I sometimes have this feeling that I’m a fraud, that everything I think I know is wrong, that I’m a fake.
When I was at school there was a kid who told jokes and walked camp to camp with them and his joke crew behind him. We all laughed and he walked again. He was a sort of travelling joke show.
He was funny, it was accepted. He had this show with his hands and his joke crew behind him eager for your response with these big dumb expectant faces. I caught him once, I think. I thought about it – something about a turtle and a whore – back then we called them prossys and they were far more mythical, distant than now, certainly, and appeared in my thoughts like a rouge velvet madame from the old westerns: lacy and dusty. Well, it was about a turtle and a whore, between which I can still see no similarities.
We had already already anticipated, accepted that it would be funny. We were predestined to laugh while he was still telling the nerds that played handball and traded cards – before we’d even heard a line. I didn’t tell anyone, but I knew his secret. It came to me all at once. He was exploiting us. I watched him then and suddenly saw it in his look – it had been there all along, I wasn’t sure why I hadn’t picked it before, had anyone else? I had caught the curtain and moved behind it now poking at props and knocking things over: rattled by this discovery, wondering what else I had missed. I learnt the bluff, then, I think, though I’ve never been very good at poker.
I think he knew. I think he knew had he descended into obscurity in search of material. That he was chasing the proverbial dragons; his 12 year old audience and that balls-are-breaking half-feigned laughter that only schoolboys, and those never progressed beyond them, can achieve. Addicted to this long before we’d all discover girls, gambling and drugs and their chase.
I’m walking in the city. I’m trying to find a job and have been interviewing with a supermarket as a manager. They ask me if I have floor management and I say I wash my floor every week (I do). They do this short synchronised laugh and stop. No, seriously, of course, I tell them; though I am still unsure now what that means. I wanted to tell them they don’t have to romanticise this for me, I’m not trying to be a genius – these guys always make up titles to try and make you feel better that you’re a peasant with a cap and namebadge. But then these probably guys have titles just like that. Doesn’t everyone? What the fuck is Risk Management, for example? One of my friends works in Risk Management.
There’s a guy at the bus stop outside and he keeps looking at me. I’m wearing a double windsor tie that I learnt from this British guy on YouTube that speaks like he should be writing digests on rare birds with a felt tip pen.You can trust the English with things like this – like ties.
This guy’s playing with own tie and looking at me. He unties it enough so he can look down at it, and looks at me with it in his hand. His isn’t a double windsor and he’s twisting his ankle up at the side like he’s a flirting ballerina or he needs to poo, or something.
I ask him if he ever feels like a fraud and he tightens up his tie and stands up in front of me. His shoes are nearly touching mine. They’re leather but they don’t match his suit. It’s that look, from the kid, he knows he’s a hack. and he looks sad now. But I want him to know I’m a hack too. I’m a fraud. I quit my job because a woman refused to pronounce my name correctly and was sick of hearing parsta instead of pasta like it should be, and now I don’t know what floor management is and if I get that job, how can I ask? It’s too late to ask.
But he’s walked away. I wanted to tell him: just copy others, that’s the trick – I copied this from YouTube. I’d give it to him but I was never able to get it long enough to get it off my neck to keep for later.