I really couldn’t feel worse about myself and my poor decision-making skills than I do right now, riding my bike east on North Avenue. It’s 6:30 am on Tuesday. And I’m returning home from Humboldt Park so I can get ready for work.
I probably slept two hours last night. My contact lenses feel like they are filled with sand, thanks to a night without their usual retreat to a saline-filled bath.
My head aches. My mouth is desert dry. And I feel alternatively as if my hearing is better than ever–supersonic sound ricochets around the inside of my head–and then as if I’m underwater–I can’t hear a thing.
The buses on North Avenue. The Burger King with an early-breakfast line forming through the drive through. A man tossing newspapers from his car window. I wish I weren’t witnessing any of this.
My flight home arrives early in the afternoon on Monday. I run for the El train, excited about the prospect of being home. Manhattan was/is great, but somehow Chicago was/is better. I realize that I want to live here forever.
The intrinsic kindness of Midwesterners + an endless list of fun activities available at any moment + the lake + super easy biking= the best city ever.
My bags are bursting with loot: new shoes, clothes, gifts for friends, and new comics. I am looking forward to unpacking. I kind of just want to stare at my purchases for a while. My head is filled with plans for the rest of the day: laundry for a few hours, coffee/sketching/comic-reading at Earwax, and then an early bedtime in preparation for a likely long day at work on Tuesday.
Nate is eating soup and looking surly when I got home. “Well, you have five voicemails, all from the same person. And I’m pretty sure this individual called many more times without leaving a message. Would you care to guess who that might be?”
I drop my bags and grab the phone.
Saturday. 9:00 AM Central Time. “Um, I’m not sure why you didn’t tell me about your trip sooner, but I guess you were busy with other stuff. Anyway, I hope you have an awesome time. And I had an amazing time last night. Call me when you get back. Maybe we can do something.”
Saturday. 3:00 PM Central Time. “Oh, I know you’re away, but maybe you’re checking your voicemail? I was just thinking about you and I wish you were here because I have something funny to tell you….and anyway, if you get this message today, you should call me…okay, I can’t wait to talk to you.”
Saturday. 10:00 PM Central Time. A pattern is developing. “Am I being obsessive? I was over on Damen and I saw this girl who looked like you from afar…but it wasn’t obviously…but I hoped it was you…so I had to come home to call you and tell you that….call me when you get back.”
Sunday. 9:00 AM Central Time. Um. “Okay, I’m only going to call once today. Are you really not checking your voicemail? Or are you mad at me or something? You probably got like, five new boyfriends in NYC this weekend, didn’t you? Well, call me. Soon, okay?”
Monday. 8:00AM Central Time. Essentially more of the same. “Oh, I was just getting ready for work and I remembered that you were coming back today. So, you should call me if you’re not tired or busy. Let’s do something tonight.”
Oh god. So much for my plan for a quiet evening at home. Or maybe not. I can get out of this. I should not hang out with him. Somehow I feel like I am winning some unspoken game, and I don’t want to ruin this change in fortune.
I dial Ryan’s phone number immediately (it’s the only number, other than my mom’s home telephone, that I have memorized). I am hoping to leave a nice message along the lines of “I can’t hang out because I’m so busy but thanks for the invitation.”
But he answers! Fuck. He is out of work early on a Monday? This seems a little fishy. “Oh, Ryan…I would love to see you but I’m really tired from my trip and you know, back to the office tomorrow….sooooooo….”
“Oh, no…c’mon….come over to my place and we can play Scrabble and I will make you dinner.”
Okay, okay. I just couldn’t say no. I knew I should have put up a fight–just for the sake of pride–but eh, too much effort.
I hang up the phone and look at Nate. He laughs. “You are such a fucking pussy, Amanda. Are you going to give him a hand job, too?”
I fish some dirty tissues from my pocket and throw them at him. Nate is secretly germaphobic.
I spend a big chunk of time just sitting on my bed, attempting to concoct a game plan for the evening. Mostly stuff like “Don’t sleep with Ryan” and “Furthermore, do not sleep with Ryan.” I’m sure he just wants to hang out in a purely platonic, wholesome manner, right? FRIENDS. I just have to keep a level head. I can’t make a move on him in some surprising spell of temporary insanity. I am going to be so cool, I swear.
I rush through some laundry. And then I smoke two cigarettes in a row before I take a shower. Somehow I feel that this would satisfy my nicotine-need for the entire night. Then I won’t smell like smoke and I won’t get any grief from Ryan.
I pedal over to his place at hyperspeed, hoping the wind created by my great velocity will air dry the damp clothes I am wearing (not enough time for a full cycle in the dryer).
Things go well. He is happy to see me. He is filled with compliments for me and he is trying really, really hard to say funny things. I can tell.
He makes us some of the tea that I bought him.
We play a game of Scrabble. And for the first time in years, I lose. I’m not bragging…but all of that time I spent in a psychiatric hospital really, REALLY sharpened my Scrabble skills. I mean, there was nothing else to do. For some reason, this loss makes me feel grouchy. I feel like I need to do something mean to him or try to force him into sex or SOMETHING to make me feel more dominant.
And then he offers me an Oxy-Contin. I’m taken aback, but I don’t want to be a poor sport. I mean, it’s good to try new things, right?
We each take one. I don’t ask him where he got them, but I’m sure the details are sketchy.
Everything is warm and fuzzy and blurry and nice. We listen to music and tell one another long, plotless stories.
And then, I don’t know, but one thing leads to another and we’re kissing really slowly. It’s nice but I have to say that I feel a little uneasy about it. Maybe because I think I should play hard to get. Or maybe I already know that this guy’s head is way too fucked up to do anything but hurt me again. It’s more likely the first, because at this point, I can’t see things clearly enough to understand that our current “broken up/now we’re friends” situation is not my fault. It will be years before I recognize that my perceived shortcomings were not to blame.
I just can’t stop, because well, I’m feeling really great right now and Ryan is really, really cute. He’s in the process of taking off my skirt when he lifts his head up and says, “Are you sure this is okay? Is this going to be emotionally difficult for you?”
I really should have kicked him in the face.
Or at the very least, I should have jumped up, bombarded him with obscenities, and then biked directly back to my apartment.
What kind of fuckfacery is this? Call me a bunch while I’m gone and leave stupid ass messages and insist that I hang out with you and then shower me with flirty little compliments? And than act like I’m the one all hung up on you? What the fuck?
Oh, I should really slap him.
But instead–because I just want an excuse to hate myself or maybe I just have a higher tolerance for games than I realize–I say, “Are YOU sure it’s not going to be emotionally difficult for YOU?” I’m issuing him a challenge…which he takes.
And hours later, it’s Tuesday morning and I have to bike to work, still feeling groggy from opiates. Way to be a winner, Amanda.