PUNCHLINE by Michelle Yeboah
It’s the middle of July and yet the weather begged to differ, storm clouds gathered and assaulted the streets with rain. Those with umbrellas battled to hold on to them as the wind threatened to swoop them up. Those without umbrellas made mad dashes for shelter. Then there was me watching it all from the window of a McDonalds where I had been nursing a Big Mac Meal and a side of chicken nuggets for the last hour. You ever wonder what they inject into McDonalds to make a it taste the same in every damn place. I know that there is a joke in there somewhere, then again I am not too sure.
You know you can learn a lot by people watching, blending into the background and just watching, human interactions are some of the most fascinating – how we can all say something without saying nothing at all. A nod of the head, a cocked eyebrow, a sideward glance can all mean a million different things given the moment. I take a bite of my cold chicken nugget and wash it down with a sip of over carbonated sprite. I sit and wonder if anybody is watching me right now. Analysing me, creating a new life for me – a life that is probably better than the one I’m living right now.
It’s been nine months since my brother won the election and damn he is really make mum proud. Then, then there’s me… I wouldn’t even call myself a struggling comedian anymore. I am just plain old struggling, a struggling man working an office job sharing a four bedroom house with people with the hygiene habits of pigs.
Do you know how many stand-up auditions I have attended since being here? 111. How do I know the exact number? Is it because each rejection pierced my heart deeper than the last or was it because my then girlfriend lovingly informed me 111 was an angel number and it was a sign from her spirit guides to leave me? I should have known better than to date a woman who demanded to know the time that I was born like it was a national emergency.
I run my hand over my face as my own thoughts tauntme, to be fair they have been doing this for a while. At first they started out as barely noticeable whispers that I could write off as nerves. Anyone would be nervous starting over in a new country, where the debates on how to correctly make tea actually take place. They got a little louder each time I sat down to write and nothing would come. That we can put down to writer’s block and adjusting to life and the fact that ‘soz’ and ‘innit’ are actually words these Brits use everysingle day. They got louder when I would go out to comedy shows for inspiration and I would see all the people laughing around me. They got louder and louder with each and everything rejection. They’re screaming in my head now –taunting me. Forever taunting to me.
I dip several fries into barbeques sauce before stuffing them into my mouth. Then a memory comes flooding back. It’s the big family barbeque – dad is working the grill under the careful eye of Pop Pop ‘Don’t play with it too much now, you’d got to let the process do it’s thing’
We had a little tradition that the kids would do something, it could be talking about a project at school, they could sing, dance, whatever. They just had to do something,and the adults loved, we all loved it.
One year I decided to do something different, normally I’d do a magic trick but that year. I just remember really wanting to wow them.
With a ketchup bottle in my hand and I don’t know whose confidence I gave my very stand-up
And it was amazing, they laughed and they clapped, they told I was something special. That I had that rare talent. Real talent.
But did I really?
Were they just being polite?
Did they just say those things because they were family and family supports family? Where is that talent now?
Had I left at baggage claim?
Where is that boy that made his family laugh? Where was the man that attracted all those large crowds?
I shook my head to silence the thoughts, though I knew they’d back. They always came back.
Finally, I got up and left the McDonalds for audition 112, on my way out I grabbed a ketchup packet for luck.