One of the comedians I started with, we'll call him King Charisma, has a booming star quality. This quality has been put to good use; King Charisma has been on television for several years.
Recently we saw each other for the first time in half a decade. He was back in NY, so we went out to reconquer some of his old haunts.
We visited two comedy clubs. When we stepped into the first one, King Charisma got the kind of welcome usually reserved for Santa Claus upon entering an orphanage. Everyone in this place hopped to their feet at the sight of him. Waitresses, hostesses, other comedians...even the manager (no one hates comedians more than managers) rushed to greet him. The greetings ranged from flirtation to awe to strange, older male sentimantality. Something for everyone.
I have known King for a long time, have seen him light up many rooms and have watched myriad people gaze up at him adoringly. But this display was beyond even what I was accustomed to. These people were reacting to King Charisma like he was James Bond. Not like he was Sean Connery; Sean Connery is a mere actor. I mean like James Bond the film character...the whole thing felt so exaggerated it seemed to be out of a summer blockbuster.
I was standing beside the King as this all happened. But instead of getting some of the run off from the starpower he was brandishing, at least three people looked at me, then turned back to King and said disdainfully, "What's with your friend?"
I wasn't doing anything wrong. I wasn't doing anything at all. I was just standing and observing.
We went to a second comedy club, one more drab and threadbare than the first. Somehow King Charisma managed to bring its deadened occupants to life. They didn't seem to notice me. At one point the bartender's wife popped in with a friend of hers. The bartender's wife remembered King Charisma and bopped over to bow to him. As soon as she and her friend noticed me, they kept the tradition alive by saying, "What's with your friend?"
I have heard this spiel many times from many people. Many nights I have listened to people who just met me make point blank comments about my evidently unfortunate presence. Many nights I have listened to people who don't know me share their theories about what must have happened in my life to turn me into such an unfortunate presence. I used to become incensed. Now I am starting to see it their way.
When I met King Charisma, he was in his late twenties, so I attributed his ability to inspire giddiness to his being a suave, seasoned guy with good looks. At that point I was in my late teens, so I figured this was standard fare. I did not grasp how much firepower he had or how uncommon he truly is. The guy is now in his forties, and still ignites that type of reaction. It occured to me that night that no matter what King does, he will always have a booming star quality. He will be the most charismatic bingo player in his nursing home.
Something I didn't understand when I met King Charisma but certainly understand now is that magnetism works both ways. I am the other side of the magnetism coin. I don't know why I didn't notice it sooner. No matter what I do in life or where I go, I will still be unequivocally repellant. There is something about me that is indefinably off-putting (or maybe it is perfectly definable). If this wasn't so, I wouldn't have spent my life answering queries about what is "with me."
My friend will always be a comet. As for me...well, the universe also needs wormholes.