The Mime – A Story from my Childhood

By Chef JDentLight

I’m not sure if anyone other than Doctor Patel is ever going to read this; hell, I don’t know if I’ll even ever read this after I finish getting it all out of my head and on paper. It’s been twenty-something years now and I was nine at the time, so I figure there’s about a one in ten shot the way I remember things is even how they happened. Even so, Doc says It’ll do a lot of good for me to confront all this, so I guess I’ll get on with it.

When I was a boy, I lived in Brooklyn with my mother. My loving father had been out of the picture since before I remembered so it was just the two of us in a small, one bedroom apartment. She worked in another part of the city, couldn’t tell you where to save my life, and my school was about half a mile from her job so everyday we’d take the subway to the stop right by her office and she’d walk me over to school before going to clock in.

Walking around New York, you see a lot of different things and people, most of which I probably didn’t fully appreciate at that age. Homeless people, businessmen, and every other kind of person you could imagine all sharing the same streets. Hell, that’s a kind of diversity you really just don’t see anywhere except one of those health class posters at the high school where I teach. Of all of the different types of people in New York though, some of the most interesting are the street performers.

Everyone’s seen the usual ones: the guy with a beat-up saxophone playing his heart out for a few quarters to get thrown into the case, the ones who make drums out of trash can lids and whatever else they can find, and even the asshole hippie playing an out of tune acoustic guitar. When my mother and I made our morning walks, though, we got to see one who really stood out.

Every morning, at the same street corner, there’d be a mime. Not like some guy just doing some bullshit interpretive dance either, like a real bona fide mime, down to the face paint and striped black-and-white shirt. He was always out there, no matter what the weather was like, and we always walked past him. My mother and I were in the same school & work routine for about two years, and for most of that time he just stood out in my mind as one of the few street performers who was any different from the rest.

He knew all the moves and seemed to be able to earn spare change from just about anyone who walked past. He would walk a very convincing invisible dog or put himself inside the box and really, truly make it seem like he was trapped inside an invisible container. Maybe a lot of it was just my young mind being easy to fool, but he always seemed to get more tips than the rest of the people who made a living on the sidewalk.

I enjoyed watching him as I was pulled past by my mother’s hand, but I don’t think I’d still remember him after all this time if he hadn’t changed his act a bit toward the end of our time in New York. It started very subtly; we’d be walking by, my eyes expectantly searching for the familiar black and white figure and then his stare would meet mine. He’d stop whatever invisible thing he was doing and start a new one just for me. At first, my naïve mind thought he just recognized me and was giving me a special show because he knew I liked him. Things started becoming more confusing as time went on, though. I remember pretty clearly one Tuesday morning, seeing him look at me without his normal smile, point right behind me, and continue to point with a somber expression even after I’d looked over my shoulder in confusion.

Things just got stranger from there. Every day he’d seem more intent on me, always dropping his ear-to-ear smile, staring at me, and acting out things that weren’t quite in the normal range of things you’d expect to see from a mime. He’d start out using both hands to make the standard invisible box, but then he’d pull his hands apart like he was opening a window and stare through it at me. He had several variations of this, sometimes breaking the window and reaching through to turn an imaginary doorknob or even climbing through, as if he was coming toward me on the other side. Even as an oblivious little kid, I knew something was wrong with these new changes to his routine. I told my mom that I was scared of the mime that we walked past and begged her to walk me a different way from now on. She wrote it off at first, and I can’t really blame her, looking back. A kid thinks a mime is going to kill him? Fat chance, but she was patient and I made a big enough deal out of the whole thing for her to give in and go an extra block out of the way so I could have some peace of mind.

Things were fine after that, the mime probably stayed in the same spot he always had, and I didn’t see him again. My mother was happy that I’d calmed down and forgotten about the crazy killer mime and I was young enough to carry on my day-to-day business without a care in the world.

About a month later, I woke up to my mother crying and the sounds of police radios in our apartment. The living room window was broken and there was yellow tape around it and all over the fire escape just outside of it. I asked what had happened, but the officer pulled me away and made me stand with him in the hallway outside. From what the officers told her, they got a call from a neighbor about a couple people breaking in and had arrested one of them after he attacked the other. All of the officers acted really strange about the whole thing, not quite sure what to think of what had happened. Apparently the man they’d arrested was dressed as a mime and had come in behind the first burglar. The one dressed like a mime had cut the tongue out of the other one’s mouth so that he couldn’t talk and had thrown him off of the fire escape. While he was trying to make his escape, without stealing anything mind you, he’d run into the police as they came to investigate and let them take him away without a fight.

I was young, scared shitless, and didn’t have a clue about what to think of all this. The police left, my mother hugged me and kissed me like she’d been worried sick, and she put me to bed. The next morning is probably my clearest memory of this whole story. I woke up later than usual, guessing my mom hadn’t gone to work and I didn’t have to go to school because of what had happened last night. As I was getting out of bed, I noticed a note sitting on my bedside table.

“I tried to warn you every day about this, but you stopped coming to see me. You should have listened when I talked to you.”

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