I begin to feel a creeping sense of dread as the next several dozen calls I place go nowhere. No answer, no voice mail, just endless ringing. I try to rationalize to myself what is occurring. Was I somehow call blocked? Is Janice Gaynor the kind of woman who has voice mail? What kind of insane outgoing message would it be? I imagine it would be her yelling at Maury Povich about what assholes his guests are for a solid 10 minutes, followed by a beep. What if dozens of other people had found her and were doing the same thing I was and we drove her insane? What if that last call I placed was the straw that broke the camel's back? What if she was in a tub full of water and rhubarb right this second with the toaster in her lap? Am I that kind of monster?
I poured myself a drink and called again. Nothing heaped upon nothing. Maybe she was just out. Maybe she was on a date. Oh my God, imagine her having sex. "No, you dickhead, that's the wrong fuckin' hole!" I laughed, but on the inside, I was still pensive.
What if she traced my number? Oh shit, son. What if she was on her way here? She lived across the country, but she's obviously dreadfully unstable. What if she looked me up online? My only hope was that she stumbled upon that British photographer who stole the goddamn felixclay.com domain. Hope you enjoy being famous for copying me when you're getting fistfuls of rhubarb shoved up your ass by a crazy old lady, Mr. Artist.
I needed to calm down and relax. I went to see a movie and then got pretty dirty drunk. I fell asleep on my own sofa eating pierogies. It was disgusting.
The next day I awoke in a haze of shame and fear. I needed to set right what I had made wrong. I needed to Quantum Leap this bitch.
Felix Clay: Ms. Gaynor! So good to hear your voice!
Janice Gaynor: Who's this?
FC: Ms. Gaynor, I'm what you might call a mirthemagician, and-
JG: Fuck is that supposed to be?
FC: Fuck is supposed to be your ticket to getting your life back. You don't want these people bugging you day in and day out about rhubarb, do you? I mean, really -- rhubarb?
JG: Fuck are you talking about?
FC: I like how you drop parts of your speech.
"Stop being an asshole."
And we're done. But great news! She's not dead and, near as I can tell, not stalking me. To be honest, I'm pretty sure she doesn't have call display, and if you asked her about it, I'd put good money on her response being "Fuck is that?" Still, it seems like rhubarb is a pretty touchy subject for her, and really, all I want to know is why the hell she lost her shit over some rhubarb. And in that moment the entire challenge I'm facing hit me like a ton of bricks.
There was no way I could ask her about the rhubarb, because in her mind, we were all the crazy people. She was just picking some alley rhubarb, fuck you for caring. The fact that anyone questioned it incensed her because it was the most normal thing in the world for a batshit loony toon like Janice. The only way we could converse on even footing was if we were on the same side. Fuck do I do that?
Felix Clay: Hi, Janice, do you have a minute?
Janice Gaynor: Who's this?
FC: (audible sigh) Listen, no bullshit, I'm just asking about the rhubarb. It wasn't a big deal, right? Like you were just going to pick some and leave, right? And this woman just started giving you shit for it, but if she didn't you would have just gone home and made a pie or whatever and it never would have mattered, right?
JG: You motherfucker! Go fuck your head!
The click that ends our exchange cuts like a dull knife. Go fuck my head? What does that even mean? What started as a journey to the land of comedy gold had become a frustrating endeavor in butting heads with the physical embodiment of that brief moment of irrational rage you feel every time you stub your toe. Janice Gaynor lives in that moment all day, every day. I wonder if she can see colors only visible to mantis shrimp.
"Know what a rainbow looks like to me? Looks like insanity jizzing across Satan's fiery backside."
Rarely will one ever get a chance to interact with something as pure as Janice Gaynor. Pure, blind hilarity. No idea that she's funny, no idea why anyone would think she's funny, probably get even funnier and angrier if she were clued into it. I feel like a physicist confronted with a new state of matter, or an element that doesn't fit into our periodic table.
There was only one choice left.
Felix Clay: Janice, it's Felix.
Janice Gaynor: Who?
FC: Just tell me why you're so angry. Why do you swear so much? Who the fuck gets so worked up about rhubarb?
Janice Gaynor: Stop calling, you dumb fuck, I've had it! You hear me? HAD IT!
I sat for a long time looking at the phone. Then purposely not looking at the phone. I watched TV. I worked. I ate some brisket. I sexted someone I barely know. It was OK, but I was plagued. Shouldn't I call her again?
No. No, Felix. This is a puzzle not meant to be solved by one such as me. Nor should it be. These viral videos, these zany Internet sensations ... when we dig too deep and pull back too many layers, are we any better off? Did you feel good when Rebecca Black made that video with Katy Perry? When Kai the hitchhiker murdered a guy? When Antoine Dodson decided he wasn't gay anymore? No. Those were all tragedies. And getting to the bottom of Janice Gaynor, the Rhubarb Lady, would be a tragedy, too. I would not delve deep like the dwarfs of Moria and expose her inner Balrog. I would instead tread lightly across her snowy crust of insanity, like Legolas. And so here we are.
John Foxx/Stockbyte/Getty Images
Done a good thing here. Time to go home.
I tossed out Janice's number. I deleted my emails. The hunt is over. The white whale has escaped. And I think I'm a better man as a result.