There is a weird tertiary gradient of memory whenever I hear the name “Murphy.”
1. First there was a Dalmatian. I always thought he was a “Fire Engine Dog” but Uncle Earl was not a firefighter. Uncle Earl carved wooden birds for a living and just happened to own a Dalmatian.
2. Then there was my boyfriend who I dated for two years, lived with for three months, and broke up with on Christmas. His mother named him after Eddie Murphy because Eddie Murphy was just getting big at the time of his birth and it was the only English-sounding name she could think of.
I remember seeing him on the city bus in the ninth grade everyday after school, he was always making people laugh, hopping from seat to seat. One time Murphy came to my seat and asked me who I was and where I went to school and I felt intimidated by his confidence.
About one year later I saw that he was working with my older brother at Wendy’s. My brother had a stroke when he was a baby so I always felt very protective of him in social situations. When I saw that Murphy was friendly to my brother, I think my brain took special note of it.
Murphy made his way into every network, in fact. The next I heard of him, years later, he was living in London and my two best girlfriends were going to visit him. I couldn’t believe he had resurfaced in such close personal range of my life.
When I would see him in public, working or dancing at a show or skateboarding, I would stop to talk to him but this wasn’t unusual for people around him.
After graduation, when my friends moved out of town and Murphy had dropped out of school in London, I found myself working as a janitor in a supermarket with a short butch dyke haircut. One day I saw him at work, as he was pouring buckets of pennies into a change machine in the foyer. When we made eye contact we couldn’t stop laughing. Without words or tangible expression, there was the dooming hilarity in subtext: he was surviving off of pennies and I was a cleaning up human shit.
We started a new life together in Montreal, ten hours away from our hometown. We lived together and adopted kittens together. We played and laughed a lot. We were very generous lovers. At some point unfortunately, I grew detached and wanted to pursue my curiosities alone. He moved out five days after we got back from Christmas vacation. I swore I’d never have another “significant other” ever again.
3. The third “Murphy” is “Charlie Murphy,” Eddie Murphy’s brother. Every year in July, famous comedians come to Montreal for the Just for Laughs festival. I was doing stand-up at the time and wanted to study the business first-hand. Brad, a friend from work, told me that he had met Charlie Murphy at the hotel bar one-year prior. I decided that I would go to the hotel bar that night where all of the comedians were socializing and try to gain some insight on the industry.
I went to the hotel alone, with a mickey of whisky in my purse. I drank a couple of ounces before going in and ordering a pint of beer. After my pint, I decided I wanted to finish the mickey of whisky so I went outside to chug it.
I remember being at the bar, turning around, seeing Charlie Murphy and walking up to him. I said hello and introduced myself. Then I remember he said, “Want to see my hotel room?”
And I laughed, thinking that it would be funny if I fucked Charlie Murphy.
I remember walking down the fluorescent white hotel hallways, and I’m pretty sure I said, “You must be so sick of people asking about your brotherrrrr.”
I remember he turned back grinning, saying nothing. Or maybe he said something and I didn’t hear or see it.
Then I remember moaning euphorically, him eating me out on top of his bed sheets, then blackness.
I woke up and saw a flat screen TV on the wall, white sheets, and for a split second I thought that I was in my own apartment. (Murphy and I had bought a flat screen TV for some reason? and I still had it in my bedroom.) Then I leaned over and saw a bunch of Nike’s lined up against the wall and this symbol triggered the memory of the previous night.
I had to retrace what I did, why I was there, and what exactly had taken place.
“CHARLIE MURPHY,” I thought suddenly, clasping my mouth in awe.
I started scrambling for my clothes. I went to the bathroom and cologne and jewelry were everywhere. I wrote on a piece of paper, “Thanks for a good time!” and I couldn’t decide whether to sign it with a fake name or not. I ended up just putting my first name and leaving it on the pillow.
I speed-walked in high heels, across the city plaza, vacantly laughing, feeling insane.
I went straight to the office and told Brad. He was concerned about me, “Are you sure he didn’t just rape you while you were inebriated?”
“But I wanted it,” I said.
A couple of days later I had a ticket to see Bob Saget’s Just for Laughs Gala. I was sitting in the massive theatre, surrounded by flat screens replicating the live performance as it was happening.
Before the taping began, a new comedian came on stage to warm up the audience. As I was looking around at all of the flat screens, I started to wonder why this person’s face seemed so familiar. I watched his act, and it wasn’t until about twenty minutes into his set that it dawned me: HE WAS NOT CHARLIE MURPHY.
I’d had sex with this random hack, and I couldn’t decide if this made “the story” better or worse. Another moment of astonishment, clasping my mouth in disbelief.
That night, I went to one of the “exclusive parties” where only comedians and their guests were allowed and because a very nice comedian who used to write for VICE gave me his pass, I was allowed inside.
I was hanging out alone near the food table when I heard my name called from behind.
Turning around, my mouth full of potato salad, I was confronted by Not-Charlie-Murphy.
“Oh my god,” I started laughing, swallowing, mayonnaise.
“I’m so sorry I FELL ASLEEP!” I shouted.
His eyes were dark and glimmering with amusement. He spoke very coolly. “Where did you go? Why did you leave so early?”
I was extremely surprised by this response.
“I went to go do some cardio and when I came back you were gone.”
There were two women behind him in the distance, clearly waiting for his attention but smiling excitedly at me with rodent-eyes, bright red lipstick.
I laughed bashfully and told him that I was so fucked up I had no idea what happened.
Then I think we hugged?
He said, “Easy on the open bar tonight” and winked.
And I scrunched up my face and said, “You’re not the boss of me.”
For the next three days we travelled back and forth from my loft to his hotel. He seemed surprised by my living space, reinstating that it was “actually nice.” I got the feeling that he was really turned on by the fact that I was not famous or rich or even close the same age as he.
At the hotel bar he introduced me to his fellow comedians, many of which I’d seen on television and secretly admired. Some of them were humble and unassuming and made good conversation, and others were dismissive and seemed to think of me as some kind of delinquent whore.
The morning he left Montreal, I got up at sunrise and insisted on walking back to my loft alone. In six-inch heels, tight spandex, and raggedy hair, walking up Saint Laurent near Ontario Street, I must have looked like a cheap hooker. An old man in a souped up car slowed down beside me and asked if I needed a ride. I said no firmly and continued walking, walking consciously as powerfully as I could, like a soldier in my tall shiny heels. He slowly circled around the block again and crept up next to me. I ignored him for a few paces before making eye contact. He opened his mouth like a dog, nearly drooling with anticipation, and I pointed my finger, like a dog too, barking, “GET THE FUCK AWAY FROM ME.”
He sped off down the road.
When I got to my loft, I crashed in my bed, naked and natural again. I got a phone call around eight o’clock from an unknown number. It was the comedian. His voice sounded soft and warm and he told me that he enjoyed his time with me and hoped that he would see me again. I was flattered but also kind of upset by this. I knew that to him I was just “MONTREAL” and I was fine with my objectification as it was reciprocated. I didn’t want him to pretend like it was anything else, even just by the tone of his voice, or in his insistence. I only wanted to remain a strange occurrence to him, much like the catalysts of recollection, but of course I never expressed this aloud.