So one thing I’m starting to understand as I’m working on this self-assigned “plot points project”: Some key moments/plot twists are obvious even before they happen. The birth of a child, the death of a loved one…if one had the wherewithal to step back and take a broader look in the midst of the chaos, the importance of that event would be obvious. Other moments are sneakier…the significance is not apparent until much later, when one turns around to see the steps and detours taken in the past.
“Can I invite my this friend of mine to hang out with us tonight? He broke up with his girlfriend a few months ago and he’s been hiding in his apartment since then.”
Andy asks this while I am sitting at my desk figuring out the utility bills for the month. Three unclaimed phone calls on the long distance bill. Internet research has proven that this is an area code in Vermont. I’m pretty sure I don’t know anyone there. And I’m sure Nate would have mentioned a new long distance girlfriend. This means another awkward conversation with Ashley. Things have been weird between us since one of her co-workers tried to kiss me during a rowdy game of Scrabble in Humboldt Park a few weeks ago. She grabbed me by my arm and dragged me out of the building. She practically pushed me into the cab. And then she berated me for the next 15 minutes. Who knew Bucktown was so far away? And also, who knew that she liked that guy? I certainly didn’t.
“Sure, ” I say. But I’m thinking, “Great…another weirdo hippie friend. He’ll probably talk my ear off all night about numerology or the origins of Chicago’s street names.”
“You’re going to love him, “Andy offers. “He’s a painter and he really likes hip hop.” He says some more stuff, including this guy’s name, but I’m not really paying attention. I’m worrying about Ashley.
Insert a blank smile from me.
He grabs the phone to call his friend.
I met Andy a few weeks ago at the Rainbo Club. It was St. Patrick’s Day. Somehow I was able to convince Nate to go out for a few drinks. My friend London tagged along. The bar was mostly empty. Obviously Wicker Park hipsters weren’t down with compulsory holiday drinking. We sat in a booth, throwing back Irish whiskey (not for irony’s sake, I swear) and being bored. Drunkenness settled in faster than I was planning. After a particularly woozy trip to the ladies room, I started talking to a really, really cute boy in a straw hat. Soon he was biking back to our apartment for the promise of popcorn and board games. This was Andy.
Since then, we had been hanging out almost everyday. We spent a lot of time eating soup and listening to music. He was so cute–best described as a Beck doppelganger–but I just wasn’t into him. Maybe it his tendency toward discussing topics I considered “flakey”–stuff like reincarnation, the significance of the number 23, weird healing crystals. Maybe he just didn’t smell right to me. I just felt like none of our conversations were ever real. I was using only half of my brain, using the remaining half to think about what I would wear tomorrow or how I was sad about getting so drunk at that Elliott Smith show.
But then again…he was always down for anything. One night we were at his house, when the sky just exploded. It was the sort of downpour one saw only during raging Lake Michigan thunderstorms. I took off my shoes and climbed out onto the roof. “Come on! It will be fun.” He joined me as I was taking off pants. We danced around and sang “Lake effect! Lake effect! Lake effect!”
I know that I do not want him to be my boyfriend.
Ashley calls from work. What am I doing tonight? I explain my plans–vague at best–and she says she wants to come along. We are supposed to hang out at the apartment until she gets home from work. I agree, because a. I have a hard time saying “no” to anyone and b. I’m hoping to talk to her about the bills.
I am in the bathroom brushing my teeth when I hear the buzzer. Andy’s friend. I buzz him in. “Come to the third floor.”
I still have a toothbrush hanging out of my mouth when I open the door.
He is the most amazing boy I have ever seen. I just can’t explain it, but he just seems to glow or something.
For a moment, my body forgets to breathe.
Words fail me.
He’s smiling at me. Waiting for an invitation to come in.
“Wow! Nice glasses, ” I say in a voice I don’t recognize as my own.
I swear he giggles. “I was just going to say the same thing about your toothbrush.”
We stand there for a moment just grinning at one another. I wipe at my chin, worrying about forgotten toothpaste.
“Oh yeah, you should come in…” I direct him with my toothbrush.
We stop in the kitchen. And maybe it’s just because he doesn’t know how to get to my bedroom. But I think he just wants to look at me some more.
“Your hair is really cute,” he says.
“Oh yeah? Wow…thanks. I cut it off a couple weeks ago after my friend London told me it was hard to take a girl with pigtails seriously as an intellectual.”
We’re standing there again just sort of staring at one another.
Somehow I lead him to Andy.
I excuse myself to ostensibly continue brushing my teeth. But really I’m just in the bathroom trying to be cool. I look at myself in the mirror. My face is flushed. And my heart is pounding.
I just don’t understand. Yeah, this guy is cute, but Wicker Park is filled with attractive young men. And it’s not like I know enough about him to appreciate other aspects of him. Is this love at first sight? Ridiculous! My reflection makes a disgusted face.
“Pull yourself together, ” I hiss. If I act foolish and silly all night, I’m going to hurt Andy’s feelings. And furthermore, this guy might be stupid or have weird conservative views or be secretly gay. No need to work myself into a tizzy over a stranger.
I return to the bedroom with beers for my guests.After handing a bottle to Andy, I turn my attention to his friend.
“Hi…I’m sorry…I’m really bad at remembering names. I’m Amanda. What’s your name?”
His face is so bright, I feel lightheaded.
He extends his hand.
“Hi, I’m Ryan.”
I feel compelled to finish the story of this night, if only to explain how my roommate’s penchant for drama brought Ryan and I together. Is this a cliffhanger? To be continued, I guess…