On the Road Part Two: I Have a Crush on the Headliner and Act a Fool in Little Rock

Let’s just get this out in the open: I am a very cool person. And I’m not saying I’m cool like I get along well with other people. I’m saying I’m cool like I’m very awesome all the time. I mean, just look at this picture the multi-talented Adair Fincher took of me:

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Being awesome as usual

Check out how the coolness just radiates from me. I’m all like, “Fuck yeah, I’m holding a cup. You got a problem with that?” I’m pretty much the epitome of kickass.

At least that’s what I pretend to think about myself. Because no matter how collected or self-assured or confident I may come off to people around me, inside, I am a nerd to the core. And when I’m around Kevin Bozeman, the headliner I opened for back in May at the Little Rock Loony Bin, something about him makes me turn into this girl:

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Me as a nerd

That’s right, Kevin Bozeman makes me feel like an awkward and under-confident sixth grader with a retainer.

And here’s the story of why.

***

It’s Wednesday night in Little Rock, and I’ve just finished hosting the show. The open mic comics and the club’s staff gather outside on the balcony to smoke and talk. I’m leaning over the rail, staring out into the parking lot.

Someone leans on the rail next to me, and I turn to see the headliner, Kevin Bozeman. Kevin reminds me of one of the cool kids in high school. He’s wearing a baseball cap with his initials on the front, something few people I’ve met can get away with wearing. I mean, how cool do you have to be to wear articles of clothing with your own initials monogrammed into them?

To lean on the railing is much harder for Bozeman than for me because he’s 6’5.” In addition to being tall, Kevin’s a pretty good-looking guy. He has a nice smile, big brown eyes, and a very nice build (oops, I meant “ass”). On top of that, throughout the course of the week, he claims several times to anyone who will listen that he has a gigantic cock, so I guess he has that going for him, too, though I’m a little skeptical.

Now, as a woman working to be a professional comedian, I try not to notice these things. My basic theory of comedy up to this point has been that I need to be as asexual as possible in order to make people laugh. I only wear t-shirts and sneakers onstage, and I sorta bank on that “cool girl next door,” vibe. I’m the girl that you call when you’re starting a football game down the street, not so much the girl you try to kiss behind the bleachers.

I turn to Bozeman. “You were funny tonight. You’re always funny. I’ve seen you in Oklahoma City.”

I’m not just saying that. Kevin really is funny. He’s the kind of person who’s best when he interacts with drunk southern audience members. I’ve seen him tell jokes, and he’s good at that, too, but he makes me laugh hardest when he’s just fucking around. The last time he came through Oklahoma City, he spent a good portion of his set ridiculing a fake-tittied young blond and her mid-life crisis old man partner. It was one of my favorite things ever.

“Oh yeah? Did I talk to you in OKC?”

“Nah, I just told you I liked your show. I was up there doing the open mic.”

“How’s the open mic there?” he asks.

“It’s really good. It’s different than here. I mean, we don’t have a Buck Knuckles.” Earlier, when the door guy had handed me a list of open mic comic names, I thought he was fucking with me. Over the course of the night, I had introduced a Buck Knuckles, a Great Randino, and a title I can’t quite remember, but along the lines of Mr. Squirrel Nut Licker.

“Yeah, for some reason, a lot of black comics don’t use their real names on stage,” Bozeman says.

“Wait a minute. How do you know that’s not his real name?”

Bozeman sighs and gives me a look like, “What the hell is wrong with you?,” a look I will come to know very well by the end of the week. “You think someone named their kid Butt Knuckles?”

I crack up laughing. “Buck Knuckles. Not Butt Knuckles!”

“Does it make a difference?”

“I guess not,” I say, but to this day, the thought of someone named “Butt Knuckles” still makes me giggle.

***

Thursday night in Little Rock brings us a small but decent crowd and only one show. I’m finishing off a bottle of water when Kevin asks, “What do you drink?”

“I don’t really have a drink anymore,” I say. “I used to drink gin, but the last time I drank it, I ended up puking Caesar salad all over myself in my sleep.” I’d like to stop those words before they reach his ears, but I haven’t yet figured out how to enact that super power.

Bozeman cringes. “Okay, so what can you drink?”

“I don’t know. Whiskey?”

He steps away, and a few minutes later, reappears with two large shots of Crown. I hadn’t planned on putting on my drinking hat, mostly because I’m an extreme person, and I have no “medium” button—I’m either stone sober, or a walking tragedy. Then again, I’m bored and ready for an adventure. I get a beer as a chaser and take the shot like a man.

Roughly five shots and six beers later, it’s midnight, I’m wasted, and Kevin has convinced me to go to a bar with him. Nobody else wants to come, or maybe we didn’t ask anyone else. Whatever the reason, Kevin stands by and waits impatiently while I smoke a fatty with some kind and nameless people on the balcony outside the Loony Bin, and then we walk back to the condo to get my car, which he has volunteered to drive so that we don’t die on the way there. Incidentally, that’s the exact last thing I can clearly remember about the night.

***

I wake up in my bed with banana chips scattered on the front of my shirt, and Bozeman pounding on my door. “I’m hungry!” he yells.

I feel like there’s probably a reason he’s telling me this. I get ready in 10 minutes and stand in the kitchen staring at him. “Where are we going?”

“I have to call that guy,” he says.

“What guy?”

“Are you serious? You don’t remember?”

On the way to the Texas Roadhouse, Kevin fills me in on what I don’t remember from the night before. While playing trivia at the bar, we meet a guy named Chad. I shake his hand as people in polite society should, and then Kevin and Chad end up in some kind of an exchange of goods. Kevin will get Chad free passes for the weekend show at the Loony Bin, and Chad will give us a free lunch at the restaurant he manages. Simple enough.

Except that, the entire time Kevin and Chad are conversing, I am obsessed with shaking Chad’s hand. Every time Chad emphatically gestures to make a point, I reach out, grab his hand and shake it like we just met. I do this, I don’t know, somewhere around 5-10 times. At one point, Kevin says, I try to shake Chad’s hand, and he moves it, so I grab at the air, a defeated look on my face. “It was the funniest thing ever.”

“Oh man.” I’m more than a little embarrassed. “I don’t know why I would do that. Maybe he had really nice hands?”

We get to the restaurant around noon, and they open it just for us; it normally doesn’t open until after 4. Chad comes in and shakes our hands, mine for the 20th time, and I don’t recognize him at all, not even a glimmer of a feeling of familiarity. His hands are sub par, at best. Nothing to get all wet over.

Chad is preparing prime rib for us. I don’t eat meat. For a minute, I try a weak attempt at a protest, but then I just give up. For three years, I haven’t eaten meat, and rather than get into an awkward ten-second conversation or turn down free food, I elect to throw that principle right out the window. Fuck it, I’m in Little Rock. I can do what I want. I can eat prime rib. I can even get blackout drunk in a strange city with people I just met.

On the way home, my stomach is literally convulsing because it has no idea what to do with what I just haphazardly forked inside of me. “I’m so full,” I say.

“Be careful,” Kevin says. “You don’t want to puke salad all over yourself why you’re asleep.”

“Yeah, that was a weird thing to tell you. I don’t know why I told you that.”

“Maybe you just feel like you can tell me things,” he says. “You know what else you told me? You kept saying, ‘I wanna be treated like a guy!’”

I shake my head. “Sounds like something I’d say.”

***

Friday night after the first show Kevin walks up to me with two shots of whiskey, and I start shaking my head. “Oh no. My stomach hurts.”

“Oh, I’m so sorry,” he says with mock concern, and of course, I end up taking the shot. Clearly, I have no willpower. I mean, my stomach hurts in the first place because I ate a giant piece of meat (insert random blow job joke here).

One of the waitresses, a skinny girl with frizzy blond hair—let’s call her Cathy—comes up to chat with us for a minute.

“I love your nigger joke,” she says. That’s what she leads with.

“Thank you,” Kevin says.

Cathy goes on. “I just don’t see what the big deal is,” she says. “I have plenty of black friends, and I call them nigger all the time.”

Kevin nods. “Oh yeah?”

“Yeah, just the other day, I was walking behind one of my black friends, and she was moving slow, so I just said, ‘Get the fuck out my way, Nigger.’”

“You said that to her?” Kevin asks.

“Of course, why wouldn’t I?” Cathy says. “It’s just a word. Nigger, nigger, nigger.”

At this point, my jaw is open wide enough to fit a giant black cock inside of it. Kevin, on the other hand, takes a stoic sip of his drink and says, “You know what I think? I think you get off on saying the word ‘nigger’ to me because I’m black.”

And Cathy laughs and touches his shoulder because she knows he’s right, I assume, and they have a very pleasant conversation after that. I sit back in my chair and wonder what the fuck just happened. If someone had said that to me, I might’ve flipped the fuck out, but I admire how Kevin reacts, how he just calls it like he sees it.

***

Second show Friday night I watch Kevin’s set, and somewhere in the middle of it, I realize I haven’t stopped smiling for so long, my face hurts. I mean, I’m laughing when I’m supposed to laugh, but even between the laughs, I’m grinning like a retarded boy at a titty bar. It suddenly hits me: I have a huge crush on this guy.

The thing is, this never happens to me. I’m not one of those stupid girls that have crushes on random people. Plus, I’m supposed to be a professional here. I’m not supposed to have crushes on people that I work with.

Plus, I’m engaged. Yeah, there’s that, too.

I step outside the club to call my best friend Rockey because he always answers, and he never gets pissed when I call him in the middle of the night to spew weird nonsense at his ears.

“Hmmm,” he mumbles as a greeting.

“I’m a bad person,” I say.

Long, tortured sigh. “Why are you a bad person now?”

“It’s so stupid,” I say.

“What?”

“It’s terrible.” Dramatic pause. “I have a crush on the headliner.”

“A crush?” Rockey asks. “Are we talking like a schoolgirl crush, or like a washing your panties in the kitchen sink crush?”

“Um, I guess the first,” I say. “But can we revisit the second option? What the fuck is a washing your panties in the kitchen sink crush?”

He starts laughing. “That’s not a thing?”

“No, that’s not a thing at all.”

“Well, I’m tired,” he says. “I guess I was a little off on that one.”

“So you mean like, ‘I have a crush on you, so my pussy is leaking, so I’d better go wash these panties, but oh, wait, do you mind if I do it in the kitchen sink? I got a drainage problem in the bathroom.’ Is that what you’re thinking?”

“Okay, I get it, nobody washes their panties in the sink. Did you kiss him?”

“What?”

“The guy. Did you kiss him?”

“No, of course not.”

“Well then you’re fine,” he says. “Just don’t.”

“That’s your advice? Don’t kiss him?”

“Yeah. I’m going back to bed.”

“Well, make sure you get your panties out—”

Click.

***

When we get back to the condo after our last show on Saturday night, I reach into my pocket and pull out some trash that’s in there. It’s a fucking Band-aid. Without thinking, I turn to Kevin and say, “I just found a used Band-aid in my pocket.”

“That’s gross,” he says.

“I don’t why I told you that,” I say. “I could’ve just thrown it away, and you would’ve never known.”

We both plop down in the living room and watch T.V. even though it’s close to 3 a.m., and we have to get up and out by 7 to get him to the airport on time.

Out of nowhere, Kevin turns to me. “Are you gonna think of me the next time you rub one out?”

What?” I say, like a very offended and proper British woman. “I’m engaged.”

He shrugs. “I know. But you didn’t answer the question.”

I stand up in a huff. “I’m going to bed.”

As I start to walk down the hall toward my bedroom, I hear him singing like a 6th-grade boy at recess, “Le-ah has a crush on me.”

“Dick!” I yell, dropping the maturity level down one more notch. I change into my p.j.s, and when I think the coast is clear, I open my bedroom door and scoot down the hallway to the bathroom.

Kevin is in the kitchen, and he catches me. “Are you mad at me?”

“Hold on,” I say, and then I walk down the hall to my bedroom, take out the retainer I still have to wear at night, and place it on the dresser.

I walk back out to the kitchen. “I’m not mad at you. I just really do have a crush on you. And I know it’s the dumbest thing I could say right now, but there it is.”

He just stares at me, amused, so I head back to my bedroom, but when I go to close the door, he’s standing there. “Are you gonna lock your door?”

“Yes,” I say.

“You should.”

“Oh, I will.”

I close the door in his face. And even though I know he’s just fucking with me, I go to lock the door only to realize there is no lock for the lowly MC. Fuckin’ comedy hierarchy – I don’t even get a lock? I push my suitcase and backpack up against the door, as if that would serve as more than a minor inconvenience to anyone that might want to get in. I sit down on my bed, arms crossed, stare at my retainer on the dresser, and pout. I feel like such a stupid, stupid girl.

Actually, it’s kind of nice.

(c) Leah Kayajanian All rights reserved.

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