My Relationship with Mindy Had This Weird Correspondence to the American Civil War, Part II

Chancellorsville

It was still bugging me when I got home. As I sat on my couch watching TV, my eyes were drawn again and again to the place where Mindy had sat, to what I imagined were the faint tracings of the former stain. One minute I was sure I could see the outline of it — the next I was sure my brain was playing tricks on me.

I suppose I began to brood.

Now, it used to be when people got a thought stuck in their head, it had to really gnaw at them before they would act on it. This is because acting on things used to mean getting up off the couch. Before, oh, say 1993, if you wondered in passing, “Gee, what are the original Portuguese lyrics to The Girl from Ipanima?” or, “What’s Carlton Fisk’s lifetime batting average?” or even, “What would a midget in a tutu look like, anyway?” you at least had to go to the effort of walking down to your local library (and at most you had to track down a midget). But now, all you have to do is type it into Google and bam, there it is.

So, that night, I Googled around for Mindy a while — and isn’t it just a strange moment when you do that for someone you know? Someone who isn’t a celebrity or anything? Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but it seems like cheating somehow. Like going through a woman’s purse when she gets up to use the bathroom. All these things you can know about a person without having to get to know a person.

Donna’s Facebook page got me Mindy’s full name, Mindy Chancellor. She was an editor for the same media company Donna worked with, and she had graduated from U-Mass with a degree in communications in ’97, making her a few years younger than me. (Seriously, a communications major? Pfft.)

She didn’t blog and she didn’t Twitter — at least not under her own name. I found a few articles on wastewater management she’d written for work. They were the kind of things that would make your eyeballs glaze over, even if you were some sort of total wastewater management geek.

The only other local reference I could find to a Mindy Chancellor was in two separate lists of contestants at open mic nights sponsored by second-tier comedy clubs. Could that be right? I mean, she seemed sarcastic as hell, but that was worlds away from being funny. I tried to imagine her up in front of an audience, talking about airplane food or whatever comedians talked about these days. I just couldn’t.

I guess it was that block there, my inability to picture her doing such a thing, which made me check the clubs’ websites for their next open mic nights. So, when I saw that a place called Goofballs was having one on Thursday… Well, I suppose I talked myself into going.

Comedy clubs are like strip clubs or baseball games; you feel really weird going to one all by yourself. So I talked my buddy Dave into going with me. Dave weighs a shade under 300 pounds, drinks like a fish, smokes like a chimney, and is cheerfully lacking any moral compass. As we pulled up he noticed the sign saying: Thursday Open Mic — Two Drink Minimum.

“So you’re friends with someone performing tonight?” Dave asked as I parked the car.

“Not exactly,” I said.

“Man, lending moral support is the only reason to go to any kind of open mic night, be it comedy, poetry, or acoustic guitar. If you need some cheap laughs, we can go hang at Maxie’s and buy shots for the underage kids until they piss themselves.”

So, as we got our tickets and took our seats, I was forced to explain who Mindy was and how I knew her. Dave got a big kick out of her drinking me under the table.

“That sounds just like that night at the Elm & Oak when you were so determined to join the Century Club,” Dave said. The Century Club is drinking 100 shots of beer in 100 minutes. It’s about five or six beers in a little more than an hour and a half — which is doable for me — but unfortunately you already have to be kind of drunk (which I was) before joining the Century Club seems like a good idea.

We got the first of our minimal drinks, the lights went down, and after a quick intro the opening act started up. He was terrible. His material wasn’t funny, his timing was off, and he just seemed really uncomfortable up on stage. Dave and I were feeling sorry for the guy before it was over. If the audience had been drunker or meaner, he would have been booed off.

The next guy just couldn’t get the audience back and didn’t seem to be trying. By the end of it, most of the people were talking to each other instead of listening to him, and he exited to a weak sprinkling of polite applause.

I tuned out for a while, got a couple more drinks, talked with Dave about his recent trip to Costa Rica. Then laughter from the tables near the front drew my attention. There was a woman up on stage, and at first I didn’t recognize her because she was wearing a gigantic, frizzy blond wig.

But it was Mindy. Mindy in a housedress like something you would see at a Mormon bake sale. On her face she had gigantic plastic-rimmed glasses that kept slipping to the end of her nose. On her feet she had the ugliest pair of clogs I’ve ever seen. And one of her stockings was in a bunch near her ankle. She was talking rapidly in a high-pitched, nasal whine that sounded nothing like her.

And she was killing. Her whole act was this nebbish (is there a female form of the word “nebbish”?) persona, and how this character failed to understand how completely awful her life was.

“Things are going great at work! I mean, when they fired Cindy, instead of hiring a replacement, they gave me her job instead. Well, I mean, I kept my old job… That is, I still do all the work of my old job along with all the new stuff. But hey, now I’m a senior assistant accounts coordinating specialist! Can’t beat that!”

And later, “Walter is the best boyfriend I’ve ever had. He’s an investment genius. In the past month alone he’s bought nearly $800 worth of stock for me in a company called Hustler Entertainment. I mean, I wish he hadn’t been putting it on my credit card, ’cause now the Visa people are way confused. I guess my stock certificates are all on DVDs, for some reason. But Walter says that’s the best way to keep them.” She gave the audience a knowing nod, leaning closer to the microphone to confide, “They’re encrypted.”

The way she stressed that last word, en-cryp-ted, had Dave howling.

It just got more wretched — and funnier — as she went on. Her best friend making out with her boyfriend at her own birthday party. Her indifferent mother. Her abusive father. Just something about how hopelessly in denial she was made it okay to laugh and laugh and laugh. She got a huge round of applause when she finished her set.

“Was that her?” Dave asked? “That was her, wasn’t it? She was great.”

I just nodded in agreement.

About midway through the next act, I turned to Dave and said, “Okay, you about ready to hit the road?”

Dave raised an eyebrow at me. “What, you don’t want to stay after and say hello to this Mindy girl?”

“Well, she kind of despises me,” I said, “and I pretty much can’t stand her.”

“Then why come out to see her act?”

“Comedy seemed so out of character for her. I mean, you wouldn’t pay money just to see a bear, but a bear riding a unicycle, that’s—”

“Yeah, I’m calling bullshit on that,” Dave said, cutting me off. “You’ve got a thing for her, don’t you?”

“What? Wait, no, I don’t have—”

“Sure you do,” he said. “I’ve seen this before. This is the patented Mike Sheridan ‘ignore the woman until she falls desperately in love with you’ approach. You know. The one that never works?”

“Listen—”

I started to say something in my defense, but before I could our waitress came up and set a glass of wine in front of me. “It’s from the lady at the bar,” the waitress said. “She says to be careful not to spill it.”

Dave and I both turned at the same time. There was Mindy, without the wig or glasses. She grinned, saluted with the beer in her left hand, and gave me the finger with her right. Then she went back to talking with some of the other performers at the bar.

“Hey,” Dave said, “she’s cute enough without her outfit on. Good for you.” And he gave me a chuck on the shoulder.

“Dave,” I said, turning back, “Have you not been paying attention? Did you not just see the obscene gesture?”

“Have you not seen the drink she bought you?”

“She’s just needling me over the couch thing. It’s a joke at my expense,” I said.

“Maybe so,” he said, “but this is still the best results I’ve ever seen come out of the ‘ignore the woman’ approach. Honestly, compared to blind indifference, being despised is a 100 percent improvement.”

I put up a few lame words of protest that Dave waved off. We watched some more of the comedy. We had another couple of drinks, and we bought Mindy a drink at the bar before we left (which earned me another wave, and another finger). We even said goodnight to her on the way out, though we didn’t stop to talk. She had a pretty good crowd around her by that point anyway.

Later, as I was dropping him off at home, Dave turned to me and said, “You should ask her out.”

“But we can’t stand each other,” I said. 

“Most couples end their relationships not able to stand each other. This way, you’ll have it right out there in the open on day one.”

“That makes no sense.”

“When did any man with any woman ever make sense?” Dave said.  “If not for the biological imperative, by now the different genders would have each chosen a hemisphere and drawn a big fluorescent-yellow line down the middle of the planet.”

“What would happen to all the gay people?”

“We’ll always need ambassadors to the other side of the world,” Dave said as he got out of the car. He waved goodnight and went in as I drove off. Thinking.

I had gone to the club expecting… what? A window into the workings of Mindy’s brain? Maybe to pick up some ammunition to save away for a later conflict? Was I expecting to see her fail? Instead, somehow, Mindy had managed to split herself in two — in three, if you count the workplace-Mindy who was Donna’s friend. Now, thanks in part to Dave, I had more questions than when I started.

Next in Part 3: Gettysburg

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