The Adult Child as Mascot:
The Tears of a Clown
Frederick A. Levy LCSW

David could never remember a time when he wasn't desperately sad. Even as a small child, despair would sink to his stomach like a lead weight, pulling tears from his eyes that were too frightened to fall. Dad's drunken fighting; mom's screams, stealing his sleep; big brother jumping between his parents moments before the explosion; his older sister cowering beneath the stairs with the pallor of death on her face; this hideous, continuous drama barely let him breathe.

David had raised cuteness to an art. At his parents' parties, his mother's friends would swarm him with wine cooler kisses, leaving his cheeks battle-scarred with their makeup and a rash that stayed for days.

Then, with the drunken din reverberating through his bones, David would excuse himself, and search for some bed beneath the coats. And, after a night of dream-tossed sleep, he would waken to intertwined bodies at his feet, managing not to trip while feeling his way to breakfast.

David leaned on his wit like a favorite walking stick. In class, he reigned king of the quip, "cracking up" the kids, while scoring frequent flier miles with trips to the principal's office.

But David didn't care; the worst the teachers could muster was keeping him back in detention. "Go ahead, make my day," thought David, as he blew smoke from the barrel of an imaginary Smith and Wesson. He appreciated the favor; the real punishment would be sending him home to suffer.

And as David grew older, he became increasingly popular. Lovable, outrageous, prankish; he could be a rollercoaster ride reflected in a fun house mirror. But David's own light seemed dim; the shadow of his own crooked smile seemed to obscure whatever glimmer in his eyes still survived.

And that wit-edged walking stick could double as a sword. Friends and lovers approached if they dared, but usually David would flare when anyone got too near. Particularly, the women he loved served as lightening rods for his raging words. David felt dangerously exposed when they unearthed his secret sadness; he would rather have died than share his tears before their time.

And David partied on. Somehow, he felt like a creature of the night whose dreams always died at dawn. He longed deeply for the relationship he never had, and the career he couldn't build because nobody would take him seriously. Still, the jokes kept coming, until no one knew the person from the punch line.

But finally, David met his match; a woman who was funnier than he, and more serious than he knew to be. Sometimes, with just one look and a disarming touch, she could stop the laughter and draw him into the shelter of her silence. And for the first time, David could find moments of peace, and a feeling he couldn't laugh away.

But then, fear set in, and David angrily pulled away, like a frantic fish fighting to free himself from the fisherman's line. And David ran, as fast as the wheels of his sports car could carry him. The thunder rumbled in the distance, but even the rain couldn't drown out the pain pouring down his cheeks.

Stopping the car to phone her, he felt her voice resonating beneath his sorrow, warming the emptiness that had been cold for a lifetime. David's performing career was finished. And feeling life within, David forgot the rain.

Copyright Fred Levy, LCSW all rights reserved