Here's a 25-minute story about one person who was perfectly normal, except for....
Charlie and the Really Normal Woman
My friend Charlie had a problem. We called him Straight Charlie because he was so plain and unassuming. Yet for one who seemed to float benignly through life, Straight Charlie seemed to have more run-ins with preposterously odd women. There was the peroxide blonde matron who picked him up at Bloomingdales before kicking him out on the ramp to the 59th Street Bridge because he wasn’t the guy in the Capital One credit card commercials. And the one who invited him to her apartment and then confessed she was on her way to Philadelphia for a gender-change.
My girlfriend Donna and I thought he had finally found a normal girlfriend when he met Amelia. She was an artist living on New York’s Lower East Side, which made her marginally normal to our way of thinking. Strongly in her favor, Amelia was a very good-looking English woman about 25 or so and spoke in complete sentences. Often an entire paragraph would come out of her mouth.
We had drinks together once or twice uptown, and got together for meals at our place or hers a few times. Finally, we thought, Charlie had come up with three stars on the slot machine of love and found a really normal woman.
He called me at work one day and asked if I was free for lunch. My uptown job was going downhill, so I blew off an assignment and headed over to Joyce’s pub on Third Avenue for some beers and burgers.
“Funny thing,” Charlie said when the second round came. “Amelia is normal in every way except she never makes love with the lights on. When she begins to get undressed I’m in the dark, literally.”
I suggested she had some disfiguring birthmark, perhaps a mole in the shape of Texas on her shoulder. “It could also be that she lacks some sort of natural endowment. Does she wear a padded bra?”
“She feels normal, and I wouldn’t feel a birthmark, would I? No, it’s something else.”
Poor Charlie was becoming frantically desperate as he saw their future relationship fragment over Amelia’s Victorian mannerism.
I mentioned our conversation when I got home and sat down to dinner with Donna. “Is that normal not to have the lights on, at least sometimes?”
“Well, men are funny about that. Not ha-ha funny, but weird,” she said. “Women are more romantic—but I’ll talk to her.”
A day later I reminded her about Charlie’s problem.
“Oh, right,” Donna said, plumping herself down in the upholstered chair we’d found on Second Avenue. “She really likes Charlie, you know. She’s serious about him.”
“Yes, but what about the bit with the lights going out at showtime?”
“Yes, that’s kind of awkward. She was going with an Irish guy when she was going to college in Dublin for awhile. They were ready to get married, in fact.”
“Is that a problem? I still don’t understand.”
“I do, and Charlie will tonight, if she breaks down and tells him,” she said. “Amelia has a secret. A tattoo. It’s on her butt, and says, LOVE FOREVER, CARL. She told me she’s embarrassed to show him.”
I sat up and took a hit of my beer. “You’re saying it was a souvenir and normal English girls don’t get tattooed? This is a good reason why the United Nations should outlaw tattoos. Look what it’s doing to Charlie and Amelia.”
Donna nodded. “She showed me. It’s really, really prominent. Not good art at all.”
“Can they do a little skin graft? I mean, that’ll take an awful lot of Cover Girl makeup if they go to a nudist colony.”
“You haven’t seen her butt—and I hope you never do!—but I gave her a better idea. I think she’s telling Charlie right now. The tattoo is a sans serif typeface, and there’s wide letter spacing. I think we can redesign it so the CARL can be re-tattooed to read CHARLIE.”
“Maybe he’ll buy the idea. It’s the only way to keep their love together, since no man wants to pat another man’s tattoo.”
“But I’m still worried. A little bit.”
“Charlie’s understanding about things,” I said. “She’s the first normal girl he’s met in New York.”
“But as a good Protestant from a small town upstate, what’ll he do about the tattoo on her shoulder that says Up the IRA?”