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The Funny Thing Is
The thing about Geoffrey Callen that bugged the most about him was how he always said “funny thing is...” just about a billion times a day. I don’t know, I guess a lot of people say stuff like Funny Thing Is, but it’s just that most of the time what he said next wasn’t even funny at all.
Like, Funny Thing Is...I chugged four beers at Andy’s house the other night, threw up, and hooked up with Stephanie Marx, like, two seconds after. Sweet.
Funny Thing Is...my dog ate that girl’s cat at our block party last year.
Funny This Is...I was riding my bike to school and then I crashed into a fallen tree branch and so the enchilada in my lunch bag became a pile of enchilada goo and then leaked and got all over my math homework so, um, do you maybe think I could possibly copy yours?
Very hilarious, that Geoffrey Callen. And, like, who takes enchiladas to school? Just about nobody.
I wouldn’t of minded half as much if he’d just asked me for my math homework. Instead he had to talk about all of that tree branch enchilada crap. It wasn’t like I would’ve said no. Now, thinking about it, it appears to me that I could have answered with something witty like, Funny thing is, I got lasagna all over mine.
I almost wish I would’ve done that one time. But he wouldn’t of believed me. Nobody takes lasagna to school either.
I’m in the grocery store with my mom, looking at heads of lettuce in the produce section. It’s usually my job to pick out our vegetables, on account of I am very picky about my carrots and celery and sorts. I spot the perfect head of lettuce, a gleaming and round ball of textured mildew-colored green wedged in the very back. Satisfied with my good eye for produce, I begin to reach for the lettuce, the hair on my arms becoming speckled with water droplets. That’s when I hear the fake, singsongy voice my mom does when she sees someone who she wishes she hadn’t, but has to pretend like she’s been thinking about e-mailing [insert soccer team mom’s/church member’s/PTA president’s name here] all week long. I turn, lettuce in hand.
It’s Geoffrey and his mother, stopped by the potatoes. Geoffrey has a Family Sized bag of Doritos open already, munching on them with this annoyed look on his face while our mothers squealed and smoothed their hair down and straightened their shirts.
As if Mrs. Callen was going to go home and say to Mr. Callen, Oh, sweetie-honey-dear, you should’ve seen poor Mrs. Lucy today at the grocer’s. Her blouse was all wrinkled at the hem and she hadn’t touched up her highlights in forever. Geoffrey would probably be standing right there, eating his Doritos loudly and smearing the remnant orange cheese powder that had accumulated on his fingertips onto his jeans. He’s that cheese-powder-wiping kind of kid.
Geoffrey and I had been in the same class second through fifth grade, and our parents had been co-room moms. Very cute. They had planned our Valentine’s Day and Halloween parties together; they had decided whether or not we would do styrofoam hearts with puffy paints or cut out doilies with pink-and-red glitter for our arts-and-crafts project.
“How have you been, Meryl?” she asks my mom, as if she really cares. I see her glance at Geoffrey to stop chewing so damn loudly, but he munches on away, rubbing a scuff on the tiled floor with the rubber toe of his shoe. A real gem, that Geoffrey.
My mom swats her hand in the air playfully and sighs, as if she isn’t dying to tell Mrs. Callen about her recent engagement. Which she is. If it were me, I wouldn’t. On account of her fiance is a royal pain in the you-know-what who dyes his hair and wears these tight polo shirts that no one should ever wear. Ever. But my mother is in love and completely happy and just adores Steve, so whatever. I just count down the days until she finds him cheating on her with the guy who owns that spray tan store a couple blocks away. Steve goes just about fifty times a month.
They exchange these phony comments for a few minutes and then Mrs. Callen’s eyes land on me, lingering back by the lettuces and unknowingly rocking back and forth on my heels slightly. I always do that, the rocking thing. People probably assume I’m mentally challenged or something. There I am, awkwardly swaying back and forth while clinging onto this head of lettuce. Totally normal.
“It’s Madison, right?” Mrs. Callen asks me, but she’s staring at my feet.
I have the sudden urge to hide them, to tuck them underneath me and shield them from her quizzical gaze. Vibrations radiate through my legs and tingle my toes, an electric surge passing through my entire body. It takes everything I have not to fall to the ground and grasp my feet, my breath shallow and my heart thumping in my ears like a resounding drum.
For a minute I think I’m going to lose it, to chuck the poor head of lettuce off to some remote corner of the produce section and tear out of the place, weaving in and out of all of the food aisles, my arms outstretched and fingers sliding against the fronts of all of the perfectly arranged items--ketchup, cereal, peanut butter, bags of marshmallows, boxes of PopTarts. They would all come tumbling down, spilling off of their shelves and diving helplessly towards the dirty linoleum floor. I tremble with the thought of all the potential that I possessed, my ability to--quite frankly--do whatever the hell I want. I almost burst into laughter right here, in front of Mrs. Callen and Geoffrey and my mom and all, with the very idea.
I could take over the grocery store---live in here forever and never come out. I could run around and ride in the carts and make the world’s largest pizza. And whenever I got lonely I could take the lobsters out of their tank and set up a special diplomatic dinner, each lobster at his own place setting, with me at the head of the table. Hmm. Madison and her Lobster Minions. It makes my palms itch, and I have to bite the inside of my cheek in a mere attempt to stop myself from shrieking at the top of my lungs or doing one of those insane evil laughs that cartoon villains always do.
This is always the time in my Episodes that I start to scare myself, where the expansiveness of my mind just seems too dark and too big for it to stay inside my head. I get scared, haunted with the idea of my thoughts starting to seep out of my ears, my nose, my mouth, in this thick ebony paste that would ooze its way down my body until I was completely engulfed in it. All that would be visible would be my eyes, white and large and terrified against a layer of insanity. The goo would slowly drip over my chest, stretch itself across my thighs, incase me in its all of its suffocating glory.
I glance worriedly at the palms of my hands, making sure that their fleshy paleness isn’t being masked by my malicious thoughts. Check. What about my shoes? Nope, check. My legs? Check. My--
“Madison,” my mom snaps. “Mrs. Callen asked you a question. You remember Geoffrey, right?”
Oh, how could I forget you, Geoffrey?
I don’t look her in the eyes. I don’t look any of them in the eyes. Especially him. The back of my neck is wet with sweat, and rings are beginning to form on the underarms of my T-shirt.
Do you remember that night, Geoffrey? How you pulled me into that dark bedroom, the smell of beer rolling off of your tongue in warm waves, your grip on my forearm slippery but firm?
“Hey, you’re that girl who I always copy my math homework from.”
It’s Madison. My name’s Madison.
“Is there anything I can do to...repay you...for saving my ass in geometry?”
We should go.
The only light is the crack from underneath the shut door, the sliver of yellow separating me from the rest of the world.
And then you say it. You say those words.
“The funny thing is, Madison...I don’t want to go.”
No. The funny thing is, I never had a choice. You made my choice for me. The funny thing is, it’s not funny at all.