Last Thursday I got a text from Jolyn.
"Eli, could you please accompany me to something tonight?"
I know better than to ever accept any invitation from Jolyn without first finding out every detail possible and then forcing her to sign an affidavit swearing that as far as she knows the chances of me being killed or imprisoned during the course of the adventure are at least as low as they were before she became involved in my life.
So I responded:
"Not without a lot more detail than that, dear."
Jolyn's next text simultaneously made me want to accept the invitation and change my number so she could never contact me again. Also, witness protection program.
I truly believe that if there ever comes a time in my life when I'm going to have to go into the witness protection program, Jolyn will not only have been involved, but she will be the person I'm having to be protected from.
"Well I'm glad you asked!" her texting proceeded. "There's a lecture happening tonight somewhere on owl identification. It starts at 7:00 and we HAVE to go!"
I was intrigued, partly because I was pretty sure Jolyn disliked animals almost as much as I do, but also because I had never heard her express any interest whatsoever in owl identification. So I picked her up at 6:40. When I did, she climbed into the car wearing her "Harry Potter" glasses.
It was at that moment that I knew for sure that we were not going to the owl lecture to learn about owls. We were going there for an entirely different purpose, although I wasn't sure what that purpose was yet. I knew this because Jolyn always wears her Harry Potter glasses (which are not real glasses, BTW) whenever she wants to go into public and conduct her own screwed up social experimentation. Take, for example, the time she recited Robert Frost poems in the corner of a coffee shop after first loudly thanking everyone there for making it out to the special reading.
I turned to Jolyn, sitting in the car, and asked, "why are we going to this owl lecture?"
Jolyn: To learn about owls!
Eli: No. WHY are we going to this?
Jolyn: Because owls are magical creatures.
Eli: Is that why you're wearing your Harry Potter glasses?
Jolyn: Oh these old things? [She straightened them] These are to help with my vision.
Eli: Those aren't real glasses. I'm not moving this vehicle until you explain to me why I'm about to waste an hour of my life listening to someone talk about owl identification.
Jolyn: FINE. I want to go so that at the end of the lecture when she asks whether there are any questions I can raise my hand and say, "can you please tell me whooooo is the leading ex-bird on owl identification?"
Let me just take a moment and explain to you that if anyone else in the world told me that this was the sole reason they were going to force me to sit through an hour of someone talking about owls, I would assume they were not telling the truth. But I know Jolyn. And I'm well aware of her commitment to a good (or in this case terrible) joke. So I drove on.
We got to the lecture expecting there to be only a small handful of owl enthusiasts there. THERE WERE OVER 200 PEOPLE ALREADY SITTING IN THEIR SEATS. And here's the thing guys. There weren't even actual owls at the lecture. Over 200 people came out to hear a woman just TALK about owls. OVER. TWO. HUNDRED. PEOPLE.
We had to sit in the very back because all of the other seats were taken. When the lecture began, Jolyn pulled a large clipboard and giant feathery quill out of her bag and she proceeded to sit on the edge of her seat and pretend to emphatically take notes for one hour. In fact, she was just drawing pictures of spaceships.
The woman droned on about this and that while I played with my phone and tried very hard not to fall asleep. And then I heard the long-anticipated words: "Does anyone have any questions?"
Like a bolt of lightening, Jolyn's hand shot into the air. She squirmed on the edge of her seat, reaching higher and higher, like a ten-year-old in a fourth grade class who was trying to get picked to bring the class pet home for the weekend.
The woman called on Jolyn. "Yes, you, in the back, with the glasses . . . and clipboard."
Jolyn straightened herself up, conjured a pompous look, and the asked loudly and in a British accent:
"Yes. I was wondering whether you could tell me whoooooooooooooooooo is the leading ex-bird on owl identification. I'm hoping to purchase a new owl for mail courier purposes."
There was a moment of silence in the room. And then people slowly began to turn around to get a look at who just said that. And as they did, and saw a thoughtful-looking Jolyn wearing Harry Potter glasses, the room slowly began to erupt in laughter. People all around us shook their heads and suppressed smiles.
The laughter died down and the woman moved on to the next question. I sat paralyzed, wondering how many people there knew that Jolyn and I came together. Jolyn looked at me, flabbergasted at the reaction, and said, "let's get out of here. Owl never understand why these people don't take me seriously."
~It Just Gets Stranger