Noble X — Episode 3: Racing
“I woke up, fell out of bed, dragged a comb across my head.”
This little snatch of lyric runs circles through John’s mind as he energetically pops out of bed. He has always prided himself on his ability to function better than most on little to no sleep. Sure, he feels a little weird as he is quite sleep deprived from the last two nights. He hadn’t gotten home until after 3 a.m., and even then spent another hour winding down as his emotions were running high.
Last night, in the wee hours of the morning, he had laid out a full ensemble, each piece a matching shade of blue. He donned his costume, collected a backpack full of supplies for the race course and headed off to grab brunch with an old friend he hadn’t seen for some time. Trent had once dated his younger cousin but that ended in a somewhat unpleasant manner as relationships often do. John figures if he stays busy and continues to have things to distract him from his pain that maybe he can run from it indefinitely.
Plus, he thinks, "A man’s gotta eat." Biscuits and gravy laid the foundation for a full day of drinking, topped off with a bloody Mary. They have a wonderful time catching up and reconnecting. It feels special. He sips his coffee and checks the time on his phone.
"Found my way downstairs and drank a cup. And looking up, I noticed I was late," another trace of lyric skitters through his head as he swallows.
John feels good as new, says goodbye and makes plans to meet up along the race course in the coming hours. With that, he heads off to the starting line.
This race isn't just any race. It is one part masquerade, one part fundraiser for Chicagoland's hungry and homeless, and yet one more part team bar crawl featuring a shopping cart. John has always admired the race from afar photographically. The costumed teams made him smile, made him giggle and made him yearn to be a part of something so strange and beautiful.
"And somebody spoke and I went into a dream..."
As he walks towards check in to meet up with his team of random pun costumes, he marvels at the jubilation and the creativity pouring through the street, team after team. Eyes wide, he tries to soak it all in. John watches as volunteers load hundreds of pounds of food from each team’s donations onto trucks, bound for the Greater Chicago Food Depository. A few tears spill over as he becomes overwhelmed with emotion for a split second. In truth, he is pretty raw but he refocuses on the task at hand.
John finds his team. He only knows two of his teammates prior to today. He doubles over with laughter as he sees Bree, his friend who had extended the invite pleadingly late last night. She had explained that their fifth member had a family emergency and their team needed to fill the spot to not be disqualified.
Bree is dressed in a flowing white robe, holding a prop meant to look like the bible complete with a long white flowing beard. To top it off she is wearing a huge red-circle-strike-out made from cardboard, just like you see on the no smoking signs. He catches his breath and guesses immediately, "You are a non-prophet! It’s brilliant!"
Just then he turns to see another friend of his, Jerry, adding the finishing touches to his costume. His shark fin hangs slightly askew on his back as he attaches giant playing cards to finish the job. They exchange no words but communicate in pure laughter and high fives. Then John is introduced to the two remaining members of his team he hasn't yet met.
First, a man in a dog suit with a calendar of only the summer months attached to his body, followed by another dressed in a chicken suit encircled by a hula hoop, covered in aluminum foil, for the most X-rated pun costume on their team. "Holy shit! You are a cock ring! I just blue myself," John blurts, displaying his blue ensemble proudly while introducing himself. He shakes hands with his new friends, Matt (The Dog Days of Summer) and Lou (a giant cock ring). With their band of misfits' formation completed, they stand around their shopping cart, admiring each others' efforts. The Pun Stars.
Bar after bar, John holds his own, numbing the pain, drink by drink. He laughs until it hurts as they shamble through the streets of West Town. Five bars later, inhibitions lowered, John struggles to maintain. At each stop, as to not be disqualified, at least one team member needs to stay with the cart while the others check in. John volunteers.
He finds himself alone with Jerry. John struggles to look at Jerry. He can feel Jerry's concern. He knows Jerry cares. John's known Jerry a significant amount of time and not only that, he had felt a connection with Jerry immediately. It was just one of those relationships that feels like maybe you were friends in another life or something. Jerry knows in his own special way that John is struggling, looking behind the mask John is trying desperately to hold over his true face. Jerry wants to help.
Stay tuned for Episode 4.