There are few people I respect as much as my ex-girlfriend, an amazing person - intelligent, pretty, with a good sense of humor. Everything was great with us, especially the sex, which was fantastic, and in addition to all that, we could talk for hours.
Our relationship was perfect except for one big problem - she wanted children, where I was never afflicted with that particular brand of insanity. That was the elephant in the room, the subject we always avoided. We both did make our positions known, she by commenting on how cute her nieces and nephews were, and I by making jokes about the burden of parenthood, but we always avoided a serious discussion, knowing that once we had that talk, we could never again imagine that the other would someday change. That conversation would probably end our relationship, something neither of us wanted to face. Unfortunately, all good things do come to an end.
It all began innocently enough for my (now) ex-girlfriend (who stayed at my apartment most weekends), when she found a plastic red nose between the sofa cushions. I placed it there two weeks before and waited patiently for her to find it. Her finding it meant that the joke had begun.
Every week since finding the nose, other clown apparel would appear - an over sized clown shoe would be sticking out from under a chair, she'd find a purple wig in the pan she always used when cooking spaghetti. Once, she sat on the sofa and a clown horn honked.
When questioned, I always claimed ignorance, saying that my nephew stopped over that week and must have left whatever it was she found. Why a seventeen-year-old would be leaving clown stuff around the apartment was something I couldn't explain. I was as puzzled as she. I suspected she didn't believe me, but that didn't matter. All I required was that she didn't push it too hard until I was ready.
After a four-week setup, it was time for the payoff. Everything was in place when she came over the weekend after finding the horn. I was peeking from behind a curtain when she arrived and quickly got into position while she parked her car. Upon entering, she saw that the VCR was playing Bozo's Circus Pals, a tape I purchased in the children's section of the video store. I was apparently in some kind of trance, sitting on the sofa wearing a full clown suit - complete with big clown shoes, a purple wig, makeup, and of course, the plastic red nose. My face was lit with a ridiculous, happy grin as I held a balloon and swayed to the video's music.
She looked at me in silence with an uncertain smile that gradually changed to a look of concern. I ignored her while swaying to the music, still in my clown-trance.
"Cob," she said, sounding worried, "What the hell are you doing?"
I didn't answer.
She said it again, louder this time, and I still didn't respond. Finally, she screamed "COB!"
That did it. I snapped out of it, replacing my grin with a look of shock. "When did you get here?" I shrieked, as I stood and ran upstairs. Then I quickly removed my clown cloths, threw them under the bed, and jumped in the shower.
She was sitting at the kitchen table looking distraught when I returned.
"Oh hi," I said brightly. "I thought I heard you come in."
She looked at me with astonishment.
"What? - Are you actually going to pretend that ten minutes ago you weren't sitting in the living room dressed as a clown?"
I stammered and my voice started cracking as I told her I could explain. Then I went into the crying act I've been practicing diligently for the past two months.
"I'm a closet clown," I admitted tearfully. "I've been hiding it for years."
"A closet clown? What are you talking about?"
"I'm a closet clown," I repeated through more tears. "Whenever I'm alone I dress up as a clown, put on circus music, and pretend I'm among my clown brothers at the Big Top."
She looked at me perplexed, shaking her head, unbelieving. "Why would you want to do that? It's so damn weird."
My tears faded, replaced with a smile as I told her the virtues of being a clown, a subject I obviously enjoyed. I told her that Bozo was my boyhood hero and demonstrated an encyclopedic knowledge of clowndom by telling her the birth dates of Bubbles, Fleepo, Clarabell, and other famous clowns. I went on, and described the routines they invented that made them famous, sounding like a sports fanatic describing favorite athletes. Finally, I concluded the whole thing by telling her I was glad she found out, that I was relieved to finally get it off my chest with someone who understands.
"Understand? Are you nuts? That's the strangest thing I ever heard. I'll never understand."
"Why not? Nothing feels better than being a clown and now that you know that, you can join me."
She looked at me with a combination of concern, bewilderment, and a tiny bit of disgust. "I'm going home to think about this," she said - then stood up, opened the door, and left.
I know I should have called her back and told her it was a joke, but I couldn't. I was greedy. After months of planning, I thought I was entitled to more and wanted to stretch it out. But a few minutes later, considering her concern, I thought differently. I gave her enough time to drive home, then called her. Either she didn't go directly home or she wasn't answering the phone. I called her again that night and twice the next morning. Finally, that afternoon, she called me.
"The clown thing was a joke, wasn't it," was the first thing she said.
"Yes." I admitted.
"That was cruel. I was really worried about you. I thought you were going insane."
"Oh come on, are you telling me you honestly believed that I couldn't help myself, that I needed to dress up as a clown whenever I was alone?"
"Well, yes. I was finding clown stuff around your apartment for a month. If only you could have seen the way you looked sitting in the living room watching that circus video, and the way your voice stammered, the way you cried when you admitted you were a closet clown. I never heard you cry before, but what you did yesterday was convincing. I probably would still be sitting here worried if I didn't remember that two years ago you declined to go to the circus with my family and I"
Feeling guilty, I said she should have known I was joking, but realized she had a valid point. I spent hours in front of the mirror practicing everything and had it down perfect.
"Okay, but now that you caught on, don't you think it was funny?"
"Yes, I guess so," she said, but didn't laugh.
"How can someone who would do something like that not want to have kids?"
That's how it started. We had the conversation, which went in the direction I feared. Within an hour, we both realized that what we had was ending. We were sad, but then she started laughing, louder and harder than I ever heard her laugh before. She was trying to say something, but couldn't. The laughter kept intruding.
She eventually controlled the laughter and said..."Closet Clown? How did you ever come up with that? It's the silliest thing I've ever seen. And I believed you!"
At last, she understood the joke as originally intended. We both laughed together as I told her everything.
I couldn't remember exactly when or how I first thought up closet clown, but told her everything else. I told her about the year of daydreaming before deciding to do it, the research, the three months of planning, the mirror practice, watching her through the curtain when she drove up. It was the best laughter we ever shared.
The conversation turned to other things as we reminisced about our experiences from the past three years, but we couldn't put it off forever, and eventually we did get around to it. We said goodbye. - COB
There will be a new post every... Oh I don't know. Let's say every two weeks.