I shouldn't complain about losing weight. Really, it's a good thing. I just don't fit myself at the moment, so it's kind of unsettling. A lot of things don't fit. I'm not entirely comfortable with the things that weigh on my mind. It's like having a tune you don't particularly like running around your head, like the Birdie Song or Agadoo. Why should I have to have a mind full of things I don't like? There should be nice things in there, like love, and flowers, and friendship and smiles. Instead, there can be frustration, jealousy, confusion, a sense of inadequacy, and loss. The loss of youth, innocence, times past and optimisms misplaced.
I don't like this year.
Still, today was the last day of the 3rd quarter of the year and it was time to try to draw a line under the tricky three quarters of a year that have preceded it. The line drawing didn't happen too literally, but there was some time with friends and lunch and jazz and news and strawberries. I had strawberries... no cream... just the strawberries - might as well at least pretend to have the healthy version of the roast lunch with dessert.
Pre-gig rev up involved playing cards, some games I either never knew, or barely knew. I certainly needed the rules teaching to me. It was fun. Fun is good.
All of a sudden, we were at the gig. The gig was very long and I was on very late. I had to watch the acts before me make the audience into who they would be when I got on stage, and shift my on-stage arrival time to when it would be when I got to go on. As always, I worried about material overlapping mine and I worried about the audience's mood and energy levels when I should hit the stage.
The pressure, coupled with the trials of the week preceding this gig, was getting to me. I took myself to the loo, looked myself in the mirror and sang "Smile". I did this part seriously, part forlornly, part sarcastically, and with a sense of the absurdity that surrounds singing to your own reflection in a pub toilet while there's a gig going on. I think I understood what I was trying to tell myself.
The compere introduced me. I went onstage. I got no response to my hello, so I countered with a joke, and the set proceeded from there. Lots of moments occurred that were off script and I had some genuine fun with the audience. For the duration of my 35 minutes or so with the audience, I was someone else. I was Ashley Frieze, the comedian. I wasn't the neurotic, small-spirited whimpering version of myself. I was a man using his cheer and wits to play with a crowd. That is what I wish I could be like more... it's an act I can put on... and it becomes real for the time it's on. I got to the point where I was genuinely laughing on stage.
If you were there and saw me laughing at any time other than during my spontaneous quiz, then I'm sorry to confess that they were scripted laughs - maybe once I did them for real, but now they're canned. The bit where my spontaneous quiz took a very old piece of material in a new direction, well, that did cause me to laugh, though it was the comedian part of me, laughing, rather than the inner core of me, which was, of course, hiding somewhere, hoping to be liked, but too frightened to speak.
Sorry - too much metaphoric self-analysis going on here and I'm not sure what use it could possibly be.
The good news is that my friends in the audience saw me do a good gig, which is better than having them attend a figurative funeral for me. I was pleased with that. If you can make your friends laugh then you've done something more than a comedian necessarily needs to do. If you can make an audience laugh and your friends are in it, then you have the best of both worlds.
I drove home with a dull ache in my soul - the post-gig come down is never easy.
I had survived the day and indeed the first three quarters of the year. Only three more goddamn hellish months to go. Bring them on!