It’s ten-thirty on a Friday and Eugene Mirman is sixteen seconds late. There are three waitresses in this restaurant and fourteen water stains on the ceiling. One is dripping directly onto my head at a rate of nine drops per minute and the only way to divert myself from the obsessive counting compulsion that is ruining my life is to anthropomorphize the weather. So I look out the window. It seems that the sun and the rain are engaged in some sort of harrowing tickle fight. Then the moon emerges from the fog in a puff of haze, smiles down on me and says, “Your journalism degree was well-earned, Jared.”
Eugene enters the restaurant. A marbled notebook is cushioned in the pit of his arm like a baby bird in a nest. “Hello,” he says in a voice that can only be described by six contradictory adjectives and a mixed metaphor. I try not to stare at his crotch. I try.
“Hungry?” I ask.
“Sure,” he says.
He’s forty-one, and yet he’s already jaded. But at the same time he’s naïve, like all the young girls I chat with online. It’s almost as if he’s just a projection of everything I thought he would be back when I was spending long hours in my basement drawing DeviantArt of his tousled hair and big blue eyes, scratching my legs with a compass, bleeding everywhere, using the blood to colour in his propeller beanie.
“What are you hungry for?” I croak. I’m nervous.
He answers. I mean, I think he does. I can see his mouth move from the corner of my eye, and it’s like he’s speaking words, but I can’t understand them because I’m not listening. Instead I’m thinking about how to describe the sconces above the bar: sconce-like. Nailed it.
“What are you in the mood for?” he asks, his voice sweet and sticky like the maple syrup caught in my leg hairs.
He’s genuinely interested in what I want to eat. I can tell because he asked the question himself instead of opening dictionary.com on his phone, entering the question one word at a time, then hitting the corresponding audio pronunciation icons. Or else asking the question into his Yak Bak in Spanish, then having a Spanish-speaking person in the restaurant translate it back me. It’s these touches of kindness that make Eugene so “human-being.”
“So…..” I say. “What were you up to this morning?”
He says he was reading a book.
“No, a book,” he says.
I turn bright red. What a stupid worthless piece of garbage I am. I pick up the unbuttered knife and stab myself in the chest. “No,” he says, reacting to what I’m doing, “you don’t have to stab yourself.” I never expected him to be so nice, but then again, I never expected to earn a living brushing my hard-on against famous people’s legs as I lean over them in restaurant booths to scream at waitresses: “MORE APPLESAUCE PLEASE!”
Anyway he loves to read: books, pages, words. Literally anything.
“Are you going to ask me any questions?”
“Did you say something?”
I’m scanning the restaurant for more details, furiously writing down words like “ambient”, “ambiance” and “customers”, so I won’t forget later tonight when I’m writing my piece on my boss’s air mattress. “Sorry,” I tell him. “It’s important I pad this with lots of extraneous detail, as no one’s ever taught me how to interact with a person before.”
He squints his eyes. He squints inquisitively and meaningfully. For a second, gastronomically, then Blake Lively. Never trustingly yet forever gregariously. He squints in a way that can only mean he attended high school in Massachusetts; that I Googled him right before this interview.
I notice the couple sitting behind us is speaking Mandarin. I happen to know some Mandarin from my semester abroad in China Town, Ottawa. “I can buy twelve,” I say. “How much vegetables do I have?” Eugene seems genuinely surprised that I can interact so seamlessly with people of other cultures. Or maybe he was surprised that I interrupted their conversation, since the woman was crying uncontrollably. We’ll never know.
It’s thirteen minutes after eleven. I stand outside with Eugene while he waits for his ride. Searching for one last opportunity to impress the Sexiest Comic Alive, I overturn a garbage can and start playing the bongos. “Do you play any instruments?” I ask, stray trash whipping me in the face. Ugh! I get a mouth full of rotten banana.
I can’t remember his response, but I’m sure it was something adverb adjective.
Everybody check out OFF-JFL’s Hold On with Eugene Mirman, a new series from Audible wherein storytelling comics are “put on pause” and questioned by your host, Eugene. Shows are July 27th and 28th at Theatre La Chapelle!