The Punchline -The Toast

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fight_club13Jaya Saxena’s previous work for The Toast can be found here.

Whenever I’ve told this story it’s always supposed to be funny. It goes like this:

We had been flirting for a few weeks, because I was 19 and green mohawks still did it for me. I ran into him at a party, where we continued flirting, and I drank Everclear mixed with Sprite like it was any sort of good idea (first laugh). At some point he disappeared and I ran through the house trying to find him, eventually bursting in on him doing lines in the host’s bedroom (“oooooohhhh” followed by some chuckles). For some reason I thought we should still hook up that night, so we start making out and head back to my dorm, where he proceeds to check Something Awful forums on my computer (second real, though incredulous, laugh). Then he turns to me and says he has a request, that he wouldn’t normally bring it up on the first night like this, but I “seem cool.”

He asked me to hit him as hard as he could (third laugh). He used those exact words, and I think a smile crept across my mouth as I thought of Fight Club, because he assured me he was serious. He reiterated that he’d never done this with someone he hadn’t been hooking up with for a while, but that I just seemed so down, so not like other girls. So I hit him.

I don’t know how hard I hit him because I was drunk, but he growled as he pounced on me. I hesitated while he insisted, and I hit again. He commanded me to choke him after quickly whispering the instructions for how not to kill him in my intoxicated ear. But somewhere in the middle of hearing why hitting him in the sternum was okay but the solar plexus was not (or was it the other way around?) (fourth laugh) I decided this was too much for me, rolled off the bed, and faked getting the wind knocked out of me (cackling).

I climbed back into bed as he congratulated me on my endurance. I asked him to leave since he lived across the street, but he said he was too drunk and wanted to sleep with me instead. In the morning I insist again that he leave, as I have friends coming over to help me cart books to resell. He says no again, and sits at my computer. I tell him again to go, then I tell him I’m going to get breakfast and he can’t just sit in my room without me there. He says it’s fine and I’m too tired to argue. While I’m eating breakfast he texts me about my internet connection, then asks if I can bring something back for him (fifth laugh).

When I returned I asked him to leave again, and he tried to convince me that we’re perfect for each other (someone inevitably yelling “what the fuck??”). Then he said he wouldn’t leave unless we make out again, so I obliged, at which point he delivered the line that is seared into my memory forever: “You’re a really good kisser. Obviously I’ve had better but you’re way above average.” (Howling.) He left soon after.




The story really is hilarious if you take the individual details–a coked-out 18-year-old in a green mohawk, the fumbling of drunken hands in a twin-long dorm bed, the importance of the Something Awful forums at two in the morning. It’s the type of story you tell to explain why you drank in Never Have I Ever, or when someone says “remember Punchy?” and you all burst out laughing. I do still laugh at the line he delivered the morning after. Sometimes I forget boys like this are real. But now, I’d like to add in some details.

When I was 10 my friends convinced me to see Wishmaster in the theaters, because they all loved horror movies and pretending to be more adult than they were. I’m not entirely sure how we got in, but I do remember leaving the theater crying, then trying to stop crying, then crying even more because of how lame I felt. Everyone had to leave because of me. My mom found out a few days later and gave me the whole speech on how I shouldn’t do things I don’t want to do just because they’re “cool.” But how could I remember that when a cute boy was standing shirtless in my room, telling me I wasn’t like everyone else, and asking me to punch him in the face?

A few months after that we watched Scream at a sleepover, and I made it through the whole thing, but I kept going into the bathroom so I could hide my sobs from my friends.

Inspiring him to bring this up when he would normally hide his desires sent a rush through my body. Of course I was cooler than those other girls–I drank Everclear and didn’t kink-shame. I was GGG before I knew what it was but after I learned how to smugly misinterpret it. Now I think he must have used that line on all of them, every night a first night, never caring to learn boundaries or cues. Then I melted because I was cool and wanted, vaulting over all those girls who had to be tested. I had passed immediately.

It was easy to feel safe, to convince myself that drunkenly punching a virtual stranger wasn’t dangerous. I trusted too easily. After every hit he told me it was too hard, too soft, too low, not low enough, hit here instead, no not there, so he knew what he was talking about right? Besides, he asked to punch me and listened when I said no, and I knew two taps meant let go. He told me it was safe and I believed him.

His windpipe felt too soft and even in the dark I could still see his face change color, his eyes watering and lit up.

It’s just occurring to me that faking injury shouldn’t have been the only logical exit strategy.

As we spooned I told myself it felt nice to have him there and that I was the one who ran across a party to find him. I ignored how glad I was that I had my period so that sex wasn’t on the table.

I brought him an apple from the dining hall because I assumed he was still flirting with me, and the instinct to respond in kind is Pavlovian.

I’m probably making too big a deal of this.

I’m scared of a lull in the laughter. I need to build toward a punchline. There has to be a punchline, or it’s just regret. I have to be able to use the story later.

Being told I’m not like other girls still gives me a rush. I’m training myself to feel anger instead, but it’s still there.

I have one photo of us, deep on Facebook. He’s sitting on my lap and exhaling smoke into the camera. I’m sticking my tongue out and look like I’m about to fall asleep. His lips are full and his eyes pierce through, making direct contact through the camera. Without the mohawk, he looks like every other guy.

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