You were always a very emotional person. All around over-emotional on any layer of the spectrum of emotions. You’d feel a pit in your stomach and a lump in your throat when you’d see a particularly beautiful ballet performance while at work. If you found something even minorly funny, but it touched you in a certain way, you’d cackle. If you got genuinely angry at something, you’d shout until your throat hurt; and if you were angry enough, you’d start to cry. Full circle of tears.
Hormones, your mom would blame it on when you were growing up. You did have some hormonal imbalances but you’d been taking pills for that most of your life. Fucking pills. If you could, you’d never take a single pill the rest of your life; but then you think about it too hard and you think you’ll drop dead after one day without meds. So you keep picking up your prescriptions.
Anyway, as of late there’d been new and strange occurrences on your commute to work. You worked at the biggest theater in Gotham as an usher. They held bands, cultural shows, and dance performances, and they were planning on a Gala screening of Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times in the upcoming month. You were excited for that and kept basically begging your boss to give you a shift for that event. But during your walk from the train station to the theater, swerving through bustling crowds that seem to always intentionally bump into each other, you’d noticed a green tuft of bouncing hair on the other side of the street where you’d normally cross. A clown was dancing, advertising an “Everything Must Go” sale. He seemed happy enough to be doing what he was doing. And you had to stare at him for a little longer than you probably should have. Clowns always gave you the creeps, even if some people genuinely though they were funny. So that day, you waited until the next block to cross the street.
And you realized this guy had a decent gig because he’d be in the same spot on that street every day for the next week. You’ve seen him so much you were surprised that by now he hadn’t turned to look at you and beep his red nose at you. Well, you supposed you’d recognize him more than he would recognize one person out of hundreds that pass him every day. But seeing him every day heading to work somehow gave you something to think about during the more boring shifts. Do people see his sign and act and visit the store that’s closing? Is everyone just as perturbed by his clown makeup, hair, and shoes as you so they just ignore him? Do the drapes match the carpet?
You snorted at that last one out loud as you washed your hands in the bathroom sink and splashed water over your tired face after a 7 hour shift, on your feet, with nothing but one 15 minute break to serve as your rest.
You could hear the train rattling on the track above you, so you started sprinting towards the staircase that led up to the platform. And just in time, you sped into the closing doors, your shoulder getting hit with the brunt of the automatic door, which forced open upon your entry. You stood inside the train car and let out an audible, “Whew….” and caught your breath as you stumbled to an empty seat and plopped down on it. Thank god you made it. You would’ve had to wait another 45 minutes for the next one. The train began to rumble forward.
As your breath slowed and your heartbeat returned to normal, you took in your surroundings of this late-night subway car. You shifted your eyes to the left and your jaw almost dropped. Clown guy seemed to be looking at you with a faint smile on his painted face, but quickly turned his head away when you made eye contact with him.
You grinned to yourself and looked down at the empty coffee cup rolling backwards and forwards in the seat across from you. The clown must’ve had a long day to be coming home at this hour of night. And he still was in full garb, wig and all. You didn’t want to be rude, but you finally had the chance to get a good look at him, not just from across the street. You looked at his big clown shoes and had to stifle a genuine laugh. The whole getup on this shitty Gotham train at like midnight was somehow the funniest thing you’d seen in a while. You wanted to snap a picture if you could. The man seemed to be in his own world now that he wasn’t staring at you.
The train pulled into the next stop and a bunch of rowdy teenagers got on and you already wanted to switch train cars. You had a long ways to go before your own stop.
They were all busy yelling and laughing and pushing each other as the train lurched forward, until one of them tapped another on the shoulder and went, “Yo yo yo,” to get his attention. He caught sight of the clown. The boys mellowed out for the time being and all turned to look at the clown, who seemed oblivious he was even a target of theirs.
Slowly, each of the boys started giggling to themselves, making jokes at the clown’s expense.
“Yoho! That’s so fucking creepy, man–”
“What the fuck, are we in a horror movie, like–?”
And one of the more brave teens of the bunch stepped closer to the clown as the train rocked, “Hey, man, going to a birthday party?”
The clown’s eyes shifted up towards the teen and he looked away again, not wanting to get into this.
The teen scoffed and kicked one of his oversized shoes, “You ain’t exactly the funniest clown I’ve seen. You wanna tell a joke? Change my mind?”
You were sitting, trying your hardest not to get involved in this scene. Rule one of being in Gotham was that you always minded your own business. Crazy guy screaming about the mayor and somehow also grilled cheese? You ignore him or get up and calmly move to another car when the train stops. You never make eye contact.
But this poor guy was just minding his own damn business and these dumbass kids are bothering him just because he’s decked out in clown gear. This wasn’t right—
You were shaken out of your own thoughts and actually had to look up when you heard what had to be a laugh, but it came out as a cry, almost. The clown had thrown his hand over his mouth, but behind it he was stifling laughter.
“You’re supposed to make us laugh, bozo! Not the other way around! Jesus!” and now the teen was laughing at the clown.
You couldn’t look away now, as the whole posse was cackling along with the clown. But you knew something was off about the way the clown was laughing. You could see his hand going to hold his throat as a small choking sound made its way out of his mouth, and then the giggling resumed.
“You’re a fucking freak!” one of the other teens yelled and they started to crowd around him, all taunting him. Some were even starting to shove him.
You blessed the heavens since you knew this was one of the shorter stops on the train and you stood up from your seat and loudly yelled, “Hey!” over the sound of the group’s raucous. You just prayed these teens would respect a lady. You wanted to slap yourself just for that stupid thought.
They turned to look at you and you almost clammed up before saying slowly, “Listen, can we just leave the guy be?”
“He started laughing at me! Don’t you think he’s a fucking creep, lady?”
“You know, maybe he wasn’t laughing at you. Maybe he just remembered a joke and started laughing at that. He is a clown, so he’s supposed to find things funny. You think you can just switch cars? Please, he wasn’t going to bother anyone.”
The train screeched to a halt and the teens all looked around at each other. It seemed your politeness took them for a loop because they weren’t used to having to deal with manners. You gave them one of your stern looks you saved for especially rude patrons at work.
“Aight, I mean, I guess you want some alone time with your boyfriend. Have a good night, miss,” the teen who got up close to the clown said to you with a sneer to his voice and a glint in his eye. As the doors opened, the boys scurried out together. One of them tripped over the clown’s big shoe and the others continued to laugh at him.
They were gone, into another car or hopefully back out on the streets so they could go home to their damn families. The train moved forward once more.
You looked down at the clown who you realized had stopped laughing and was now looking up at you with what you could probably describe as shock, but you didn’t want to be that generous towards yourself. You took a seat beside him, “Kids can be such assholes, right? Geez… are you okay?” you saw his wig was now crooked and long brown locks peeked out from under it.
“I’m fine,” he finally answered after a little too long of a pause, and added, “Thank you. That was very nice of you.”
“No problem. Just maybe in the future change out of your getup before coming on the train?”
The man looked at you and his lips twitched upward in what could have been a smile if he didn’t let them fall back to the almost-frown he had on before.
You looked at him a bit longer. He had such a meek voice. You never would’ve guessed he sounded like that just from seeing him dancing from across the busy Gotham street. But now that you were up close to him, you can see how delicate his frame was, how oversized all of his clothes really were on him, not just his shoes.
“When do you get off?” you asked.
“N-Not for a while. Second to last stop.”
“Okay. Mine’s a bit before that, so I’ll just ride with you until then.”
The clown stared at you as if you were from another planet before he cleared his throat gently and slid the green wig off his head and put it away with care into a big duffel bag he carried with him.
You got more comfortable in your seat and let out a yawn. The ride went smoothly for the next few stops, the clown not interacting with you at all. You could feel like he wanted to say something to you or turn and look at you, but all he did was sit and look down at his lap.
“I’m Arthur,” he finally said in a voice just above a whisper, and he looked at you.
You looked back at him and gave him a smile, sharing your first name with him, as well.
“I’ve seen you around, Arthur,” you finally brought up the topic you most wanted to address, “You’re in front of the shop that’s closing down. I pass by you on my way to work.”
“Oh, I— Well, I’m sorry I haven’t noticed you before.”
“Not your fault, I mean, I walk on the other side of the street and you have no reason to literally notice me out of every person that passes by you each day. How’d you get the clown gig?”
Your eyes kept drifting down to his vest because looking at the clown makeup in such close proximity for too long was starting to skeeve you out.
“It’s something I’ve always thought I’d be good at. I’m actually a comedian.”
“Oh,” you nodded and smiled, “I can see the connection.”
There was more silence and Arthur fiddled with the hem of his shirt. Your stop was finally here and you stood up, “Well, I’ll see you, Arthur. I’ll say hi more directly next time I go to work. Stay safe.”
“Th-Thank you again,” he said probably the most confidently he’d said anything during his interaction with you.
You stepped off the train and gave him a small wave. Doing something like that for someone made you feel sooooo good. Wow, you need to be participating in more selfless deeds more often. You can see how people say helping less fortunate is rewarding. You made an audible sound like a scoff as you walked through the late night Gotham streets; who the fuck are you to be thinking shit like that? God, your mind was everywhere lately. Maybe you would try and walk on Arthur’s side of the street tomorrow. Maybe it’ll make him happy. Maybe it’ll make the both of you feel a little bit better.