One of the men in writing class belches loudly, repeatedly. He does not say “excuse me” or otherwise acknowledge he has done anything unusual other than an occasional accompanying “oof.”
This reminds me of my husband’s favorite episode of Naked and Afraid where a couple, in their desperation and deep hunger, catches and eats a skunk that has just eaten a rotten lizard. Afterwards, the couple erupts in incessant, painful belches, the man even leaning into a tree to better let them out.
This seems a good a time as any to confess my irrational fear that one day I will be forced to go on Naked and Afraid as a contestant. In childhood, I had a similar discomfort around skydiving, a resigned wariness that one day somebody would confront me with a parachute and waiver form and force me onto a nearby, quietly idling plane. I would not like to skydive or have a terrible case of the lizard belches, and so I keep a professional, compassionate demeanor towards my belching classmate. I do not make eye contact with anyone else in the class during these belching spells.
The class is taught by a clown. Oh, did I not mention that before? Oh funny thing, must have slipped my mind. He doesn’t come dressed as one, sadly, but it was mentioned on the slip jacket of his book that he passed around, plus I already knew because I looked him up online before signing up for the class. It was not a deterrent, though my husband thought maybe it should be.
“I think secretly you want to be a clown,” he said because it was Saturday evening and we’d both had naps and were feeling jaunty.
“I do not want to be a clown,” I said.
“You’re awfully fascinated with them,” he mumbled.
I was about to argue when it all came rushing like an end-of-life flash: The bright red 78 record about a happy little clown named Squee Gee that I played so loud and often my mother yelled up the stairs “ENOUGH!” Or the cat I picked from the shelter for his bright nose and puff of white fur across his chest like a ruffle and silly – some would say clownish – demeanor. My favorite TV show is about a clown, though he is not joyful or intentionally funny. I also wrote a short story once about a man coming out as a clown to his parents on Thanksgiving and this very blog has its own tag for ‘clowns’ which will get attached to this post, perpetuating a problem.
So maybe I do have a thing for clowns, but I do not want to be a clown. I do not want to perform and dance around for people, joyously or menacingly, especially not for children. I do not want to wear grease paint or itchy wigs, though the big shoes seem pretty comfortable. I definitely do not want to work with balloons, which make me nervous as a cat in a room full of rocking chairs or me in a room with a belching classmate.
“Look, I can’t help it that my teacher is a clown,” I said to my husband a little too testily.
“And there we have it,” he said, “a line straight out of an after school special.”