Her father called her a fast talker, her grandmother thought she was snarky, and her mother told her not to be rude, but she was only being funny. Enlightening those heavy minds whose hearts were clouded with the cumbersome anomalies of daily life, Irene laid her nimble fingers down on the keyboard to write down the episode that had been formulating in her head. She hoped to manage at least a chortle out of the enervated ten to six working woman whose three inch heels strained her back, whose pencil skirt was too tight to let her dash through city streets, and whose shielded heart made bachelors think she was too independent to need a man in her life.
Irene sat hunched over the one desktop computer in the house. It was propped against the wall of the cramped bathroom-turned-office in her parents’ attic. They called it the “Computer Room,” because it served no other use. Irene hated computers, because somehow she always digressed from her work, as she went from writing a document to online shopping to a video of a cat that played the keyboard, but it was her only channel to the small fantasy she had of becoming a sitcom writer. It was under the username “FunnyGir1” (with a one) that she posted the numerous scripts of her show, “Writer’s Block,” about a single mother who must raise her two kids with the help of her critical mother, while working as a writer for the entertainment section of a newspaper. It was only writing though, for the faces, the bodies, the voices of the characters weren’t there, and it wasn’t real, just wishful thinking. But Irene needed it to transcend the boundaries of her monotonous life of stressing over her future education and clenching her heart over every failure.
Every joke she wrote, she would write with a smirk forming on her face, knowing fully well that a loud giggle would cause suspicion. She could hear the audience laugh, authentic or not, in the background when a character made an insult, and their chuckles were the pat on her back when she felt especially somber about the rainy day or the college application that lie blank in her desk drawer.
She tormented herself looking for the right one-liner that would strike one’s mind so quickly, there would be no time to restrain the laughter that would inevitably come. Those who read her scripts were critical television fanatics, but also mothers, the middle child, the solitary businesswoman, or the reverent teenager who was afraid to rebel. They needed to remember a snarky, rude, and funny line in the middle of the day and snicker to themselves, and Irene was there to give a dose of the ironies of the world of a single mother raising two kids with her querulous mother. They needed to laugh with the show’s caricatures of Middle America, just as she needed to revel in her lingering creativity.
“Are you ready to go?” her mother said slowly walking up the attic stairs with her bad knees.
“What? Where? You never told me anything.” Irene said, her eyes still glancing back and forth from the keyboard to the screen as she typed. Her mother was about to walk into the Computer Room. Irene quickly closed her computer window and opened the back-up window, which displayed her school’s website.
“I told you that we were going to Target,” her mother said. “Have you finished your college app? Do you know what you want to be yet, because I was talking to your aunt, and she says that you should really decide now.” She stroked Irene’s hair.
“I’m just a junior, there’s so much I want to do, I…I don’t know,” Irene leaned her head against her palm and looked up at her mother. She had just lied to her.
“Yeah of course, I’m not trying to pressure you, but do you have any major in mind? You can be whatever you want.” Now her mother just lied to her. “You could be a podiatrist, a pediatrician, an ophthalmologist, a neurosurgeon. Just do what you love.”
“Yeah, I think I should go into medicine, it’s like a calling, don’t you think?” Irene replied, smiling.
“Like I said, whatever you want.”
“What if I wanted to be a writer?”
“Yeah…a writer is a good career…what, what exactly do you mean when you say writer?”
“I know it’s one of those uncertain paths, but I wish I could write a show or a movie. Wouldn’t that be cool?”
“It is, but keep reality in mind. You still have time to plan, you’re just a junior.” Her mother made her way back down the stairs. Irene stared blankly at her school’s homepage. It was a derisory effort, she thought, to procrastinate and compromise her precious sleep to write an amateurish script for a nonexistent show. To parody the everyday teeny boppers who flipped their hair as if it kept them alive, the socialite who is infamous not famous, the political bigot who just made humor unavoidable, quelled her fears of academic failure that could possibly obliterate her highly scholastic reputation. As “FunnyGir1” she could ignore Irene’s conscience and save sitcoms’ reputation from the covetous hands of network executives whose only goal is to weasel a laugh and pocket the cash. As “FunnyGir1” she was unique, truly unique, not the euphemism for misfit as someone who hasn’t outlined her future.
Irene went back to writing her sitcom, but she had reached the most difficult point in her storyline. Beyond the one-liners and the gags, there was the heart of everything. The heart was found in sentimental moments shared by a father and his daughter, a husband and wife, or two drunken best friends, but in this case, a frenzied mother and her eccentric daughter. Sitcoms are not simply to amuse the desperately bored or distract a distressed soul, but to make the self-proclaimed misfits realize they are really facing typical impediments and to serve as the how-to guide to awkward, but normal, complications of the majority. People watched sitcoms because it was real and full of the same clichés that life unsympathetically threw at them, for life was not an action thriller for most or a soap opera, but a usual monotony with humor buried in the corner. For Irene, it elevated her above the worries of falling into a crowd that is not remembered. She was an individual as “FunnyGir1,” of significance to those who read her scripts: those who used them as a guide.
With a completed scene, she typed the last period, departed from the Computer Room, and scavenged her college application from under the pile of papers in her desk drawer. She stared at it, because she was not “FunnyGir1,” she was Irene, and Irene’s name would not be written atop the scripts, it would be written atop the college application, and it was there the humor and irony of her life would have to lie. She pushed her glasses up the bridge of her nose, tied her hair back into a bun, secured it with a pencil, and attempted to write her past to secure her future. Yet it was much easier to write the mishaps of imagined characters than of herself, and she found herself struggling with writer’s block for the first time.
Age 16, Grade 11
Stuyvesant High School