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20# A painful performance

Updated: Oct 3, 2022

Covid-19 destroyed many things, relationships were no exception. Anissa shared her apartment with her boyfriend Housni, and her cat, Felin. Her relationship was going through a difficult time, and confinement did not help. With home office becoming the norm, they spent all their time in the same space. It was suffocating. Aware of the incoming crisis, Anissa decided to spice things up. She booked a spa retreat; the first weekend after three months of isolation. She did the research, booked a hotel, arranged activities, and prepared a romantic surprise. Anissa tasked Housni with the car rental. He had one job, and did not do it. It was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Since childhood, Anissa took on responsibilities. At 13 years-old, she was cooking and cleaning for the family. At 15, she was in charge of her three siblings. At 17, she was tutoring the whole neighborhood, all the while graduating with honors. After being the perfect child, she went on to being the perfect student, and the perfect employee. She studied in France and settled in Canada, where she landed a job at a prestigious pharmaceutical firm. In Montreal, Anissa met Housni. As the years went by, the burden of responsibility grew heavier, and the sparkle faded out. Bit by bit, her relationship crumbled, and a piece of her soul died with it. Many times, Anissa sounded the alarm. The spa retreat was her last attempt.

Without fuss, Housni packed and moved out. Anissa kept Felin and the place. Now by herself, she did not feel like cooking anymore. She worked longer hours and snacked at her desk. Her apartment seemed bigger, emptier. She slept alone, ate alone, and worked alone. For the first time in her life, Anissa had no one to care for; Felin took care of itself. She dreaded solitude. She dreaded the sound of silence.

A woman of action, Anissa did not wait for loneliness to consume her. She sought help and found it. Her therapist advised her to journal every day. The assignment was to put into words what she felt inside. Anissa applied herself. Every evening, she would sit in the couch with a cup of tea and write her frustration. She blamed Housni for his immaturity, and herself for bearing with it for so long.

Beside journaling, her therapist encouraged her to try a new hobby. Something she liked but never found the time for. Anissa loved theater. She admired the courage it took to perform on stage, even fantasized about it. But artist was not a respectable occupation in her family, so she never dared. Journaling shed light on her behavioral patterns. All her life, she had been pleasing others, doing things for others, caring for others. Look at you girl, how worse can it get? she wondered.

The next day, Anissa found a comedy club in her neighborhood. She ordered a Gin and Tonic and sat in the back, observing the crowd. It was an open mic night. Performance ranged from music to improvisation and comedy. The comedy was terrible. One guy was so bad he made the walls cringe; four people left at once. Anissa was enjoying it. Not the show in itself, but how it affected the crowd. Good or bad, there was always a reaction. The worst reaction was silence.

From that night on, Anissa’s journaling took shape. She used her cynicism to write jokes, and read them out loud to Felin. She thought back of all the times Housni disappointed her, and made a joke about it. Anissa was dating a child, not a man, and that was good material. She found a common ground for frustrated women of all ages and backgrounds. Her disappointment fueld her inspiration.

Anissa returned to the comedy club every evening. One day, after two double Gin and Tonics, she added her name to the list of performers. By the time they called her, Anissa was tipsy and joyful. She walked on stage, tapped the mic, and stared at the audience. The room was quiet.

She cleared her throat and opened her mouth, but no words came out. Panic squeezed her chest. Anissa felt a rush of blood to the head. She tried to speak again, nothing. The crowd was silent and skeptical. Melting on stage, Anissa burst into a nervous laughter. She left the stage, cackling.

Too embarassed, she dashed out of the bar and did not stop until her building. She jumped up the stairs and closed the door behind her. Felin raised its head at the noise. Sweating and panting, Anissa collapsed to the ground. Felin came to her feet and brushed its head against her thigh. She picked it up, hugged it, and buried her face in its fur. The cat purred and the woman cried.

The next morning, Anissa woke up light and freshened. Her performance on stage was horrible, painful, and embarrassing. It was so bad it made her smile. For the first time in years, Anissa did something for herself, without considering anyone else.

She had fun.

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