“Inspiration Porn Star” image of a white silhouette of a woman in a skater skirt and boots clutching a black microphone next to the cover design of Artificial Divide, all on a black background. In white letters, on top: Artificial Divide. A white cane with an orange stripe and a ball at the bottom slashes through the words from the top right to the bottom left of the image, replacing the last "i" of each of the title's words. Under the title, on the upper left hand side, is written "edited by Robert Kingett and Randy Lacey.” On the lower right hand side, is a pair of glasses, under which is written "With Stories by Eunice Cooper-Matchett - Anita Haas - Rebecca Blaevoet - Tessa Soderberg - Laurie Alice Eakes - Melissa Yuan-Innes - Jamieson Wolf - Ben Fulton - Felix Imonti - Niki White - M. Leona Godin - Ann Chiappetta - Lawrence Gunther - Heather Meares - Jameyanne Fuller."

“Inspiration Porn Star” * Fiction First Published in ‘Artificial Divide’

“Inspiration Porn Star” is a raucously dark, debauched, and ill-tempered short story about a blind comedian published last year in Artificial Divide. This anthology, edited by Robert Kingett and Randy Lacey, was a first-of-its-kind own-voices collection of fiction by blind and visually-impaired writers. Several friends also have stories in there, including Alice Eakes, who makes some memorable appearances in There Plant Eyes.

Artificial Divide is available in ebook, print, and audiobook—a few of us read our own stories, including me!

The editors prefaced the story  with a content warning: “Internalized ableism, mentions of suicidal ideation, mention of fatphobia, racism.” This last comes in the form of a joke told by a character that is not our main character. She’s got plenty of problems, but being a racist is not one of them. Speaking of offensive jokes, there’s a pretty wrong religious joke in here that may offend those of the Judeo-Christian persuasion. And, of course, there’s some strong language, too. That said, I’m awfully fond of this story and proud of its inclusion in Artificial Divide, so I hope you enjoy reading it…

Inspiration Porn Star

Fifteen years ago, before the fame, the fortune, and this backstage-bathroom cringing all began, I got paired with my first guide dog. My friends expected I’d make Magnum (when you go to guide dog school, you don’t get to name your dog) take me to the bar STAT, but what surprised everyone (including me) was how I began checking out the open-mic comedy scene of the Lower East Side. Although I’d always hated jokes—at least the kind Dad (may he rest in peace) used to torture us kids with of the “an Irish, a Jew, and a Chinese walked into a bar” variety—I thought I might try my hand at stand-up.

Not being able to see is just kind of naturally funny. Lots of laughs dealing with people who think you’re an alien from Planet Blind and the constant slapstick of bumping into stuff. Life as a pinball is hilarious if you look at it the right way.

I maybe pre-empted the guide dog thing a tad bit, but whatever. It was after an ugly breakup, and how could I find a new boyfriend if I couldn’t get to the bar? I could still see some, sure, but at night, my vision sucked. I needed my freedom, and I wasn’t about to start wagging a white cane around New York City.

Those early open mics were part exhilarating, part humiliating. The thousands of performances have run together over the years for sure, but I’ll never forget the first time Magnum and I stepped onto the little raised stage into the spotlight. I was emphatically not blind back then. I was visually impaired and pretty sensitive to bright lights. But I stared down the spot and earnestly delivered my not-too-funny monologue, which included some quasi-jokes about whacking people on the streets as I trotted past with Magnum’s harness handle in my left hand and my cellphone in my right, elbow sticking out. The punchline was something like, “Beware of blind girls bearing cellphones.”

That was back when cellphones were actually used as phones, before they started talking with electronic voices that made them accessible. Of course, back then, they were just phones with little tactile keypads. No problem. Until people started texting. My sighted friends—actually, all my friends are sighted—texted me and for like a year none of them realized I wasn’t texting back.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not looking for blind friends. One blind person in a room is a novelty, two’s discomforting, and three or more’s a circus. Not the fun kind.

Anyway, one day my boyfriend at the time was fiddling with my phone. He said, “Did you know there were all these texts in here?”

“Um, no,” I said. “How would I know that? Who’re they from?

“Like everyone. Oh, here’s one from me.”

All that’s different now. I can text like a champ with my talking smart phone with GPS that tells me where to go, and it reads books and all sorts of things that were really hard before. So, I’m not ashamed to say it: I love the electronic voice that chatters in my earbud constantly. Her factory name is Daniella. She’s got personality.

*

I didn’t get a whole lot of laughs from my early “comedic” monologues, but people were confused and intrigued. Fellow comedians encouraged me to keep going. I think they didn’t feel much competition with my act. I mean, I cornered the market on sex and blindness jokes, so they didn’t have to worry about me eating into their dick-joke territory.

Occasionally one of them would be inspired by my act to try their hand at a Helen Keller type joke, but it usually just made everyone feel uncomfortable and died, and I learned to just smile like a Cheshire cat and let it wash over me.

I started wearing sunglasses to help with the glare and fake eye contact. These were not clunky black wrap-around blind man glasses, but super cool and sexy silver steampunk shades that I used to my advantage.

I incorporated this bit into my act where I’d say, “Yes, I do have superpowers. Like, I can see all of you right now—right through your clothes. You’re all naked.” Then I’d turn my head to the first little sigh or nervous titter. Another would inevitably follow, and another. Each time I turned my head to the voice until there were too many to point at with my “stare that sees right through you” (as one notable reviewer would later put it). It didn’t always blow up into full laughter, but at least one person after my set would come up and say—sometimes with real anger—“You’re not blind!”

Eventually, I had a genuinely funny routine, including that gem that they would use in the vodka bubbly spiked seltzer commercial I was in years later: “I don’t feel like a blind person when I’m having sex. Unless I get mixed up with some freak. Some freaky-freak with a fetish for eye contact.”

*

I got to be a regular at this comedy showcase down on Ludlow that was popular. It was definitely not one of those pricey clubs in Midtown, but it was lively and crowded, and attracted folks in the biz. One night after my set, a male voice—part slick and smarmy, part serious and capable—said in my ear, “That was great. Do you have representation?”

Magnum and I stepped one step away from the voice and I said, “Representation?”

“Do you have an agent?”

“No,” I said, pulling a smoke out of my pocket, preparing to head outside.

“Here’s my card,” he said, flapping it under my fingers that were holding the cigarette, since my other hand was holding onto Magnum’s harness. I ignored it.

“I can’t read that, douchebag,” I said, making him feel small. “Give it to one of your own kind.”

That’s when one of my buddies, Mike (who had apparently been hovering), swooped in and said, “The man’s legit. Don’t be dumb, Maryann, give him your damn number.”

“My name’s Dan,” said the agent. “Can I buy you a beer?”

“Jameson on the rocks,” I said. And he buggered off to buy it.

I get nicer with a little booze in me, so we kept talking.

“I’m Lola’s agent,” he said. “You know her?”

“That lesbian Filipina who tells jokes about knives and vaginas and being the only female line cook in a four-star restaurant?” I said. “Sure, just heard her Comedy Central half-hour special.”

I was hooked. Dan had a predilection for offbeat talent, and so my “somewhat slutty, almost always drunken, angry blind chick schtick” was solidly in his wheelhouse. He found me a manager, Bill, and helped me move into headliner spots and then tours around the country. Nothing I’d known before had felt better than stand-up: small chuckles and titters swelling into full-body laughter that rolled up the rows of audience to swirl onstage with me like a blankie made entirely of love and admiration.

*

When Ron—Ronald Price, the heartthrob Marvel movie sidekick—came to one of my shows, we fell in love at first sight/first feel, respectively. I was making good money by then, and Ron was generous in the early days of our courtship. It sure was nice to have a car and driver twenty-four seven. Necessary, really, since I moved to LA to be with him, and there ain’t no public transportation for poor blind folks in Hollywood.

Then came the book deal, and I told Dan, my agent, and Bill, my manager, “Hell yeah! I’d love to write a book.”

Bill said, “Just tell your story the way you do, and the ghostwriter will do the rest.”

I said, “Ghostwriter?”

“Maryann,” Dan said, “you’re not a writer. Besides, celebrities always use ghostwriters.”

Bill said, “You just keep doing what you do best.”

Which was, I suppose, drinking, eating, having sex, and spending money. Things had gotten a little out of control by then. And to top it off, I’d lost a lot of vision during those first few years of success. Thanks to my progressive eye disease, I was no longer visually impaired. I was definitely blind.

*

This is the point in the show when I give a little backstory. The audience sighs internally when I say that I started life with “normal” vision. And they get a little teary eyed when I explain how the teachers called me stupid and insolent when I began stumbling over words while reading in class and not looking them in the eye because nobody knew I had an eye disease that rubbed out my central vision.

When Mom finally got Dad to cough up some money for an ophthalmologist, he didn’t see anything wrong with me, and told us, “Her eyes are growing too fast for her body,” and sent us home.

But when I ran into a wrought-iron tree protector one night, and Mom finally found a retinal specialist, I got a diagnosis that was basically, “The kid’s going blind.”

Sure enough, in the years that followed, the vision loss was slow and steady until one day I just couldn’t see anymore. ZAP. All gone. It’s like “Amazing Grace” in reverse: I once was sighted but now I’m blind.

I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised by how “my memoir” turned out, but I was. Still am. After all, I’m an edgy East Village chick. I’ll never understand how the writer managed to make such an inspirational story out of my life of debauchery. We had spent hours and hours drinking martinis—well, with me drinking martinis and telling him all my sexcapades on the road with other comedians and fans, and the stunts I pulled with help from guys. Like driving (blindly) through the narrow streets of New Orleans at four in the morning and climbing the rope of a Russian ship in a harbor, just because some dude told me it was dangling there and dared me.

He was practically peeing in his pants laughing, but none of that made it into the book. That damn “memoir” was so full of fantasy, it may as well have been written by G. R. R. Martin.

*

Besides the little issue of authenticity, my agent, my manager, and I hadn’t thought things through. I mean, how was I supposed to go on a book tour when I couldn’t read my damn book? And, no, I don’t know braille. Who has the time for that reading-with-fingers shit?

Finally, I hit on the idea of using Daniella, my electronic reader, as an audio prompter. I’ve been using a screen reader since I was a kid and got my first accessible computer, so it wasn’t much of a stretch to cut the lines of text short and read. A digital copy of my book was on my laptop, and I just scrolled down and repeated each line. They got me a voiceover coach and before you knew it, I was reading my “life story” like a pro.

Daniella’s passionless whispering in my ear was oddly comforting. Stand-up can be lonely as often as exciting. And book tours are not really so different. Lots of downtime sitting by oneself in sterile hotel rooms. Daniella was the only constant.

The audiences of Barnes & Noble from San Francisco to Syracuse laughed until they cried. More importantly, they bought the hell out of my book. Oprah and the daytime talk shows helped things along.

With all that mainstream attention, Bill began urging me to pull the stingers out of my routine.

“The bigger the audience,” he told me, “the more G-rated you need to be.”

“I suppose you want more ‘Isn’t blindness hilarious?’ jokes like when you mistake a can of dogfood for a can of no-bean chili and serve it up to your sweetheart, or when you reach for a door handle and grab some stranger’s ass instead.”

He laughed and said perfect, even though a two-year-old could have told him I was being sarcastic.

It didn’t really matter. The gigs kept coming and paying more. If the laughs weren’t bigger, there were at least more people laughing. So I kept tossing out the “Aren’t you glad you’re not me?” jokes.

*

Behind the waterfall of fame and fortune, things fell apart personally. the divorce was emptying my bank account as quickly as it filled. Everyone’s heard about how Ron and I split up in a most unamicable fashion. He’s an ass, but of course the world thinks he’s a lamb.

Yes, I had an affair with Sherman Williams, the Grammy-winning folk-art star. Ron had driven me to it. He’d been so insensitive and always super competitive. He would perform right next to me—at dinners given in my honor!

People were always like, “Oh Ron! Oh Ron! You’re so talented.” And they’d tell me how handsome he was. (As if he didn’t tell me himself twenty times a day.)

But then—and this was really the breaking point, Ron had started feeding my guide dog, Raven, without me knowing. Raven was a slick, black Doberman pinscher trained and named just for me. She was a beautiful dog, and we looked so great together, especially after I went to that “fat farm” and took off the extra weight that marriage had put on me. He’d insinuated himself into my dog’s heart—bribing him with food and teaching him to respond to his own commands—so of course, I had an affair.

Whatever you wanna say about Sherman’s music, he’s a really nice guy. Really sweet and caring. We definitely would have gotten married if the tabloids hadn’t made such a mess of things. (I never said, “Sherman sounds like Kenny Rogers on Klonopin.”)

It didn’t matter. Ron wouldn’t be made a cuckhold without a fight. Heartthrobs do not get betrayed by blind ladies.

This one night during those dark-ass times, we’d been arguing all night long. He’d found out about Sherman and was threatening to take everything in the divorce. (His career was, shall we say, not going as well as mine?) We were both drunk of course, and he’d been making me feel pretty bad.

“I told you I’m sorry a thousand times,” I whined. “What else can I do? Kill myself?”

He didn’t say anything to that, so I continued, “You do want me to kill myself! Believe me, I’ve thought about it, but even suicide is inaccessible. How would I do it? ‘Driver, take me to the bridge. Are we in the middle? Pull over. Can I climb over the guardrail here?’”

“I’m not you’re fucking audience, Maryann,” he said. “You can stop the routine right now.”

“You’re such an asshole,” I said. I was pissed, but he wasn’t wrong. I’d been working on that suicide bit for a while.

Then I heard Raven energetically licking something over on Ron’s side of the kitchen. “Are you feeding Raven again? I told you not to do that!”

“FYI,” he said, booted footsteps heading towards the front door with Raven’s delicate paw patter in tow, “Your dog really loves goose-liver pâté.”

The front door opened and shut. I was crushed, and seriously (all joking aside) thought about suicide then. But pills are so unreliable, at least for offing oneself.

Perhaps, I thought, I could take up an opioid addiction like the rest of America. Just live out my life in a blind (ha ha) stupor, oblivious to all the assholes in the world. No more tabloid drama, no more wrangling over my Wikipedia page. There’d just be an ellipsis at the end of my bio, like a child star gone to seed.

That was a depressing thought. Strangely, at that moment Daniella announced, “Calling Bill,” even though I hadn’t asked her to call anyone. I guess that was my first inkling that Daniella cared.

*

After I moved back to New York and the biopic (not my idea) came out, Bill said, “Let’s do a one-woman show.”

And I said, “You mean let’s me do a one woman show?” It sounded scary. I’m a comedian who tells dirty jokes, or at least I used to.

Dan was there too, and he said, “We’re listening.”

“We’ll take the show up a notch,” Bill said. “Blend the book reading with the AV pyrotechnics people love in a Broadway production.”

Dan said, “I know the perfect producer to pitch this to.”

Bill said, “We’ll get you an acting coach and top-notch director.”

“Okay,” I said, “I’m game. But this show cannot be like that damn movie. That was crap.”

“Crap or not,” said Dan. “It earned you a lot of money.”

“It earned us a lot of money,” I said.

“Not to mention,” said Bill, “that it was nominated for four Oscars. And Judy won for best actress.”

Judy Harte is the very young, very pretty (so they say) actress who plays me in my “biopic.” She’s a fantastic little actress, blah, blah. It was easier for that sighted chick to move around the soundstage—playing blind, you know, while I was relegated to doing voiceover for my own life story.

The disability activists had a field day with that one. What they don’t understand is how little control I have over such things. They don’t understand producers, directors, managers, agents, marketers, PR people, ticket buyers.

“That movie was sappy and terrible. I’m not letting that happen again. If I agree to do this show, it will not be inspiration porn.”

There are times in a blind person’s life when blank looks are audible, and this was one of them.

I pointed my sunglass stare in the direction of first Bill and then Dan. “You two don’t know what inspiration porn is, do you?”

“Not sure,” said Dan.

“Sounds intriguing,” said Bill.

I sighed. “Inspiration porn is like every movie and novel and news story that features a disabled person.”

To be fair, I hadn’t heard the term until recently when I made the mistake of reading some reviews of my “biopic” and stumbled upon one written by a disabled writer. It called the movie inspiration porn. That rang bells, so I Googled it and learned more.

“Inspiration porn is basically every story about disabled people as told by nondisabled people. It’s the overcoming adversity shit. It’s the ‘look how fantastic a plucky disabled person can be.’ It makes y’all feel uplifted and joyous to see such strength and courage. Not to mention it makes you feel grateful that you’re not disabled.”

“Hmm,” they said.

“I don’t want to be an inspiration porn star!” I said.

“Coulda fooled us,” Bill said.

We all laughed.

“Well, at least not seriously,” I said.

*

So that’s how my show got her name. Inspiration Porn Star is obviously tongue-in-cheek, but I had to fight for it. The producer hated it—at least, he hated it until we found a hip up-and-coming director who loved it.

I did the off, off, off Broadway thing for a while, but soon I lost an “off” or two.

There are some good bits. Some edgy bits in this show. Like in the opening when I step onto the pitch-black and silent stage wearing ballet slippers using a gliding step (taught to me by the guy who choreographed a couple of Madonna’s late-career videos. My ankles have tiny mics attached to them that catch each graceful shuffle of my toe-to-heel step in the hushed darkness. Then I hit my Velcro-tape mark and drop anchor—I mean I allow my white cane to clatter noisily to the wood stage.

The cane is also mic’d and runs through the board with some reverb. It wakes the audience up, that’s for sure! Still in the dark I say, “This is not what it’s like to be blind. This dark intimacy between us is not it at all.”

A strong spotlight hits me and the music starts up. I call out, “This is what it’s like to be blind.”

That’s pretty cool, right? Drawing attention to the fact that blindness, as I say in the show, “makes you feel like a solitary fish in a glowing bowl all the fucking time.”

Then I tell stories from my memoir, and a couple from my real life, with this whole audio-visual thing going on behind me: photos from my childhood (or rather fake photos from my fake childhood), newspaper, film, and TV clips, animated eyeballs, and who knows what-all. And music swelling for emotional effect. The show’s been running for over a year, now.

*

One memorable night in San Francisco that I’d like to forget found me sitting in my hotel—the Francis something—Saint? Sir? Whatever. It was after the show, and I hit the mini-bar hard.

Finally, I couldn’t stand it anymore. I needed a smoke. I grabbed my cane and stepped out the room into the quiet hall. I hated the white cane (still do) but it’s useful for not bumping into walls and making sure people stay out of my way. I’m kind of soured on guide dogs since Raven ran off with Ron.

I listened for the elevators’ swishing and dinging and cautiously went for it.

When the doors opened and I stepped inside, a masculine voice asked if I was heading to the lobby and I said, “Yes, thanks.”

When we hit the ground floor, the man asked, “Can I help you get someplace, ma’am?”

I hate being ma’amed, and this guy sounded like he was about forty years older than me. So I said, “No thanks,” as politely as I could muster.

It was easy enough to point myself in the direction of the street sounds and the big glass front doors that were swishing open and closed. I tripped just a little as the marble switched to carpet.

“Whoops!” I said with a big smile in case anyone was looking. I feel better about blindisms when I’m tipsy.

The doorman, or rather doorboy (he sounded like he was twelve) said, “Hello,” in a very friendly tone.

“Can I stand here and smoke?” I asked him.

“Sorry,” he said, “can’t do it so close to the door. I’m a smoker, too. Let me show you a good place. Would you like to take my arm?”

“Thank you,” I said. “Very gentlemanly of you.”

By my third smoke trip, I was wasted. The doorboy said he probably wouldn’t be here the next time I came down, as he was getting off of work.

He said, “You’re the comedian in that vodka seltzer commercial right?”

“I am,” I said, trying to light the wrong end of the cigarette. “Shit, that stinks!”

I dropped it and pulled out another.

“I love that commercial,” the kid said.

He sounded cute, and I was lonely, so I said, “Why don’t you come up to my room after you get off work? I’ve got at least a handful of nips left. Maybe there’s a flavour for you.”

“Oh, thanks,” he said. “I’d love to, but I gotta get home to the girlfriend.

“Right,” I said, ferociously dragging on my smoke.

“Hey,” he said, “Can I ask you something?”

“What’s that?” I asked, feeling deflated and pretty damn sure I knew where this was going.

“My uncle is going blind…”

“Uh-huh,” I said.

“And I’m just wondering if you had any advice for him,” he said, totally unfazed by my annoyance. “’Cause you seem to be doing so well for yourself. You’re such an inspiration.”

“Uh-huh,” I said.

“And he’s so depressed…”

I held myself back from punching the kid in the face and said, “Tell him… Tell him not to go blind. That’s the best advice I can give.”

Somehow, I made it back to my room, and polished off those last tiny bottles of booze without any help from him.

*

Not long after that SF debacle, I experienced a terrifying blackout onstage. For what seemed like an eternity, there was no next line, no next action in my head. I was petrified like a possum or whatever. It was the most horrible feeling, and the terror almost took hold. Then the line came back.

Not only that performance suffered, but several that followed. Sucky reviews began trickling in. Performance insecurity while you’re onstage makes for a terrible show. The fear of dropping a line was crippling. No one who hasn’t done a one-woman show can know how lonely it is. I don’t think I even realized it until I dropped that line.

I vowed to have a backup so it would never happen again. I put a wireless earbud in my ear and had Janet, my hair and makeup gal, do my hair really big, with extensions and the whole shebang.

With the earbud in my ear, I advanced the lines using one of those little contraptions people use for advancing slides in presentations. It worked like a charm. Most of the time I had my lines down and didn’t really need Daniella, but she was there when I did need her, which was great.

The first time she, Daniella, adlibbed—or perhaps I should say, saved my ass—was when I got a little too close to the edge of the stage and almost fell off. She said, “If you don’t want to lose your act, tell me when I get too close.” I repeated it without thinking, but was aware enough to mug for the audience, who duly laughed. It was the kind of big laugh you get when an audience is nervous and afraid something terrible is going to happen, but then shifts into thinking it was all on purpose.

Bill congratulated me on my quick thinking after the show, and I didn’t feel the need to tell him what had happened. Still, he threatened to have another sighted chick play me onstage—Judy Harte, who won the Oscar for playing me, is too famous now—but I put my foot down/had a temper tantrum and managed to win that battle.

*

For a couple weeks after the almost-falling-off-the-stage bit, Daniella just read straight. Or at least I didn’t notice any differences. Then one night in DC, I advanced Daniella and she gave me a zinger I’d never heard before:

“The weird thing about being blind is that people think lending you a hand is a license to ask super personal questions that they’d never dream of asking a sighted stranger.

“For example, the other day this man was helping me cross a busy intersection, and said just as casually as you’d talk about the weather, ‘What do you do about sex?’

“So, I told him the truth: “I order take out.’”

It got a big laugh, sure, but still, I was rattled. After the performance I made the stage manager take me to the AV tech, and I yelled at him for sabotaging my show, which, even if he was responsible, was not exactly true. Poor thing. He was just a kid, and I laid into him. They talked me down and turned on the iPad that was plugged into the board, and advanced through the performance files, including Daniela’s cues, one by one. The whole show was there, just as we’d written it.

I was concerned I was losing my marbles. Hearing electronic voices. Or rather, one voice, factory-named Daniella. What could I do but accept the voice as benevolent? I mean she hadn’t done anything but give me a couple good jokes. Maybe Daniella was my fairy godmother. Ha! Girls like me don’t get fairy godmothers.

Then again, maybe we do. Check out this one Daniella came up with last week. I start:

“I listen to audiobooks, like a lot of you out there. And I find that if I’m doing something with my hands while I listen, I’m less likely to fall asleep. A lot of times, I’ll file my nails or drink martinis two-fisted. But yesterday I was reading the Bible, and that’s some boring-ass shit. So I decided to masturbate.

“That’s really naughty, right? Masturbating while reading the Word of God? But what’s he gonna do?”

Daniela tells me to tilt my head to heaven, and say:

“What’re you going to do, God? You gonna make me go blind? Well, you’re too late! Genetics beat you to it.”

That one’s so damn funny, I almost can’t keep a straight face during the delivery. Sure, not everyone in the audience thinks it’s funny, but the ones who do are the ones you want.

Bill’s pissed at me for adlibbing, and he’s threatening to quit if I don’t stop going off-book. He tried to tell me that the theatres are going to drop my show. But I doubt it. The Times just ran a review highlighting the dirty jokes with the headline “Putting the ‘Porn’ Back in ‘Inspiration Porn Star.’”

Not all Daniella’s jokes are dirty, though. Some are just plain dark. She’s a genius. Here’s another gem:

“I get lots of fan mail. Lots and lots of fan mail that nine out of ten times boils down to, ‘How do I get to be famous like you?’

“I used to slap them with cliches like: ‘Work hard. Be unafraid. Network your ass off.’

“Then I realized that was all bullshit, so I told this kid, ‘If you want to be famous like me, all you have to do is poke out your eyeballs. Hand me that nail.’”

Ah, Daniella. She’s bringing me back to my basement-comedy-club roots. If only I could shut the hell up in my personal life, and let her talk for me. Let her tweet for me, too.

*

Last night, Sherman called to tell me he’s suing me for defamation of character. Then, like they planned it, Ron called immediately after. Just to be spiteful.

“I’m engaged to Judy,” he said.

“You’re going to marry my fucking doppelganger?” I screamed and hung up.

Then I looked at his Twitter feed and saw “Judy Harte and I are excited to announce our engagement! We’re so in love!”

All the exuberant congratulations from tens of thousands of fans pushed me over the edge.

I opened a bottle of vodka, got rip-roaring drunk, and let fly a Twitter thread for the ages: Beginning with “I feel sorry for the little bitch… Ron has a tiny pecker… and he doesn’t know how to use it… of course a talentless ninny like her can’t really ask for more… they deserve each other…”

Oh God. I went on and on.

I woke up this morning with a Twitter tongue-lashing like you wouldn’t believe. Apparently, Ron and Judy have given a lot of money to curing-blindness foundations. I am definitely trending, but not in a good way.

Thousands of people retweeted my tweets and called me a blind bitch and a sightless whore and a sell-out. Some “ex-fans” of mine demanded that they get money back on their tickets to my upcoming shows.

So that’s why I’ve been sitting here in the backstage bathroom for like an hour, my life flashing before my eyes. Three stagehands have knocked with increasing alarm. And here’s another one. I really don’t want to go out there.

“Coming,” I say. I remain seated.

I’ve got to stop touring. Maybe I’ll buy a ranch and host summer camps for little blind kids. Maybe then I can win my fans back.

What am I talking about? I hate little blind kids. I hate kids.

“I’m all right,” I tell the house manager, who’s begging me to come out. “Coming now.”

*

I’m standing in the wings, and the theatre is perfectly silent. Then one or two of those coughs that audiences do to cut the oppressive quiet. I glide onstage. I slide my right big toe forward and then set the heel down gently. Then my left. The soft amplified brush of my slippered feet sweeps through the theatre.

When I reach my mark, I stop and turn right to face the dark house from the dark stage. My folded white cane is in my right hand. I raise it and release. The segments clatter into place and the ball on the tip hits the ground with a booming thud.

“Blind bitch,” someone shouts. Others gasp.

My mouth goes dry. My mind blank.

Daniella says in my ear, “This is not what it feels like to be blind.”

I repeat, “This is not what it feels like to be blind.”

The rows of seats ascend as they recede from me. I hear the ushers moving down the stepped aisles, but how in the world will they find the heckler?

“This dark intimacy between us,” Daniella whispers encouragingly.

“…this d-dark intimacy between us,” I stammer.

“Vindictive whore,” the voice says. I can place the voice now. He’s sitting towards the back of the house but fairly central, so probably not easy for the ushers to get to.

“This is what it feels like to be blind,” Daniella says confidently.

I obediently repeat, “This is what it feels like to be blind.”

Daniella says, “Point to the voice.” I almost repeat, confused as to what she wants me to do…

“Sellout!” The voice shouts again.

“Point to the voice,” Daniella repeats.

Suddenly I understand, and I know exactly where he’s sitting. I point directly to the spot. The spectators shift in their seats, whispering excitedly. It dawns on me that the spotlight has not crashed down on me, but on him.

I imagine the beam of light shooting from somewhere up above me to the spot where the voice emerges, encapsulating them. Trapping them in the gaze of those seated safely in the dark. Unable to glare back, he is stuck in the eyebeam of light, like a moth wriggling on a pin.

Daniella says, “You know your next line.”

“Yes,” I say silently. “Thank you.”

Then aloud I say, “Now you know what it feels like to be blind!”

 

If you enjoyed this and want more fiction by me, check out “Where They Lie,” a sexy scary story set in New Orleans!

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