THE JOKE


Ephemeralit

This morning at 3am I woke up out of a troubled dream, started worrying about the exam, couldn’t get back to sleep again, switched on the radio. BBC 5 Live. A phone-in programme. Nicky Somebody from Osmotherley  told this extremely funny, extremely witty  joke, and I laughed out loud and thought that was the funniest thing I’ve heard for ages, I must remember to tell it to everyone tomorrow and still smiling, the exam forgotten, I dropped off into a seamless, dreamless sleep.
Then this morning, at 10.30 am as I was filing  into the examination room I suddenly remembered that I had heard this extremely funny, extremely witty joke which would make everyone laugh….

but what was the joke again?
I sat down in my allocated seat [206] and when the invigilator told us to begin, opened the question paper and quickly glanced through it. So many questions!
Question 6 looked like the one I had prepared for. Yes, question 6 then 4…or possibly question 3…..or 9? Yes,question 6 then question 9..
The invigilator was walking slowly up and down the aisles. He had a club foot. His club foot made a different sound from his other foot. And the rhythm was sort of irregular:  Boom….. di..Boom ……. di.. Boom….. di..Boom. Getting louder, getting closer.
Right, question 6…..
That funny, witty joke, what was it?
Where was it?
Gone.
Dissipated. Deleted. I looked  round. Everyone bowed over, writing
away like mad.
Boom…..di..Boom. No, wait…something to do with a railway carriage….. a woman in a railway carriage ……….and …..and
No. Discarded. Gone forever.
Right. Question 6.  ” Truth or illusion: Is this what ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?’  is about? ”
 ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?’ was a play I had seen/read so often I felt I knew it by heart but truth or illusion? Truth or illusion…
What exactly did that mean?
I started to write anyway,  got halfway through my opening sentence –  ” Martha’s truth is very different from George’s version of reality in that….” –  when I remembered it had something to do with peeling an orange…a  man in a railway carriage is peeling an orange and the woman sitting next to him says……says what? No, he turns to the woman sitting next to him and says……
(Why is it that when you dream a particularly vivid dream or hear an outstandingly funny joke, unless you write it down it disappears like morning mist? What specific part of the brain’s memory system deals with jokes and dreams? And why does it send them straight to the recycle bin after use? What use? How can they be retrieved? And what is the link between jokes and dreams?)
That was it….he turns to the woman and says, I hope you don’t suffer from a citrus allergy and she says……and she says…

I listened to the irregular footsteps of the approaching invigilator and stared at the exam paper then he was bending over me and quietly asking, “Anything the matter?”
I shook my head.
So many questions, so many unanswered questions.

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