It’s just then, standing in the gangway of my building, that the long evening of drinking and worrying catches up with me. I collapse against the brick wall. I’m suddenly so tired, I consider just sleeping on the stoop. It’s almost 2:00. Nate will be waking up at five to get ready for his opening shift at Caribou Coffee. A three hour nap on concrete doesn’t sound so bad.
Obviously I could call Nate. He sleeps with a phone next to his bed. But I have no idea where to find a payphone. I imagine there is one at the Kinko’s on North Avenue, but at this time of night the innocuous copy shop becomes a haven for pimps and prostitutes. And I feel too tired to walk over there.
Ryan is quiet while I’m trying to concoct a plan. And then he offers, “Why don’t I drive you to my apartment and you can use my phone to call your other roommate?”
This seems like a reasonable idea to me. “Where do you live?”
“Off of Kedzie, on the west side of the park.”
This means nothing to me. “Where is that in relation to the Empty Bottle?”
He laughs at me. “You ARE a hipster, aren’t you?” He assures me that Humboldt Park is actually quite close. And no, driving me out there and back will not be a problem. Yes, he will bring me immediately back to my place. No, he will not throw me out of the car at a stoplight.
Within minutes we are zooming west on North Avenue in his little red car. His apartment is in an inarguably “bad” neighborhood. Abandoned buildings. Trash everywhere. And yet, it’s only one block from the park, a beautiful expanse filled with duck ponds and enormous trees.
The drug dealer on the corner greets him when we get out of the car. I smile blankly as Ryan leads me to the first building on the block. He explains to me that his landlord lives in the apartment above him, but she’s really cool so he never has to worry about playing loud music. “I think she’s an alcoholic,” he whispers solemnly.
There is a photo of KRS-One on his apartment door, taped below the peephole. I can’t even begin to describe how giddy this makes me. I am a semi-closeted hip hop fan in a neighborhood filled with Superchunk devotees reading Edith Wharton books at the bar. Which is not to say that I don’t enjoy both No Pocky for Kitty and Washington Square. But it’s amazing to meet a boy with other interests.
In the apartment, I am greeted by his dog, Sadie. I sit on the floor, scratching her head. “Where are your roommates?”
He lives alone! This is astounding to me. I’ve been sleeping with a lot of 30 year-olds in the past year, and even all of them have lived in weird indie rock communes–bad art school paintings on the walls, stacks of books gleaned at thrift stores in the suburbs, and coffee-stained chore lists on the refrigerator. His place is tiny but colorful. Lots of plants and 70s wall art. Canvases are stacked against the wall. Tubes of Liquitex are meticulously arranged on a small table. There are shelves and shelves of records. The refrigerator is covered from top to bottom with Chiquita banana stickers.
He turns on “Blues Before Sunrise.” Anyone struggling with weekend insomnia/late night drug addiction/drunken loneliness in Chicago loves this WBEZ show. I listen to it almost every Friday night. I’m a little drunk, so I find myself thinking silly things like “Oh my god…he’s so perfect for me.” Normally I would spit at such notions.
Obviously I’ve already forgotten about using the phone. He makes me a cup of tea. We talk for a while (maybe like, two minutes), and then we’re kissing again. Clothes are disappearing and one thing is leading to another much faster than I can even understand.
Important note from the future: So now I have to share something really personal. It’s an essential part of this story. Argh.
Here goes: I am incapable of having an orgasm the first time I sleep with someone. Maybe it’s because I’m too nervous or anxious. Maybe I’m just too excited about the idea that someone wants to sleep with me. Who knows? Regardless, this curse has lead to many Oscar-worthy performances on my part since the mid-90s. But here…this particular night with Ryan…when I am semi-drunk and sleepy…I am lying on the bed thinking, “Oh poor guy…I should almost tell him not to bother. Why waste his energy and time?” BUT THEN! It happens! A miracle of epic proportions. Years later and thousands of miles away, another fellow will accomplish this same feat, earning my eternal love.
Minutes later, I’m sprawled out on the bed, convinced that somehow Ryan has given me brain damage. I realize I’m going to fall asleep if I don’t get up. I decide to go into the bathroom and wash my face. I discover that he has a huge claw foot bathtub.
I run over to the bed. “Let’s take a bath!”
We spend hours in the bathtub talking while drinking a bottle of champagne hidden away in Ryan’s refrigerator. A ridiculous amount of hot water is used. There are puddles on the floor from random splash battles. Eventually we dry off and go to bed.
I’m half asleep and I couldn’t be happier..when the phone starts ringing. Ryan is too old school for voice mail, so an answering machine picks up. We both jump out of bed when we hear a familiar voice speaking. “Uh…hi, Ryan. Um. This is Andy. I was wondering if you know where Amanda is. She never came back to her place and I’m still here.”
We get dressed in a frenzy of belts and tights and untied shoes. Within minutes, we are racing back to Bucktown. Neither of us is speaking. Ryan parks at the end of my block. He grabs my hand. “I’m sorry if I’ve put you in an odd position.” I give him a sleepy (and hopefully convincing) smile. We kiss goodbye.
I walk to my building with leaden steps. I’m hoping that Nate is the one to let me in. Sure…he’ll give me a knowing “what trouble did you get into now?” look, but at least he won’t be actually angry at me.
I am immediately buzzed into my building. A grim Andy meets me at the top of the stairs.
Excuses are flooding out of my mouth. “Oh my god, Andy…Ashley wouldn’t let me in and I didn’t know what to do and I thought about sleeping downstairs but then Ryan took me to his house so I could use the phone to call Nate but then I just feel asleep and suddenly now it’s the morning and oh my god I’m so sorry and I hope you are feeling better and wow what a bad night.”
He says nothing as he walks past me, down the stairs and out the front door.
I take out my contacts, brush my teeth, and collapse in my bed. I know I should feel guilty. And I do, I swear. But more than anything, I am filled with a great sense of accomplishment. I swear I’m smiling as I fall asleep, settling into dreams about long baths and boys who eat a lot of bananas.