Wednesday, December 15, 2004

the clown prince

I’m 15 yrs old, and I spend a fair amt of time hanging out with my friend Patrick, who’s a freshman in college. He’s a real clown, always got a practical joke or a scheme or a crazy story to tell – he teases me a lot, but in a good-natured guy way that makes me feel included rather than put down, and he’s pretty cool about hanging with a HS sophomore with no car, no money, etc.

Patrick invites me and my brother to go a Halloween party and stay overnight at his folks’ place a couple hours away. Party is fun, everyone is cool and well-behaved, Patrick is clowning as usual.

The next morning I see Patrick’s dad in the kitchen before breakfast. I say – thinking of Patrick, “So, how’s the father of the biggest clown in the world this morning?” I know it’s kind of lame conversation, but at 15 (and also at 39) I am often compelled to blurt stupid things.

But his dad gives me a kind of puzzled, surprised look and doesn’t say anything. I pause – it wasn’t that lame, right? Then, with horror, I suddenly remember that Patrick’s sister Cheryl – who weighs in on the strong side of 200 lbs – had come to the party last night, dressed (you guessed it) as a clown.

And there is nothing to say. It’s impossible to confront the misunderstanding head-on, since to do so would suggest that the words “Biggest Clown in the World” and “Cheryl” could conceivably be used in the same sentence.

I babble frantically for a few seconds, “You know, Patrick, he’s like… always, um, joking. And, like, making… well, jokes. And stuff… Like… You know…”

But it’s too late. It can’t be unsaid, and it can’t be explained away. It’s like the elephant in the room (sorry), and we both have to just pretend it didn’t happen.

Patrick’s dad has been unfailingly warm and polite to me in the 20+ years since then, and I harbor a faint hope that he’s long forgotten about it. But I haven’t. And each time I see him I feel... well... pretty clownish.


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