Ed was no Beethoven, and comedy was not composition: his genius could not emerge despite his muteness like the maestro’s symphonies had despite deafness. Nowadays, he haunted the dim rows in the club, drowning in expensive disguises and cheap bourbon. And every midnight, when a tavern door uncorked itself, he stumbled out Eduard Pacinto once more, flowing into the flickering city streets. And within the fabric of those deserted nights, some old applauses pierced through to him, stitching themselves against his suffocating silence.
His thumbs had eaten through the blue sheen on his media player; the chrome now shimmered with each fleeting subway station. When the dark tunnels interrupted, he would press play, listening to endless repeats of the sets that had made people stop him on the streets and exclaim, ‘Hey man! Aren’t you Ed from that club downtown?’ He would sigh in his seat, tipping his head at a world that had moved on since, finding new ways to laugh, new people to laugh with.
‘There is no point, Ed’, Stacy had said. ‘Stop this madness now. Can’t you see you are ruining two lives here?’
And Ed had heard, in the cold shopfront where the storekeeper had asked him to point at his preferred bagels, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, I give to you Ed Pacinto!’ And like always, his throat had been parched for just a while till he had escaped with his snacks into the spotlight of a scorching summer day.
Stacy left in June, afraid, Ed believed, to see a man as far away from joy and hope as close to them his former self had been. During July’s drizzles, he aged, growing into his condition, till one evening, watching the lightning spill over the waterfront, he decided to brave the stage again.
The patrons had filled up the seats early that day, generally frivolous about a dumb comedian promising good laughs. Ed fumbled in, wearing a green flannel coat over a checkered shirt and baggy, khaki trousers. He traced his way to the centre of the stage along the edges of the floorboards, not once looking at the milieu of curious onlookers. Once he reached his designated place, he held up a small canvas that proclaimed two quotation marks, opening and closing around a blank sentence.
On this cue, a background record awoke, spewing out pieces from his older sets. The microphone to his left stood untouched, as lifeless as that romantic artist who had risked the myth of a second chance.
Twenty-odd minutes later, the record announced, ‘That was Eduard Pacinto, ladies and gentlemen. Can we have a big round of applause for him?’
Ed had never lifted his gaze. The charade reminded him of a man that he once was, of the man that he could never again be. A few thick drops wetted his spectacles, hiding him from some scattered claps that the record’s unabashed applause had evoked.