The West |

My Revolutionary

by Jennifer Krasinski

I was once in love with a revolutionary who, for the life of him, could not tell a joke. He would omit important details – that the rabbi was wearing a duck, for example, or that the little old lady was still a virgin – declaring these particulars to be pointlessly offensive and espousing that a good joke should charm and not harm its audience. To prevent him from bombing as he had over and over again in front of our well-mannered friends, family and comrades, I encouraged him to try simpler comedies: sight gags, one-liners, knock-knocks. “What about a homonym?” I offered, “Or a pun? After all, you have such a good ear.” I made a comb of my fingers and pushed his hair back behind one of them to underscore my point. He bent his head forward, shook his graying layers free, and sighed. “Just because people don’t laugh at my jokes doesn’t mean I’m going to compromise my beliefs.” “You’re right,” I replied, and proved my assent with a smile. It was only when my revolutionary removed my hand from his face, told me he’d had enough of us, and asked me – with the utmost diplomacy and no detectable sadness – to please get out, that I understood that in trying to save his jokes, I had sunk our relationship.

C’est la vie,” shrugged a so-called friend of mine when I told her at lunch that we – my revolutionary and I – were over. She made note of my silence and tried again. “He wasn’t good enough for you,” she said, “self-righteous, self-centered, and a complete bore.” “He was a proud romantic,” I corrected, “and he didn’t suffer fools.” “All those phantom platforms,” she continued, “Peace? Justice? Equality? Those are eternal problems – not real ones.” “At least he worked in the service of an ideal,” I challenged. “That he did,” she said, and it was then that my so-called friend admitted to a drunken bungle with my revolutionary once when I was out of town. She described their encounter as inevitable but passionless. She explained that he had wooed her with his confession of a nagging ambivalence towards me, and had ended their hours-long tryst with a pup-eyed appeal for her silence regarding their misconduct. “He had others too, you know” she sighed, “lots.” “I know,” I lied.

Months later, I picked the Sunday paper up from my doorstep to discover that my revolutionary had made the front page. CAR BOMB KILLS TWO it read, and although the words that followed described in great detail what happened to him and where, a serrated grief has whittled the story I tell to the following points. My revolutionary had been traveling with a beautiful, young relief worker, when the car they were driving broke down. Wanting to finish their journey before nightfall, they hastily borrowed a car from an acquaintance, a contractor.

When I recount the story of my revolutionary for an audience, this is the place I pause to right myself before the punch line.

“’I know it sounds cold,” said the contractor to the reporter,’” I tell them, “’but tragedies like these are all in the timing,’” and then I pinch myself to keep from doing the only thing under the circumstances I feel I can do.