Wednesday, April 1, 2009

April Fool!

I am not sure how it's come to be April already, the first quarter of the year gone. The day is just stunning to me for that reason, unremarkable otherwise. It wasn't always this way, though. I used to be an elaborate schemer every April first; I relished the chance to snare an "April Fool" in my prankster's net, and I'd plan well in advance whatever mischief was brewing that year. The impulse started in boarding school and continued well into college. After that, I guess I just got too busy for practical jokes. Or too serious. Or else it wasn't me, I just woke up one year and there were no longer any plausible targets—no friends or colleagues I could be sure would take it all in stride, enjoy the joke, even if it was on them—everyone suddenly seemed so humorless. Of course making others the butt of a joke, however harmless, might be considered properly juvenile and bad form, so perhaps I just grew out of it appropriately enough. Part of me still misses the fun, though, I have to admit. In school, as a teenager, it was the standard stuff, like you'd find in any sleep-away camp: short sheets; saran wrap stretched tight over the toilet bowl, under the seat; red PAAS dye pellets inserted in the shower heads, a watered-down horror show reminiscent of Hitchcock's Psycho. There was the booby trap on top of a door left slightly ajar (empty soda cans, Dixie cups of water). Later, in college, I upped the ante. There was one "fool" in particular I'll never forget; the target was a boyfriend who, if ever irritated with my pranks, was nonetheless a very good sport about it. I got him maybe three years running, and I never understood how he didn't see it coming. Wasn't his guard up? Did he just not pay any attention to the date? The schemes at that point were more complicated. The only one I remember involved a borrowed BMW, a collect call concerning a fake fender-bender, and a co-conspirator who owned a local body shop and was willing to provide the "gotcha!" location for the vehicle (which of course was completely fine, dent free). For the life of me, I can't recall the long-distance scenario I rigged from my study abroad program on April 1, 1991. I must've had a Stateside accomplice. Eventually, the thought occurred to me that the unearned trust placed in me anew each April 1st was, in the case of this one boyfriend, a horrible metaphor for the whole relationship, which started to unravel during the spring of my senior year. He really only ever saw what he wanted to see, trusted what he wanted to trust, which was that I'd always be there, reliable; that we'd always be able to laugh about April Fool's Day, because we could continue to laugh about things in general—we'd always be close enough to overcome bad humor. This was not to be. And now that I think of it, maybe he was the reason I stopped playing jokes. For the first time, during that last spring we were together, I began to feel incredibly guilty, because I knew something he didn't know: we were drifting apart, irrevocably, and there was nothing funny about it at all. (For those of you inclined to judge me harshly, you'll perhaps be satisfied to know that in time, he turned the tables, making an incredible fool out of me as well.) But this is all water under the proverbial bridge. Maybe some year I'll resurrect the tradition of the playful prank, though. In my bilingual household these days, there are no "fools," only "fish" (poisson d'avril, in French). Fish. Now that could have possibilities . . .

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