I was an arrogant little cuss once upon a time, but what child isn’t? Maybe I had something to prove, or perhaps I’d been born with two rebel genes instead of the normal one every teen inevitably activates. Either way, my default response to commands was, “Make me.”
Ask any 13-year-old punk (or more importantly their parents), and they’ve probably had a little taste of this as well. Well, I paid for it. . . dearly.
As class clown, I figured myself the funniest teen alive. Why didn’t I have a standup special on cable television yet, I’d constantly ponder. Was I really funny? To the casual observer, once in a while, I’d knock one out of the park. But in order to get those occasional grand slams, I had to constantly have the first word out of the gate. That’d come back to bite me.
On November 12, 2003 (yes, I remember the date), I was walking home with a burger and fries from Dewayne’s. It was cold, so I was walking fast as I could. About seven blocks from my home, I noticed a haggard woman in disheveled clothing sitting on a torn blanket. She had matted black and silver hair and a few nails covered in chipped red polish.
She’s probably homeless, I thought, and tried to walk by her without saying a word.
“Give me a fry,” she said suddenly, making me extra aware of her presence.
“Make me,” my mouth said, the usual response to a command.
She frowned and responded, “You know, most people would take pity on someone without a place to lay their head at night.”
“Sorry, fresh out of pity at the moment. Should have some more in stock by Thursday,” I said, proud of my usual “wit.”
The old woman scowled now, and I was past ready to leave. I wanted to eat every single one of my fries while they were still hot.
“You have a quick tongue,” the lady said.
“You know what else I have? Food whenever I want it,” I said, not realizing I was nailing my coffin shut with every word. And every word there on would be my undoing.
“That’s it, you little urchin. You like to talk fast trash? I’ve some words you can say.”
Now she grinned, revealing four missing teeth, and I didn’t know it, but she was getting ready to hit me with a doozie, a wallup, a real haymaker. I just stared into her glassy hazel eyes with a blank expression.
“People laugh at your words now, but after today, they’ll groan. You’ll talk for the rest of your days making stupid jokes and noting infinite possibilities of the double entendre. Your mind will forever more be slave to the paronomasia with no escape. Eternal eyerolls and ceaseless sighs. That is your fate,” she said.
I didn’t notice it at the time, but when she’d finished speaking, my brain had tilted 18 degrees starboard.
“That’s quite a curse,” I said.
“Was I being too cold?” she asked.
“You might say you sent a shiver down my spine,” I said, letting out a noise we’ll call a chortle. I stopped at once and stared at the old woman.
She was smiling even wider now.
“What just happened?”
“Did your mouth speak for you?” she asked.
“Boy ain’t that the tooth,” I said, slapping my knee. Then I stopped, horrified. I began to sweat. That wasn’t me. Something was controlling my words. She really did curse me!
“Make it stop!” I said.
“In the name of love?” she asked, her smirk wider than ever before.
“I was thinking more hammer-” I placed a hand over my mouth.
Then I felt a pressure building in my head. The pain was intense, like firecrackers were detonating in every single brain cell.
“You have no choice. Either say the word, or feel your mind melt,” she said, crossing her arms.
With a frustrated groan, I shouted, “Hammertime! Also known as Thor’s favorite song. Ugh! Fix this. Fix it now! I’ll give you all my fries!”
She turned and picked up a little duffle bag that was underneath her.
“No, I’m afraid you’ve done it. This is your lot now because you treated me so terribly,” the woman said, turning to leave.
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. There’s no way I could keep this up for the rest of my life. People would hate me. I was already starting to hate me!
“Oh come on. I’m sorry! I was stupid. I’ll buy you five bags of fries. Just tell me how to lift the curse. It’s true love’s kiss, right?”
The last thing she said to me before turning a corner was, “This isn’t a fairy tale with a happy ending, child. In your story there isn’t a magic fix. What you’ve learned and will continue to learn is some curses are forever.”
She walked into an alleyway, and when I turned the corner after her, she was gone. The alleyway was empty, and a chilly wind scattered some leaves between the dumpsters.
When I returned home, my father asked if he should buy me a map next time. I responded, “No need. I’m already a legend.”
He moaned, and that’s when the true weight of the situation hit me.
Some curses are forever, I thought, a tear falling down my right cheek.
And that’s how my life continued. When my boss asked why I was being so distant and cold, I told him I’m just not an ice person. When girlfriends suggested we see other people, I’d always ask which ones. At the tailor, staff would ask how long I wanted the cuffs, to which I’d respond, “At least as long as I have the pants.”
I’ve been asked variations of “What’s wrong with you?” all my life. People wouldn’t believe me if I told them. They’d simply want to be leavin’ me. People don’t like to talk to me, so I tried talking to doors, but they only appreciate knock knock jokes.
Every time I see a homeless person now, I make sure to offer them food, just in case one of them is the old lady in disguise, ready to lift my curse after determining I’ve learned my lesson. Sadly, the people I help never turn out to be her.
Some curses are forever.