Yes, and. That’s the main rule of improv: Yes, and.
My badass bro taught me that. When you are going at it with a fellow player on stage, no matter how stripped or idiotic you feel, you don’t get to back out and say, “No!” In improv, you “yes and” that shit until you run out of options, until you’re done; exhausted. Until you reach the dead end: Yes, and!
And chances are: If you “yes and” for long enough, you can go at it forever.
My badass bro told me that a long, long time ago, when my pathetic white ass met him in Hollyweird, after my break-up back in New York. So beat-up I was in those days, so defeated, my body preferred to juggle only two of its functions: how to weep and how to breathe. Because I had just left a man: Surprise, motherfucking surprise! And it seemed, I could barely chalk myself up to the camp of the living.
When it comes to my men, I’ll love ‘em till death do us part: I’ll “yes and” that shit until I run out of options. I’ll adore, cradle, nurture, and mother them; breastfeed them if I must. I’ll cook and clean for them, spoon-feed them with jello in bed or sponge-bathe their asses when they’re at their lowest (and I won’t even tell another living soul afterward). Willingly, I’ll rebuild my men, from their bad choices, bad women, bad mothers; and give ‘em a brand new set of balls for Christmas. Yes, and: I’ll doll myself up for their fantasies or for their office parties alike, just so that there is no mortal in the world to questions their talents — or their endowments — in my bedroom. Yes, and: I’ll strut next to them, like the most expensive escort in town, and make them feel good enough to have a chance at Angelina Jolie herself, after we’re done. And, yes, and: I’ll give them the best sex stories of their lifetimes.
I’ll do all that, for my men; but there ain’t no fucking way in the world they — get to leave me. Fuck you, my loves: I — leave you! That’s just how it goes. Between the two of us, I’m the one yanked out of a gypsy’s womb: So, I get to leave. I get to go.
And, so: A long, long time ago, I had left a man.
It was his idea at first: Something wasn’t working, he said. He “couldn’t do it anymore”. I cried, I wept. I lost weight and sleep. I broke shit, tried to repair it. I even found enough room in that crammed-in basement apartment of ours to pace and wonder, “Why, why, why?!” And then, one balmy, New-York-in-August afternoon, it hit me:
I would never find the reasons! Because in every break-up, each party has his or her own grief, and that grief is never identical. And neither are the fucking reasons.
And, yes, and: I could! I could’ve stayed behind, back in the Bronx, and turned gray while resorting, reliving the dead affair: Where did it go wrong? Who dropped the ball first? When did it break? And my fave of all time: How could it all be prevented? But: I don’t do that. I am not the type to get petty while dividing mutual property, or mutual guilt. I don’t destroy my men, and I never take shots at their dignity. I don’t leave them in ruins for the next broad, even if she is — Angelina Jolie herself.
But also — (yes and!) — I don’t grovel for closure. I may cry, I may weep. I may lose weight and sleep. But then: I leave! I go. I walk away, while you — you stay behind and pick-up the pieces.
And so, one balmy, New-York-in-August afternoon, I said:
“Oh, yes. And I’m leaving.”
I had asked him out to dinner, in between my waitressing gig on the Upper West Side and my fantasy life up in Harlem, where the mere sight of a woman’s ass was enough to get me off on the idea of all the future possibilities. He showed up with flowers: Lilies. As the night carried on, I watched their giant buds open completely in that summer’s heat, then begin to wilt. And like everything in New York, at that time of the year — from sweat glands to subway sewers to perfume shops — they began to smell aggressively, nearly nauseating.
Yes and: I continued to break it down.
“I’m going to California.”
I was vague. I didn’t feel like I owed him a calendar date, or a reason. Or an explanation. Because in the end, I knew — we both knew — it was he who broke the main rule of improv: He said, “No”. He gave up. He dropped the ball.
Yet, still, “Why?” he asked, pleading with his wilting face to be etched onto the back of my eyelids for my later nightmares, in Hollyweird.
I don’t remember answering. Because so beat-up I was in those days, so defeated, my body preferred to juggle only two of its functions: how to weep and how to breathe. So, I breathed. I inhaled it all: The smell of the cologne I’d given him, along with a new set of balls that last Christmas. The sour charcoal smell from the fajita plate, sizzling under the chin of the solitary male diner behind us. The schizophrenic aromas of the city, from sweat glands to subway sewers, to women’s asses. And the aggressive, nearly nauseating smell of lilies on our table, completely open in that summer heat and quickly wilting.
And chances were: I could’ve “yes-and-ed” that shit forever, no matter how stripped or idiotic I felt. But we were done, at a dead end. Exhausted. And all I preferred to remember was how to breathe — the ultimate act of “yes-and-ing” to all the other future possibilities.