My bedroom is filled with blinding light when I open my eyes. I can tell already that I am not going to be feeling well today. I should go back to sleep for a few more hours.
I shuffle to the bathroom for some Advil and b-vitamins. I plan on taking large doses of both, washing them down with two glasses of water. Then I am going to return to bed. As much as I hate to admit it, this is becoming my standard weekend morning ritual.
As I’m leaning against the kitchen counter choking down lukewarm tap water, my mind plays a highlight reel of the previous night. Ryan. Ryan. Ryan. All other characters are just scenery. Despite my aching head, I’m feeling pretty great. I’m smiling, until I remember Andy’s exit. Great. I’m sure he’s angry. And then I look over at the door to Ashley’s room. Oh man. I can’t believe she locked me out like that! Or wait, yes I can.
A glance at the clock on the stove reveals that it is 12:30. Fuck. I’m supposed to have lunch with London today. And then of course, the phone starts ringing. And yes, it’s him. I’m laughing because of his timing. He’s laughing because I sound like I had a good time last night. “Oh man, I’ll explain it to you later. I’m going to need mexican food for lunch, to counteract the champagne I drank around 3 or 4 in the morning.” (Note: I still believe that mexican food is the best cure for a hangover.)
An hour later, we’re cruising up Ashland in London’s car. I’m drinking an enormous flask of coffee while explaining the previous evening. London’s opinion: “Well, it’s only a matter of time until Ashley poisons you. And I always thought Andy wasn’t clever enough for you.” I suppose I should find some comfort in these sentences.
We end up eating Ethiopian food (also a decent approach to hangover treatment). And then we go to Chicago Comics. I’ve been visiting this store every weekend since I moved to Chicago two years ago. I buy a lot of comics. But I have chosen Saturday as my specific comic-purchasing day because my most long-standing crush (other than Steve Wiley, from 7th grade through high school graduation) works there on the weekends. Just recently I learned his name, after London bet me $100 that I wouldn’t find out his name by the end of the month. Of course, the idea is that I would actually TALK to him. But I just couldn’t do it. Instead, I emailed the store and simply said, “Hey, what’s the name of the guy who works there on Saturdays? He has glasses.” It was that easy. London refused to fork over a benjamin, because he thought that I cheated. We’re quietly squabbling about it as we walk into the store. As I’m paying, Eric–that’s his name–is talking with a co-worker about Ghost Dog. This is one of my favorite movies. A perfect chance for me to jump in and say something clever. But I just avoid eye-contact and shuffle my feet, mumbling “thank you” as he hands me my bag.
London is laughing at me as I turn to walk out the door. “Listen,” I hiss. “I have enough boy problems today.”
When I get home, I have a voicemail from Andy. “Sorry about this morning. I was just really sleepy. Did you say that Ashley locked you out? Oh, man. Anyway…tonight my band is playing that show downtown, west of the Loop. Are you and Ashley still coming? Call me and I’ll give you the address and stuff.”
Okay, 50% of my worries are gone. Andy is cool.
The next voicemail: “Oh, hey, Amanda…it’s Ashley. I work until five. When are we going to Andy’s show? Call me back at work.”
No mention of locking me out of my house? No accusing questions about Ryan?
I dial the number for Pearl Paint. I’m hoping that the creepy guy that kissed me at the Scrabble party is not going to answer.
Fortunately, Ashley’s familiar rasp greets me.
“Oh gosh, I’m sorry I fell asleep before you got home.”
So insincere. If I were as badass as I like to think I am, I would call her out on this. But I don’t feel like being drawn into some kind of “you stole my man” confrontation. Instead, I play along. “Oh, yeah…it worked out fine. I slept on Ryan’s sofa until Nate got up for work.” Ha. Or whatever.
We’re going to the show at 9. We can take the El, since Ashley doesn’t have a bike.
Next, I go upstairs to talk to Nate. He’s listening to Belle and Sebastian (surprise) and chain-smoking. Supposedly he’s trying to work on a term paper.
I stretch out on the couch and explain the previous evening. Imagine a lot of derisive snickers on his part. His final verdict: “You can’t keep yourself out of trouble. Maybe you should try wearing two pairs of underwear from now on. And I’m starting to think that Ashley is being affected by the curse of the third bedroom.” No sympathy from him. Really, I just want him to ask me about Ryan so I can hear myself list all of the awesome things about him. He’s not biting.
I take a one hour nap. Then I drink a pot of coffee and work on freelance stuff for a while.
Eventually, I take a shower and start working out an outfit for the night. By then, Ashley is home, having a loud telephone conversation with her father in her bedroom. They are arguing about money. Specifically, she wants some and he doesn’t want to give it to her. The conversation must have gone well, because when she opens the bedroom door she announces that we are taking a cab to the show. “Don’t worry, my dad is giving me a huge check this week. The cab ride is on me.”
As I’m putting on eyeliner, it occurs to me that Ryan might be at this show. Andy invited him. Suddenly I’m so giddy, that I inadvertently draw a black kohl line on my cheek. Back to square one.
The show is in this weird loft in the meatpacking district west of the Loop. The street smells like dead animals. I see a guy hosing blood off the floor of an open garage. The sidewalks are empty. The El train overhead blocks out any moonlight. It’s definitely creepy. I’m glad we took a cab. I consider sending a thank you note to Ashley’s dad.
The loft is owned by someone who somehow might have somewhat been affiliated with Wax Trax. In the next year, I will have a multitude of weird drug-related experiences there. Sometimes we will go there to buy drugs, other times we will be there to share. At one point, I will nod off in the bathtub of the makeshift–and filthy–bathroom. Ryan will drive home, thinking that I decided to ride my bike (oddly enough, I don’t have my bike with me, because I rode there in the car with him). I will wake up hours later, sick and confused. I will walk barefoot to a payphone to call him. Ryan and I are hereafter forced to institute a “no going to the bathroom alone” policy.
But this night is my first time in the loft. And I don’t even know Ryan’s phone number. If someone told me the events of the next two years, I would laugh uncomfortably.
Andy enthusiastically greets us when we walk up the entry stairs. He hugs both of us. Ashley seems pleased by this. He has to handle some band stuff, so he directs us toward the beer in the other room. “I’m not playing until after midnight, I think.” I’m not thrilled to hear this, because I’m super-tired. I was hoping to make a brief appearance and be in bed an hour later.
We wander over to the keg. I turn to Ashley, “Look, I feel semi-embarrassed saying this, but I don’t know how to work a keg well. I went to art school, okay?!” A familiar voice behind me says, “Don’t worry, I want to a state school. I can help you.”
I turn around to see Ryan. He introduces me to two of his friends. One of the guys, Thom, says, “Didn’t I see you at the Elliott Smith show a few months ago? You cut off your hair, huh?”
I blush. “Oh man, I was sooooo drunk. I’m still ashamed.”
“Oh, I didn’t notice that. I just thought you were cute.” He’s giving me a very flirty look. Great. Let’s drag another one of Andy’s friends into this. Maybe Ashley can reveal some long-standing crush on him, too.
I look away. “I just realized that I have to use the bathroom. I’ll be back.”
Ashley comes with me. “I think that Ryan likes you or something.”
I laugh it off. “I mean, whatever. I don’t care.”
She thinks we should return to Ryan and his friends. She is convinced that Thom is cute. Argh. Fine.
I’m standing there listening to someone wax poetic about Radiohead, trying not to look at Ryan, when a weird little guy bursts in to our circle. He’s waving a hat full of money. “Listen…do any of you have a car? I took up a collection to buy some liquor, but there are no liquor stores in this neighborhood.”
Ryan volunteers. “I have a car. Amanda will come with us.”
I’m confused, but then again, I’m already bored with this party. So why not?
We drive all the way to a liquor store in Wicker Park. Ostensibly, it’s because Ryan doesn’t know anywhere else to go. I’m no help on this subject. And the little guy–Bill–admits that he never leaves the neighborhood.
We wait in the car while Bill runs in, with a hat full of crumpled dollar bills.
Ryan turns to me. “I only volunteered for this stupid job because I wanted to spend time alone with you.”
I blush. “Too bad Bill came, I guess.” But I’m thinking, “Thank god Bill came, or we would be at my apartment ripping off our clothes right now.”
He looks very serious. “I know this is going to sound weird or crazy, but there is something about you that is different from anyone else I’ve ever met. Even in that loft full of people, you seemed like you were on an island by yourself.”
I’m not sure how to respond. So I just let him continue.
“I hope I’m not being to forward, but I really want to hang out with more. Soon. Can I have your phone number?”
I giggle as I’m fishing through my bag for a pen. I write it on a piece of Hello Kitty paper.
Just then, Bill explodes back into the car with bags and bags of booze.
We get back to the party just in time for Andy’s band. And then I decide to leave. I’m exhausted. I don’t want to make shallow conversations for strangers. Sometimes that can be fun, but I’m not feeling it tonight. Ashley decides to come with me. We’re going to stop at Flash Taco for nachos…which I’ll probably eat on my bed just before falling asleep.
I can’t find Ryan to say goodbye. I catch Andy’s eye and make a variety of gestures that mean “I’m tired. Going home. Call me.”
We wait at least 30 minutes for a train. And then there is a transfer to the blue line. It’s at least two hours later when we get home. I’ve just finished brushing my teeth (and washing my nacho hands) and I’m about to crawl into bed, when my phone rings.
“Hi, Amanda. It’s, um, Ryan.”
I’m secretly overjoyed.
“I was just calling to see if you got home okay.”
I giggle. “I made it okay. Are you home already?”
“Well, don’t laugh…but I came back to my apartment so I could call you.”
Trying to be cool, I say something non-committal like, “Oh, that’s nice of you.”
“Anyway, I was thinking that maybe we can hang out some time. So I don’t know, but maybe I can give you my number and you can call me when you feel like doing something?”
I laugh. “Well, we could do that. But I’m probably just going to call you tomorrow morning, as soon as I wake up. So, why don’t you just call me tomorrow when YOU wake up?”
“Yeah! Okay. Well, good night, Amanda.”
“Good night, Ryan.”
I hang up the phone and crawl under the covers.
Something awesome is about to begin. I just know it.