earth! To save this dying world from you meat eating, earth killing, bastards!”
A few gasps, chuckles and confused faces were seen/heard amongst the crowd.
“Your vegan sex can save lives. Donate today.”
“Meet me at the garden, at 6 if you wanna discuss more…”
“Aright, well thank you guys for coming out tonight. I appreciate you all. We got my man Steven Palmer coming up next! Give this man a hand!
The audience applauded.
“Lastly, I want to be serious here for a second. It's so good to be back up here on stage. I’ve been through a lot lately. I know we all have with covid. But I found some solace in one of the last things one of the nurses said to me in the hospital... I’ll never forget it... she said...”
“You can lick some whipped cream off my tity if you wanna pass out again.”
“Thank you, goodnight!”
I saw the standing audience members tightly huddled together suddenly turn into cymbal banging stage monkeys, clapping loudly, without pause.
The monkeys’ all looked directly at me. Their eyes grew so wide, they popped out, hanging loosely by silver painted copper strings.
Their heads loosely bobbed up and down, detached from their necks. The monkey's heads fell off their bodies and vibrated on the concrete basement floor. Their teeth chattered, mercilessly, vibrating closer to the stage, pilling up higher and higher on top of one another, toppling up over onto the stage.
I felt like a shard of glass moved down my throat and swam inside my stomach, crunching into pieces. The heads spilled onto the stage, chattering inches away from my trembling feet. My hands clutched the mike tightly. I was frozen and could not move.
The monkey heads sunk their teeth into my shoes surrounded me and covered the entire stage. The heads formed a growing pile on top of one another. I felt their teeth crawl up over my ankles, knees, then my hips, nearly encasing my entire body up to my shoulders.
I felt nothing I hadn’t felt before.
Shame is shame.
Pain is pain.
Everything slowly faded to black. I could smell roses, simultaneously feeling a warm touch over my hand.
Your face appeared with your lovely lips painted in that dark purple lipstick.
“Whittne…” I called out as the monkey heads buried me alive.
A stagemonkey- making people laugh, but dying rather faster.
“Hey, wake up we’re late,” said a distant voice.
I had chills but was also sweating like a pig. No-touch on my hand. No warmth. I opened my eyes, crusted with the sandy things, slowly waking up from the nightmare I had just endured.
Distant memories, buried caskets faded into the past tense.
My chest felt like it had been shocked by a defibrillator 1,000 times. I was hyperventilating. This was the hardest part about panic attacks.
My chest was moving up and down like it had a mind of its own, pulsing rapidly. This was not unlike most mornings. My throat was closing in, beginning to close shut.
I want to die.
“Helloooo?”, said the distant voice again.
I sucked in all the gasps I could. I pulled myself up, then wiped tears from my eyes.
There you were standing out of the doorway. Your makeup was painted on better than the paintings Italian people used to do before cameras.
We had lunch reservations at noon.
You were wearing purple lipstick, standing expressionless at the door, fully dressed and ready to go out on the date we had planned. Your brown face looked beautiful, covered halfway from the shadow of the door.
The bed was in the kitchen, just as you go around the left corner, there’s the bathroom, on the right corner is the front door, and that's it. The window blinds, just above me let out streams of light, illuminating a walkway to the front door.
“Are you even ready yet?” You asked standing with the door barely cracked open.
I could feel your chest sink by the way my gut bellowed in. Your face looked rigid and wound-tight.
Your expression made you look like someone I had never seen before.
I pulled down the bed sheets, sticking wet on my back. I reached for my wax pen on the nightstand, then took a hit. The smoke-filled my chest rattled it, then ceased still. I coughed loudly. A sound that was faint compared to your thunderous sigh heard 3 or 4 paces from me.
You had not taken one step inside the room. Your breath felt like it had cut mine short, intentionally silencing it completely.
“We’re gonna be late.” You said.
“Can you give me a sec please?” I said coughing into my bedsheets. I reached over for my phone and checked the time. We were definitely going to be late.
“Hurry up.” You said, tapping your foot.
“Well, I have to shower,” I said, tears filling my eyes.
You still had not taken one step forward into the room. You looked right at me. My body shaking. My eyes filled with tears.
I felt so alone.
You rolled your eyes, “Let's just not even go, okay.” You said, letting out a sigh, slamming the door.
You were gone.
I was alone.
Everything faded to black. Tears profusely streamed down my cheeks. Spit drooling out of my mouth. Snot filling up my nose. My entire body quivered. Every muscle imaginable flexed in agony. Veins lined purple all over my body, tightly intertwined around my muscles feeling like they were strapped around my bare bones.
I was stuck. Frozen.
I shook like this for what felt like an eternity but was really 10 or 15 minutes.
When I finally found air and yelled out a whaling cry as loud as I could muster to will myself out of the panic attack, I felt my muscles settle into jelly. My breath slowed, in… and out….in… and out….in…and out….in….and out....
You didn’t care.
You could see me shaking…
A Stage Monkey- being the fool that thought you would stay.
This one is a hard little tidbit to tell, because of a promise.
A promise that you made to me that time would not repeat itself.
I unfastened my seat belt and bit down so I wouldn’t say anything further.
“You’re always so sensitive. It’s always about your problems. I never get to talk about my problems…” You screamed at me. I heard a ringing noise in my ears getting louder, angrier. You were crying profusely as was I.
You were talking with your toes. One big toe, scrunching into itself. Veins coming out of your ankle, jamming on the accelerator. All the yelling was basically about the same things.
Blah blah you never take care of me.
Blah blah blah I deserve to be alone.
Blah blah blah I want to kill myself.
You roughly said to me.
Blah blah I love you.
Blah blah why are you doing this?
Blah blah this can’t be happening.
I roughly said to you.
You could tell I could burst at any moment because my left fist was ready. Not for you but for a nice piece of drywall wall to ram through when I got home.
We were driving back from a wedding.
You knew you didn’t want to be together, forever with me, based on seeing two people celebrating being together forever, living happily ever after. You suddenly felt like you had to run.
So you did run.
I chased after you, only to find you crying in the bathroom of the reception hall. People in suits, walking past the door snickering indiscriminately.
The wedding made you allergic to me. You couldn't look at me, nor speak to me. You would barely hold my hand, nor did you want to sit next to me for more than 20 seconds without leaving to go to the bathroom.
We eventually made it back to the car. This is when I realized you were drunk. I had never seen this much raw rage in your eyes before.
We were in the car debating everything for no reason other than shame and suicide needing faces. “I just can’t take care of myself, so I can’t take care of you. This is about me.” You said.
“Well, we’re a team I can help you. You don’t let me take care of you.” I said.
“No one can take care of me. Only I can.”
“That's not true.”
“You want to kill yourself all the time how are you going to take care of me?”
“Because I love you!” I reached in to hug you, then stopped myself. I could see you trying to hide your body from overcorrecting to dodge my hug attempt. I realized I was making you uncomfortable. That I would never be able to touch you again. It wouldn’t be the same. We never were going to be the same.
This made me cry harder.
I bet you felt like you had rocks for blood. Your heart felt large, you did not have much if any breath. You mostly felt shame, not for breaking up, but for how I would feel. You had been thinking about this for so long, but you were in the middle of procrastinating life so that you could procrastinate death so that you could procrastinate breaking up.
“I’m sorry…Sam… stop… don’t... “ You said, shaking.
“You didn’t say it back.” I was frozen.
“I know... I just…never mind. Every time I say something you get more sensitive. I don’t want to talk anymore.”
“Shut up,” You said.
That’s when I violently punched the car door.
Your wrist jerked. A car swerved into the other lane. The car honked, then sped past You. You gave them the fuck finger.
I put my head in between my knees.
“I can’t do this anymore!” You said. “You’re too emotional.
I can’t talk to you about anything. I’ve lost myself and I can’t find it.
You make me feel like a failure.
I’ve never been in a relationship.
I can't be this for you. You’re too sensitive. I can’t think or breathe.
I need space.” You told me.
“Don’t leave me yet. Give me a second. We can talk this out.” I said.
“Shut up.” You told me.
“Slow down, we just need to…”
“Please stop, okay.”
“I love you.”
“I can help you.”
“I need to be alone. It's what I deserve. It's what I’ve always done. I need to be alone.”
“Please, just leave. I’m suicidal! I want to kill myself! Just leave! I want to kill myself!”
You yelled at me.
I choked on my own spit.
You pushed me out of the car. I fell onto the asphalt, then crawled, scraping my elbows and knees, bleeding through my suit. Once I made it to the rocks that lead to the stairs of my apartment building, I grabbed onto a bush. I dry heaved heavily into the bush.
My eyes were stinging with tears. I had not been able to take a stable breath for God knows how long. I felt like I was swallowing woodchips.
You stood in your car and watched.
A car pulled up and rolled down the driver’s side window.
I heard hip-hop music playing and a bunch of people laughing.
“Hey, you good bro.” I heard a voice say from the car.
I continued to dry heave and cough, paying no mind.
“Guy’s probably drunk.” someone else in the car said.
I heard more laughing as the car drove off.
You sat in your car, doing nothing, sobbing, panting, and pondering crashing your car into my apartment building.
You could see suicide's face looking right at you in the rearview mirror.
You could see your face.
I crawled up three flights of stairs not taking one breath the entire time. I could feel the veins in my forehead swelling rapidly, on the verge of passing out.
Once I got into my apartment I vomited in the toilet, then shook in my bed until a bottle of whiskey was empty, then finally passed out.
You went home, drank two bottles of wine, and passed out.
A Stagemonkey- Being a fool that thought someone would love him.