The Heavy Pour

I Know You Are but What Am I?

Unwinnable Monthly cover with Commander Shepard tossing gifts to elves.

This column is a reprint from Unwinnable Monthly #146. If you like what you see, grab the magazine for less than ten dollars, or subscribe and get all future magazines for half price.

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Three fingers of analysis when two will do.

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A colorful drawing of a 1980's issue of TV Guide featuring Mr. Rogers, Babar, the Muppets from Sesame Street, and Pee-wee Herman. It is lying on a wooden table with the wood grain rendered in black and white. Text: Hey Pal! How are you doing? Do you remember the day we first met?. You probably don’t, but don’t worry, I’ve got enough memory for the both of us. I’ve rewound the tape so many times.

A hand-drawn portrait of Pee-wee Herman in his playhouse, smiling in front of his front door, which is bright red and matches his bowtie exactly. Text: Let’s set the scene: You: an ageless man-child in a miniature suit which makes you look taller, your limbs extending past the hems like undercooked noodles. Me: the toddler who knows how to turn on the TV when the grownups are still sleeping.

A black-and-white line drawing of a 1980s living room. Only the armchair is rendered in color – it's a seafoam turquoise and has eyes and a friendly, grinning mouth. Text: You hang out with your pals (you have so many), giving out life advice like it was your actual job. (Is it your actual job? Can I have that job?) You have such an easy way of moving across social groups – I’d call you a social butterfly, but you’re more like a small sun: everyone else is pulled in towards you.

A drawing of a 1980s dining room rendered in black and white save for a jazz trio performing on the sideboard, which is rendered in full color. The trio is made up of a blue dog (bass), a small white chick (vocals), and a fluffy white cat wearing sunglasses (drums). Text: I can’t say anything to you, but you look straight at me and ask me questions anyway. You even wait for my answers.

A black and white drawing of a suburban backyard with a filled kiddie pool prominently featured. Three anthropomorphic daises growing from the lawn are the only things in color. Text: In the half hour we’re together, you do crafts (making sure to help me follow along if I want), make a delicious snack, and throw an impromptu party for a slew of swimmers forced to come in from the rain.

A 1980s kitchen is drawn in black and white. A childlike green pterodactyl is flying near the ceiling. Text: For a minute it looks like your party snack is going to be a disaster, but then you rally, remembering there’s a solution to every problem. I try to remember that, too.

Two anthropomorphic fish, one purple and one bright orange, swim next to a small red-suited diver in a large industrial washing machine rendered in simple black and white lines. Text: You bring a lot of color into the world for me, pal. I love finding magic in the grey everyday.

A shot from Pee-wee's Playhouse is displayed on a 1980s television set sitting on top of a wooden console in front of a wall covered in faded, patterned wallpaper. The screen is the only thing in color. Text: You are my hero! Not just because you’re excited about the mundane happenings of everyday life (snacks! songs! mail!), not just because you find a reason to laugh at most things, or because you have a million friends, or a souped-up scooter, bike, playhouse. Not just because you have no parents telling you what to do, or because you dance in front of tough guys who want to beat you up. Not just because you only wear the clothes you want to, or because you spent a million years constructing a Rube Goldberg machine to cook you breakfast, or because you scream real loud, or royally mess up in a big, messy, public way. (You meant to do that!) It’s not just because the number of cares you have to give about what other people think is zero to nil. It’s all of these things. If I ever get to meet you in real life? I’m going to tell you you’re the coolest.

A three-year-old child in pigtails stands in a suburban living room clutching on to a Pee-wee Herman doll. The child and doll wearing matching glen plaid suits with red bowties. The whole scene is rendered in vibrant color. Text: I hope when I do you’ll say, “I know you are, but what am I?”

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Sara Clemens thinks too much about things, generally. They run a site called Videodame and a Twitter called @thesaraclemens.

 

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