By Daniel Barnhart
Monica is an up-and-coming disabled comedian. She is in her late 20s. She has multiple sclerosis. She uses a power chair to get around. She is on a ventilator. She has palsy in her face and has a constant resting bitch face. She’s tried for years to make it as a local comedian. She got the idea to have a 24-hour comedy set after a close girlfriend from college told her they couldn’t be friends anymore. Monica is bipolar so when this happened, the stress from losing her friend caused a manic episode. She told everybody she wanted to do a 24-hour comedy show in every major city. Today is the first night and the last night of the tour. When Monica comes down from the mania, she’ll realize what she has done, but tonight she is a superstar in her hometown bar.
On a good night, the bar holds about 500 people. It is always dark and dimly lit so this is the perfect place for Monica to do her set. Monica rolls her wheelchair on stage.
Monica yells to the crowd. “How are you guys doing tonight?”
It comes out as a gentle whisper and no one reacts. Monica pauses and looks at the crowd. The crowd claps to spare her feelings. She lets them clap for another minute while one of her assistants brings her a computer. The crowd starts talking among themselves as they wonder what is going on. Monica types on her computer. A female voice begins to speak, “Thanks for the round of applause, people. I could always count on drunk able-bodied men and women to applaud for me for doing absolutely nothing. How do you think I got through school? It wasn’t my intelligence. It was my resting bitch face. Can you imagine giving homework to someone who looks like your Catholic school teacher?”
Monica looks around. Half the crowd is laughing. The other half shows Monica just how terrifying a resting bitch face can be. Monica uses this to diffuse the situation. She tells another joke. “You guys remind me of my girlfriend the first night we made love. We were hot and heavy. She didn’t know where to put her hands because she was worried, she would yank the ventilator and kill me. I survived but didn’t orgasm. Look, I am a comedian. I’m going to say some pretty messed up shit. It’s your job as the audience to laugh. But I do have a confession to make. I have no idea if that last joke landed because I’ve never had sex before but I figured in 24 hours I had to have at least one sex joke. So, did I do a good job with the delivery?”
A man in the crowd yells, “You did!”
Another woman in the crowd yells, “I will have sex with you!”
“I’ll see you after the show,” says Monica. “But before we have sex, go easy on my, I have never seen porn in my life. Are you kidding me? My parents gave me a shot to stop my period. Shit, I don’t even masturbate. Can you imagine what they would do if they had to deal with me pleasuring myself? My parents would schedule an appointment for sterilization. No, the truth is I never had sex before because I would never be able to tell someone I truly was in love. There were women I wanted to tell but every time I would consider telling a friend I love them; I was worried that they would reject me. I had planned tonight to be a comedian but what I really need is for a group of people to listen to my story. I recently had a close friend from college end our friendship. I tried to turn my pain into a joke but the pain is just too real. What I’m about to say shocks most people. I was born a healthy baby. I could run and jump like a normal kid. They knew I had multiple sclerosis; they just thought it was a mild case. By the age of 10 that mild case became a severe case. The sleepovers stopped happening. Friends I had for years disappeared, turning their backs on me. When I would get up in the morning, I would be greeted by a team of nurses. The trauma of everything caused social anxiety, body dysmorphia, ADD and bipolar disorder. I felt alone until Jill entered my life.” Monica continued. “For the first time since the ventilator, I felt normal. Jill made me feel as though that life was worth living. Her zest for living would drag my sorry ass to the movies, Tractor supply, walks in the park and whatever else she was convinced we should do. This made me feel for the first time in a long time that I was finally seen for the young woman that I was. The thing that bonded the two of us together was the same force that pulled us apart. Jill and I were both sex deprived females. While talking about sex wouldn’t actually cause me blush, Jill would get turned on in a Tractor Supply just seeing blue overalls on a shirtless mannequin. I wish that was a joke, but Jill was a Mennonite. Mennonites rarely talk about sex outside of marriage and Jill was no different. She was expected to be someone’s wife. Quietly, suffering alone. And then she met Billy, the Pastor’s son. After Sunday School he was talking about the Stigmata and how the crucifixion was actually a sexual act, it was love at first sight.” Monica said sarcastically.
“Billy had a wild side but still considered himself Mennonite. He studied at Berkeley. It was at Berkeley where he learned about people like Ron Doss and Timothy Leary. He joined a group at Berkeley called Everything Is One. The group believes that God was everything. He went to India and studied at an Ashram. It was in India that he fell in love with nursing. He said at the Ashram, every day at 12 o’clock all the poor people would come and they were provided food. That experience led him down the path to become my nurse. We became fast friends. Years before he started dating Jill, Billy and I were at this very bar and we were both pretty drunk. I told him I was pretty sure I was gay, but I wanted to make sure I was so I asked him if he would kiss me. He did and I didn’t feel anything.
So, I was sure I was gay. I told Jill about it before they started dating. She seemed cool with it but I wasn’t really convinced. My suspicions would soon be proven correct. Now that they were a couple, I suggested we do things together as friends. A week ago, I called Jill on the phone and explained to her that my parents were going to a concert. It would be nice to have Billy there with us. Billy knows how to lay me on the bed and help me use the bedpan. Then Jill said, ‘if you are going to have Billy do that, let’s just make it the two of us.’ To Jill, a bedpan is an aphrodisiac that could turn any lesbian straight. I felt the conversation ended on a weird note. That feeling was confirmed the next day when she calls me and says, ‘You know Monica, I think we are going in different directions.’ And that is what led me here to the bar tonight confessing my problems. But the worst part is not the friendship ending.
The worst part is that I never got to tell her I loved her.”