Debut – Alex Tronson
June 2, 2021
We turned up the television and waited. We’d been waiting all afternoon for this, my television debut, which for the last hour the network was teasing between ad breaks. “Up next,” the anchors kept saying, “living statue attacks children’s mascot in times square!” The rest of the bar’s patrons, which weren’t many, crowded around me and gave me cash and bought me cold drinks. These drinks were a blessing because buying them myself would eat up my unemployment.
Each time my blurry face appeared during the onscreen teaser these people whooped and hollered and pounded my shoulders. I felt like they were some of the best friends I ever had.
The bartender, a man we all called Iceman, was asking, “Why’d you fight that big chicken anyway?”
“It was Big Bird,” I told him. “The guy was dressed as Big Bird.”
When I said this my friends erupted into laughter. They pounded on me some more and everything was good. There’s a real sexy feeling being worshipped by drunks. There’s a giddy delight to it.
“Enough about the birds,” Iceman said. “Why’d you hit that guy?”
But my friends shushed him. It’s showtime, they told Iceman.
The news anchors were trying not to smile. They were shaking their heads and looking down at their notes. The camera cut and there was me and the eight-foot canary squaring off among a sea of bobbing tourists. I threw the first punch. Sent my fist right into the bird’s neck where I hoped his true head was. Within seconds, we had wrestled one another down to the pavement.
Big Bird had rolled me over, beating my ribs with his wings, but when I brought my knee up into his groin the fight was decided. And in the last few seconds of the shaky cell phone video, you could see me running off, parting the mesmerized onlookers like a kind of prophet.
In the bar, my friends were crazy for me. One of them climbed up onto a chair and pumped his fists. He was chanting, K.O.! K.O.! K.O.!
You’ve got quite the knee, another one said.
I finally understood award shows. To be alive and celebrated. I wanted to live in that moment forever. I was still in my living statue getup, all painted up in grey and bronze smears. I was my own living Oscar.
Much later, Iceman tapped my head, and I lifted my face off the walnut bar top. “Time to go home, slugger,” he said.
And later still, back at my stale apartment, I kicked off my shoes and collapsed down onto the carpet. A storm was hammering the windows and for a while in the dark, I was afraid the roof might cave. In Midtown, a crane toppled over and crushed a person into the sidewalk. I missed my friends. I was tiptoeing around the rim of a black hole.
The part of the video that wasn’t shown was how Big Bird made fun of me. How he looked down at me with those shiny plastic eyeballs and said, “There’s a reason nobody notices you.”
And how could you say that? Don’t you know how long it takes to put on my makeup?