I have inappropriate laughter issues. I first discovered this at the funeral of a classmate in high school. When I have any sort of strong emotional reaction, I laugh. Joy, anger, overwhelming sadness, or terror–I start laughing. Sometimes it is a giggle, sometimes it is a full on guffaw. Any way, I laugh at the worst times.
I laughed at the viewing of my Granny’s body, prior to her funeral. What set me off? The funeral home had stuffed her bra. I laughed at my Boom-pa’s funeral. What set me off? The paper apron the Masons put on him, that made him look like a fry cook. I laughed during my wedding vows. Why? B had marked a large X on his ring fingernail so that I would know which hand got the ring. I laughed during Thor’s labor and delivery. Actually, I laughed so hard at my own joke, he was born. True story.
Thus and so, it should come as no surprise that when a crazy-eyed man tried to back me down a New York alley, waving the jagged glass of a broken beer bottle in my face, growling, “Gimme your money or I’ll cut you! Gimme your money!” I started laughing.
It started small. I giggled. I tittered. Then he jerked the bottle and threatened more. I chuckled, not moving. I’m no fool. I’m not going down any alley with a stranger! Bottle, switchblade, gun, whatever. Uh-uh. Whatever you’re going to do, you’re going to have to do it in plain sight, Bubba. He got louder and so did I.
Y’all, I was terrified. Isa and Mo were gone. I was alone, and at one of the smallest physical states of my adulthood, my hips and metabolism having been late bloomers, in a strange city, without my glasses. Did I forget to mention that? This was before I had contacts, and no way in hell was I wearing glasses to the Limelight. Perhaps if I could have seen him clearly, I would have reacted differently? As it were, I went into a full and paralyzing belly laugh, tears streaming down my cheeks, sure I was about to end up with one less eye and a mouth full of glass.
My would be mugger finally backed of and yelled, “You crazy, Bitch!” and ran away in the other direction.
As soon as he was gone, the reflexive laughing stopped and the full body shivers started. I wanted to throw up. I wanted to cry. I wanted to find Isa and Mo, and knock their heads together. I decided the last was what would make me feel better, so I went to seek them.
I made my way into the collective of bodies standing around in front of the club and started looking around. Nice looking guy approached and eyed me, smiling. “Hi,” he nodded. I nodded back, checking his hands for weapons. “Look at you,” he said, peering into my face. “Man, look at your pupils! You’re on some good stuff. What are you on?”
Remember a few posts back where I said I was a stridently moral thirteen year old? Well, I was a stridently moral twenty-one year old as well. Sure, I crushed on junkies. Junkies were always the cutest! But I would never have done the stuff myself. I’ve never even smoked a joint. I have smoked Virginia Slim menthols, but couldn’t find a way to look cool and keep my hair from stinking, so I gave that up after a week. And I did drink once before my 21st birthday, but I embarrassed myself so badly that I’ve never had that much to drink again. So when this guy asked me what I was on, I didn’t understand.
He repeated himself and asked where he could score, once more inquiring as to the name of my drug. I scoffed, “It’s called fear.”
“Fear,” he repeated dreamily, then laughed like Beavis. “Fear. Cool…I’m gonna go get some.”
I rolled my little virgin eyes around in my head again, then went to find Isa and Mo. They were standing on line to get in the club. I thought unkind things about them, but joined them just the same, letting them apologize and try to make up while we waited.
A doorman started walking the line, picking winners. “You,” he would point, “and you. And you. Not you.” If you’ve ever seen a sitcom bit with a club line, you’ve seen this. He you-you-you’ed his way down to us, pointed at me, “You,” looked at them, “Not you,” and started again. I called him back.
“I’m with them,” I said, jerking my thumb. Yes, I wanted to go in, but I was also alone save for those two wackjobs. I realize as I type that I have left out describing Mo. Let me rabbit trail.
Mo was on the cutting edge of Grunge fashion. Another short girl, like Isa and me, she was plump and well-well-well kind of endowed. She was all torn jeans, raggedy flannel shirts, combat boots and piercings before they were cool. And a badly maintained pixie haircut. For her scene, she was very well dressed. For this scene…
The doorman shook his head. I could go in, they couldn’t. “But she works here,” I pointed at Isa, who let out a hiss and elbowed me hard. It turned out that Isa had once passed out flyers for the Limelight, but was never actually employed by them, as she later explained. He laughed, “You can go in, or not. But not them.”
And, dear readers, I did not go in.
I wish I could tell you it was out of loyalty. It wasn’t. I really wanted to throw pies in their faces by then, but they were all that stood between me and being alone in the city. So, when they asked if they could come sleep in my hotel room, I said yes. With the caveat that they had to sleep on the floor. Of course.