Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Not Funny

“And the more we fought, the more irritated I was by certain aspects of his behaviour and his appearance.”

“For example?”

“Oh, I don’t know. Little things; stupid things.” I thought she didn’t want to elaborate. Maybe it was too personal, or too painful. But after a while she resumed. “Like the smell of his piss on the toilet floor.”

“Most men tend to splash,” I said. “Especially those with a foreskin.”

“I know. It’s revolting. And he expected me to clean up after him, with my bare hands.”

“Filthy bastard,” I said. From the hard look she gave me, she probably thought I was being flippant, so I hurried on. “It ties in with what you said about him having no respect. And his appearance? What irritated you about his appearance?”

“Well, he’s overweight, isn’t he? I never used to imagine I’d be with someone who was fat.”

“Mmm,” I said.

“And there was something about the back of his head,” she said.

“The back of his head? What was wrong with the back of his head, for Christ’s sake?”

“It was kind of flat,” she said. “It made him look like a moron.” Anger and tears came to her eyes. “That fucking bitch mother of his must have caused it when he was a baby.”

“What? How could …?”

“Don’t you know how soft a baby’s skull is? If you neglect a baby and leave it lying on its back too much, it can affect the eventual shape of its head. Haven’t you heard about that? Damn you! You think what I’ve been going through is funny? I knew I couldn’t …”

“No, please! I’m not laughing at you. Really. It’s the situation that I find absurd, and you know how I relish black comedy and the way absurdity allows us to cope with the tragic by making it comic. Talking about the shape of his head made me think of the Phrenologists. Heard of Phrenology? You watched Django Unchained? Remember that scene where the plantation owner produces the skull of one of his Negro slaves and starts pointing out the characteristics that prove – in inverted commas – that Africans are predisposed to certain qualities. Like subservience. Which means it’s all right to have Negro slaves. Total bullshit, of course. But in the nineteenth century this pseudo science was used to explain and justify all sorts of dubious practices. Your linking of the shape of his head to his mental capacity just struck me as …well … absurdly phrenological.”

“I know it’s all ridiculous,” she said. “But it’s too soon for me to find it funny.” And she started crying again.