I am just going to say this: rejection is tough to accept, tough to swallow, tougher still on unaccomplished rising stars, tough even on the toughest professionals, the risen stars, the accredited accomplished performers of stand-up comedy who to this day may still experience the occasional heckling, or booing, and feel rejection’s venomous sting. No amount of preparation truly prepares you; no amount of bracing improves upon the impact of that prickling sensation. You do not get to walk away unscathed; be thankful you even get to walk away, unlike some of those greener newcomers.
The barbarianism of The Audience, an audience that can talk back. Have a voice of their own, even though they are not the ones up on stage holding the microphone. The pomposity of the enthroned performer. The delusional thought processes of the artistic mind. Thinking he can evade the menacing eyes, escape the mounting tension of expectation, standards set skyscraper high in that opulent room. Wanting to prove them wrong, win them over, conquer and convert those witnesses to his highs and lows. Laughter, the lifeblood of any comedian. Attainment of praise. Receiving tabloidal recognition. A cushioned performance. A great success! Menacing faces unmasked, the room flooding with humanness, projecting back reassurances to the comedian on stage, knowing now with certainty that he has converted them, that they are his, their deafening applause is for him, that it all belongs to him from now on, the clapping, the cheering, the admiration, idealization, his kind of crowd, avowing to follow him, the comedic Messiah to the very end, to his final farewell performance.
And this is exactly how it was for the longest time until the slippage. Then came the rejection. The tough to accept rejection. Even tougher without a proper explanation. Like a lover departing without so much as leaving a farewell note. Deafening silence replaced the applause. Lackluster attendance followed. The Audience even lacked energy needed for the usually charged heckling and booing. They just got up from their seats and left the room. The venues changed; opulence replaced with decrepitude. Soon the appointment book was wide open, unimpeded with scheduled or unscheduled performances. I retreated to my condominium; security afforded through amassment of funds from previous more successful shows. Confined to a catacomb, none the wiser as to the reason. It bothered me. The reason. Engulfed in the unknown. Harboring resentment at the lack of clarity, forever living with the remembrance of those unmuzzled barbarians letting me know exactly what they think. Unable to forget the sensation of dampness, my clothes drenched, doused in their critique. Unfortunately, not a very in-depth critique since I never did learn the reasoning behind their rebellion. Simply capitulating to their demands, the demands of the audience, signing the contract signaling my immediate retirement from the stage, from holding the microphone with a firm grip. Betraying my artistic roots. And once I finished and put down the pen, they did not so much as offer a thank you. No commiseration from that mob. It is as if this is exactly how it should have been all along. The beckoning hand of the butchers, ready to slaughter you. One guillotine reserved for the unamusing comedian.
This sanction, this sacking of my long-built career, can hardly be considered an inconsequential event. It is anything but that. A dreadful development. A magnitudinous setback. Living a meaningless existence, grievous over what once was. In the absence of a career, that feeling of excitation disappears. Everything joyous disappears. What remains is the horrible immensity of time on one’s hands. To live with oneself. Split responsibilities of performer and spectator. Most unnatural to a comedian, a performer, accustomed to being projected onto the lives of others. And I know what you are going to say, so spare me. Pain takes time to heal. Don’t I know it. Don’t we all know it? The problem is, when there is just so much of it, you begin putting up fences, boarding yourself up from the rest of the world while wallowing in severe depression, trying to reach out to others for help while not coming to terms with the real issue. Acceptance of the current reality as the only real way of stopping the cycle of self abuse. The hinderance of heightened emotionalism. Depleted, I felt revulsion toward the world at large, nothing to rouse me from this torpor. I committed the worst sin known to a performance artist. I slowed down. Even unwanted, I could have kept creating, kept writing, each joke repudiating their ruling. Instead I entered this paralytic state, lodging there, registered as a dissuaded artist/dead artist in the reservation logbook. Having done about the worst thing a person can do to themselves. And I remained there, waiting. But waiting for what?
In this concocted state I bereaved my career, too incurably embittered to see some semblance of light at the end of the dark tunnel. Some glimmer of hope. A cavernous hole formed deep inside my chest. Compelled to close this opening, I resolved to using food, a poor substitute in hindsight, as a stand-in for bricks to cover the passage. Patching this hole did not expunge the void accompanying me wherever I went. In an almost masochistic fashion, in the course of time, I stopped worrying; I became enthralled, captivated with this chosen for me calamitous path. I went along, barred myself from the outside world living inside of my monastic retreat. Revelling in my reckless pursuit, consuming mammoth portions of comestibles. A guttural gluttony of everything under the sun. A complete wipeout trying desperately as a last resort to lessen the internalized pain, trying to escape the inescapable memories of uncongested rooms, unobliging audience, stationary hands of the unenthused crowd refusing vigorous clapping, refusing a standing ovation.
Excessive weight-gain followed. What did I expect from a stultified stationary existence spent in a swivel chair? Combine this with the refrigerator and all its unprotected provisions so close, just a few push-offs away, and you have a disaster in the making, the steaming cauldron, the Witches’ Brew from Macbeth. What started out as a harmless pastime naturally progressed to something more sinister, spiralling out of my control, innumerable insatiable intakes, administering everything I could get my hands on down my esophagus, simply unmanageable by someone who lacked self-control, was weak-willed, with arms that should have been straight-jacketed.
I was constantly a victim to this animalistic hunger, these rippling pangs, this insufferable ravenousness, always there, always looming above, encircling from all sides, triggering, provoking, driving me into a corner where I crouched, curled up, defeated and completely powerless. This weight gain, this excessive blubber, came to define me. Not so much a rough patch, more like my life in a nutshell. It took some time to accept this fact, that when I go to bed, I am not going to wake up in the morning any skinnier, maybe even bigger, making that weight scale needle climb higher and higher until it has no place to go.
This predisposition to weight fluctuations always existed, a regrettable inheritance, courtesy of my parents. I rallied and fought hard against it in my younger years. The formative years. The only fighter in my family, really. But once I reached some level of cognizance, all hope withered away. With this newfound clarity I started to understand the root problem with my family, the true underlying causes behind my weight gain outside the diminished MC4R gene, the fact that no one in it had any heart or a soul. My father tuned everything anyone said to a low frequency his old police scanner would not even pick up. A once great man, retired from the force after more than thirty years of service, helping people left and right. But at home, he could not even listen to his own children or wife’s demands. My mother, on the other hand, had a nasty habit of getting behind the wheel of our old beat-up van and driving away whenever emotions struck her. An unfulfilled woman, constantly enervated, easily spooked, unequipped to deal with high intensity situations, like the daily squabbles between her and her husband, she tried to salvage what she could of herself, what parts remained, and in this she would find no opposition from anyone else, this was hers and hers alone. Hardly an idyllic household. Intermittent tremors rattled the foundation, caused by unsticking of once deadlocked familial bonds, shaking the established stronghold housing two adults and four children. It is always fascinating to return, to leaf through that old family album, to elucidate your childhood experiences from a more mature perspective, provide commentary with insights to painful events eluded in childhood.
It is not surprising I turned out how I did. A damaged outcast who thought for a long time that his life was not going anywhere.
I do apologize, dear reader; I do not mean to sound self-dramatizing. But I do think there is plenty to scrutinize in our past, the precursor to countless individuals’ defective maturation, stunting the growth, causing irreparable damage to the mind. Specialists cite improper handling from the very beginning, mishandling of the young impressionable mind. Very much like my own at the time of my testimony. So please, allow me to continue, to bring you to my level, where you will gain knowledge and understanding as to the function and purpose of each individual cog in the mechanism, the inner-workings of me. Allow me to unburden myself.
short story collection