Jonathan: A collage.

10 Mar

The mouth of Jonathan
Fortunate enough to have another group of Canadians this week, we all set out for Yankee Stadium last night. As the Yankees were playing Toronto, the courageous guys in my group stormed The Bronx wearing every conceivable size of maple leaf and flag and rag to tout their out-of-town disadvantageous loyalty. Taylor, in fact, looked like he had been run over by a truck load of Canadian bunting. We sat high up among the gods and drunks, the die-hard fans and The Bronx Boozehounds. A particularly obnoxious thirty-something ex-frat boy still living the dream, a fellow who decided it was unobjectionable if not sexy to take his shirt off despite the unsightly keg that had sprung from his belly button, sat directly behind Jonathan and me. Now I think Jonathan is a little person. There is no way a thirteen-year-old kid can make me laugh the way this kid has done for three days now. Jonathan is more cherubic than chubby, with stores of baby fat placed neatly around his cheeks and knees and piercing azure eyes and a quick and wicked, wicked mouth on him. It was never his intention to suffer the idiot behind us, who was by the third inning shouting obscenities and taking potshots at my Canadian-clad friends. After one final straw of a slur and slurried outburst directed our way, Jonathan, this imp, this Cupid, took an arrow from his quiver and shot back over his shoulder shouting both pointedly and somehow indiscriminately:

“I’m sorry. We can’t hear you over our free health care!”

That was over twenty hours ago. The convulsions from this chronic laughter are starting to become painful.

More Jonathan
There’s a girl in the group I’ll call Molly, who lost one ear to a fire, bless her. We were most of us sitting on the steps of St. Patrick’s as the rest came back from shopping along Fifth Avenue, and Cody pulled earrings out of one of his bags, bling he had bought for his girlfriend back home and almost immediately he dropped them on the sidewalk and this kid named Blake promptly stepped on them, breaking one. Cody yelled “Shit!” and within .001 seconds, Jonathan whispered to me, flatly, effortlessly:

“Give it to Molly.”

Did I mention Jonathan is 13? I think I’m going to keep him.

The truth of Jonathan
At NBC Studios, my group of Canadians was split up into two, having to share their tours with bratty, entitled kids from California. The NBC Page who gave the tour Jonathan and I were on ignored us almost entirely and deferred to the Americans, letting them sit in the anchor chair and try their hand at the green-screen weather report, failing at both dismally, I might add. The guide kept saying he “would speak slower for the Canadians,” made some crack about football I didn’t even understand, and went on to extoll the virtues of the American talent pool that made NBC possible. It was at this point that Jonathan threw his hand up like a sassy black woman and said, dripping with sarcasm, “Umm, excuse me, BEN was it? Just have a quick turn around.”

On the wall was a HUGE photograph of Justin Beiber and Lorne Michaels. Both Canadians.

Jonathan, dipped in chocolate and wrapped in a dollar bill
Although I’ve taken the Zephyr boat tour more times than I can count anymore, it is an hour where I can find a spot alone, on the lovely sea, me and my thoughts or my Kindle, while some bumblehead upstairs entertains my group. Today’s tour guide was particularly smarmy, rather large, and one of the NYC guides who feels compelled to wear a costume (his was a tam and a striped shirt as though he were a reject from the French Fleet that is in town) while he dispensed his over-rehearsed and re-hashed jokes. Granted, my material needs an overhaul, but this guy was bombing badly. So of course, Jonathan found me, rolled his eyes back into his head beyond his ankles, and asked, “How many french fries would it take to shut this guy up?”

You might think I may have become used to the mind of Jonathan by now. Not so. As we disembarked the ship, passing the schlump of a guide who was now shamelessly waving a tip jug in front of us, Jonathan, who has a way of speaking to you, but beyond you at the same time by averting his gaze at the very split second you might have thought he was sincere, produced a dollar bill and let it float into the jug with these parting words to its recipient:

THAT. (pause.) Was better than a Gwen Stefani concert.

Jonathan, in the end
Somehow I made it to the shower at 5:30 AM this morning although I have very little recollection of doing so. I do remember reaching down for the shampoo bottle and thinking this would be my very last gesture on earth, so tired was I. I secretly cursed the Canadian kids who were leaving on an early flight and whom I had to escort to LaGuardia. And then I boarded their motor coach. And they were crying. They were crying because they didn’t want to leave. And I secretly cursed myself for ever having a momentary ill thought about these kids.

As the mood was rather maudlin and I didn’t have anything left to say up front on the microphone, I went back and found an empty seat behind Jonathan, of course. We gossiped, I asked him a million questions. There’s a rumor going around that so-and-so, he whispered to me, fucked a raccoon. “If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?” I asked him. “Iceberg lettuce and fruit punch,” he answered. “So, do you have any pets, Jonathan?”

“I’m allergic to everything on Planet Earth.”

We laughed and giggled until the conversation waned. Our imminent parting seemed to weigh heavily on both our hearts. Then he threw his head over the top of his chair and looked at me with his bright blue eyes and little chubby face and said, “Why don’t you come back to Canada with us?”

“Someday, Jonathan,” I said, and choked back something like sadness.

We were both now silently looking out of the window in Astoria, and must have seen it at exactly the same time, because we both burst out laughing simultaneously. My laugh is kind of high and hyena-like, sometimes breathless when I am consumed. Jonathan’s laugh is utterly infectious. It seems to start in his feet. It is hoarse and adenoidal, and crescendos as if it is taking over his little body, as though he were seized with it and it might kill him. He laughs out of his fingertips and eyelashes. I would bottle it could I as the most effective alternative to the disappointing SSRIs in my life. Here we were engaged in our particular brands of laughter, uncontrollable, both desperate to get out the punch-line we were working on in our heads but thwarted by the gut-chuckles we couldn’t subdue over the sign on the building to our right which read in six-foot letters, “BUTTS Real Estate.”

And, like every other time this week, Jonathan beat me to the punch:

“How’d you like to buy some property in my asshole?”

****

Jonathan is gone now, and on the N train home I missed him so much that I couldn’t trust my emotion. Was I weepy because I felt like I lost a limb or was I just exhausted? On the opposite wall of the train was one of those failed and stupid “Judgement Day May 21st!” advertisements and I felt a measure of disgust at the cruelty of the world until we hit a curve and a beautiful beam of sunlight fell on that funny failed prediction on this beautiful yellow sunlit morning and I thought:

“Hmmm. Excellent and fair.”

Post script
By the way, Jonathan later topped himself with:

“BUTTS Real Estate, We specialize in Log Cabins.”

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