Molars
29Sep/10

Cornish jokes

The Tuss - Rushup | Bank12

The first time someone told me I looked like Peter Lorre, I was sixteen, standing outside a bookstore, drinking from a tall can of sweet iced tea. An old man exited to my right and did a double-take when he saw my face. He walked a few paces toward the parking lot and turned back. I thought he perhaps would ask me where I had gotten the drink, since it was hot out that day, and as a rule, to my knowledge, the elderly prefer to stay hydrated in warm weather, supersaturated if possible. He did not ask about the iced tea, though he eyed it as we spoke.
“You know who you look like, don’t you?” he said.
“No,” I said. “Who?”
“Peter Lorre. The old movie star,” he said, smiling. “From ‘M’.”
“Oh,” I said, and forced out an aspirated chuckle. “Hah.” I was not entirely sure what Peter Lorre looked like. My reaction, I hoped, was one of neutral affect. I could recall only an image of a wide-eyed, thoroughly creepy man, who spoke in a kind of permanently dusky slur. I felt more uncertain about the rhetoric of the old man’s question, his tone of accusation—why did he think it was incumbent upon me to know whom I resembled?
“I bet you get that a lot, right?” he asked. “The Lorre thing.”
“This is the first time. Thanks though.” I nodded to him, idiotically, baffled as to what sort of protocol might dictate the close of this interaction. Should I have thanked him in a more demonstrative manner? I wondered. The entire conversation had the same awkward character as being told by a peer that one’s fly was down, provoking a similar mixture of shameful surprise and odd gratitude. I escaped by throwing away the almost full can of iced tea and gesturing inside with a tilt of my head. “All right,” I said. “See you.”
He waved at me and mumbled a goodbye. I could hear him laugh again as I passed through the bookstore’s vestibule.

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