Saturday, September 10, 2016

If It Weren't For My Horse

There should be a word for what happens to your brain when you overhear a stranger say something so incomprehensible that it lodges in there, like a sliver of dumbness you can't extract.

You and this person pass each other on your way through your lives, they drop an enigmatic nugget on you and keep right on going, and then you think of that person. Like, forever.

About 16 years ago, Lewis Black did a joke about this very mind-boggler. I looked it up so that I could get it exactly right for you.
Behind me, I heard a young woman of 25 say,
"If it weren’t for my horse, I wouldn’t have spent that year in college." ...
Don't think about that too long, or BLOOD will shoot out your NOSE! - Lewis Black (The White Album, 2000)
Happened to me two weeks ago. Still thinking about this lady. How long will I be thinking about this lady. It does not bode well -- if, 16 years later I'm still thinking about Mr. Black's "If it weren't for my horse" lady, I bet I'm going to be thinking about my lady until we're all dead. Maybe a couple of years after that.

I was at a bus stop, about four o'clock in the afternoon. It was packed, and growing more so every minute. Everybody waiting for a bus that never comes, hi, welcome to the MBTA. I was doing what I usually do in this situation, which is ignore everyone and pretend I am alone.

Out of the throng of cell phones and backpacks floating around my peripheral vision as I gazed intently at nothing, I began to become aware of one woman's voice, far off. It was not a good voice. It was thick and shrill. A bray, really, or a mewling bark. It didn't improve with proximity, and she was getting closer, and as she got closer I could make out the words. I'm using syntax to convey the Boston accent.




Then I realized, in between this odd bellowing, I was hearing another person, but not talking -- a man was coughing.

It sounded kind of bad, actually. I've had it all -- pneumonia, bronchitis, post-nasal drip, hay fever, the flu -- I dunno what he's got, but this dude had a cough that should be back at home, under a blanket, doused in some NyQuil and a hot mug of tea. This guy was getting on a city bus. Great.

I moved as far away as I could get and still be able to see the bus coming. I could no longer hear him cough, but I sure could hear this crazy yelling. What the f....what is going on? I had to look. And this is what I saw. A couple. The man looking like death in a T-shirt, and every time he coughed, this astonishingly loud woman yelled at him.


Their bus was 42 minutes late. The entire time, he coughed, and she yelled at him. It's all I heard the whole time. Stop, you're fine, you're fine, stop coughing, stop, stop coughing, stop, you're fine. She and Typhoid Gary got on a bus, finally, leaving me with questions. So many questions.

What's her deal?
Is she a nutjob?
Is he sick?
How long has he had this cough?
IS he fine?
CAN he stop coughing on command?
If he can't, why doesn't he tell her to go fuck herself and go see a goddamn doctor before he dies?

If it weren't for my horse...