A woman has been dating a clown for some time now. But now, she no longer laughs. She is sitting next to him at a sad café, the kind painters put into paintings, all cobblestone and empty glasses. The woman can’t even look at the clown. All she sees is a hobo with a big red nose.
She thinks about her mother and the warnings her mother threaded though her childhood. How serious her mother seemed. One day the woman looked at her mother and noticed how red her nose was.
The waiter comes to the woman’s table. What else can I bring you, Madam? The woman asks what pairs well with heartache? The waiter goes off and returns with a donkey. Gray and alive and on a platter with olives and pears.
Am I supposed to eat this? The woman asks thinking back to the times she said this to her mother. She thinks of the times she said this to the clown, only instead of eat, she said love.
Later, she is sitting alone at the café. The clown is gone. His last words were that he never said he was a clown. That was just one of her expectations that he couldn’t live up to. He life before she decided to eat the donkey. Which she did. And she wasn’t even sorry.
The woman didn’t actually eat the donkey. What she actually did was this: she paid the bill and told the donkey to go home to her house and wait for her there. That the donkey would have to make her laugh and tell her jokes, but not the kind her mother told her about how men just want to have sex, not the kind the clown told her about how he would love her till he died. The donkey thought it over and agreed and went to the woman’s house, but not before he had a glass of wine.
Years go by. The donkey and the woman have quite the friendship. They are sitting tonight at the opera in one of those boxes like Lincoln had. The donkey has kept his promise and tells her all kinds of anecdotes and keeps her laughing with his witty repartee. Tonight he leans over and says something to the effect of not enjoying the opera because he doesn’t speak Italian. She gets it, the subtlety of his statement. Of course he doesn’t think that Italian would keep him from enjoying the costumes, the delightful soprano, her voice a bird warble, the shimmer of the chandeliers. The woman pats his donkey knee and says, oh, you are just too marvelous. She turns her attention back to the stage. Stares right in the eye of the tenor, almost as if she is waiting for him to pull out a pistol and shoot.