Sorry for the recent blog slacking…We had our first official overnight guest at the ranch this weekend. (Marie)…and I got a new haircut (with bangs)…and we tried our darndest to get some holiday cheer (light show at Macy’s, money-spending, Christmas stirfry).
I spend Tuesday night in self-imposed, semi-repentant lockdown.
Well, I go to Earwax for a few hours, but that’s it. No after-coffee cocktail at Rainbo (usually required to counteract the heavy doses of caffeine and nicotine imbibed earlier). I don’t even let myself go to Jewel-Osco for much-need soymilk, lest I fall prey to the charms of the liquor department.
Ryan calls twice, but I don’t answer. He’s going to a bar on Chicago Avenue. I know that hanging out with him–especially in the presence of alcohol–can only lead to trouble. I can envision it: I’m keyed up and therefore, I drink way too much. Stupid statements start spewing from my mouth. Even actually holding my lips closed won’t stop the words from escaping. Foolishness is sneaky; it will climb out the corners of my mouth one letter at a time. And then we will either have a fight or make out in an alleyway. Afterwards I’ll start the long ride home, but eventually I’ll just pass out on a stranger’s stoop or vomit on someone’s noble attempt at city landscaping. No thanks. I would rather go to bed early.
By Wednesday, I feel a lot better. Suddenly I love my job more than ever. I find a great deal of comfort in the simple busy-ness of answering emails and fixing the printer for the nth time. And I have been able to convince myself–however dubious the logic might be–that Ryan is clearly secretly in love with me. I decided that I should take advantage of his disinterest in locking me down by just doing whatever I want. Yeah, that approach has a whiff of “game-playing,” but I’m just trying a lemonade-from-lemons approach.
I know this is going to sound weird or morbid or creepy or just old lady-ish, but most days I have been eating lunch in the cafeteria at Northwestern Hospital. My office is just off of Michigan Avenue, surrounded by Jamba Juice and yucky chain sandwich shops. In other words: nothing good for me to eat. The hospital cafeteria offers a surprising amount of vegan menu options. And I love watching everyone interact–sick people, interns, elderly people (of course), stressed out relatives of patients. I’m sure I can’t be the only outsider eating there. Most days, I have my nose buried in a book. No one wants to talk to me, because well, I look kind of weird with my crazy haircut and polyester frocks. I’ve reached a point where the cashiers recognize me (and some of them even know my name), but generally, I just attract a lot of puzzled looks.
I’m in the midst of eating a hummus sandwich and reading a biography of Anais Nin, when I hear someone say, “Would you mind if we sat with you?” I look up to see an elderly couple. Of course, of course….I can’t say no. I’m about to turn back to my book, when the wife starts asking me questions.
“Why are you here, you don’t look sick?”
“Oh, your office is near here? I would eat here everyday if I could, too” (She also compliments my dress, further proving what an old lady I am). Her husband is silent during all of this.
And then it turns to the “Do you have a boyfriend?” topic that all of my relatives love to discuss.
“No. Well, kinda. But no, actually, no.” This garners a chuckle from the husband.
I’m not sure what has gotten into me (maybe too much coffee), but suddenly I’m spilling the whole story. Well, the EDITED version (ie, no drugs, sex). I even add the bike accident/emergency room date. I tie it all together with “And then he had ice cream with his ex-girlfriend and broke things off with me. Except not, because he calls me every day and says that I’m his best friend.”
As soon as I say this, I realize how ridiculous all of it is. For one, Ryan is not my best friend. No matter what he says and how much I might agree, that’s not the nature of our relationship. Which is not to say that one can’t be best friends with someone that regularly sees them naked. My first (and only) boyfriend, Brad, really was my best friend. There was no one else on earth I would rather be around. I felt like I could talk to him about anything and he always thought I was hilarious. He was always down for any potentially fun activity, no matter how silly it might seem. We did a lot of sledding and ice skating and jungle gym climbing. Even when I became the cracked up, super medicated (and highly unpredictable) version of myself, we still had a great time. The sex was pretty killer, too. We both respected one another immensely. And I knew that I could count on him (which might be the most important element of true friendship).
I don’t want to discount whatever exists between me and Ryan, but I wouldn’t characterize it as friendship. I know that I cannot rely on him. I have to question his level of respect for me, especially considering his recent behavior. But I completely adore him. He’s doing something to me that no one else has. I suspect this relates to some intangible physical thing that I cannot clearly describe. Magnetism. Pheromones. Natural selection. I have no idea. I feel powerless in his presence.
The couple gives me the standard “a pretty girl like you should have boys knocking down your door” advice (and a piece of sugar free cinnamon candy that makes me miss my Grandma Pauline). I return the favor with directions to the Nordstrom on Michigan Avenue.
Work flies by because I’m feeling extra-productive and really, really focused. I decided I am going to go to a show at the Empty Bottle tonight. Dinner at Earwax. A standard pre-Ryan evening.
The phone is ringing when I walk in the apartment. I answer it without hesitation. Ryan. Um, maybe I can convince Nate to pay the extra five dollars for caller ID.
He asks me what I did the night before, but I know he really wants me to ask HIM about his evening.
“Oh, I stayed in and worked on stuff. Did you meet up with everyone at that bar on Division?”
I’m taking off my shoes and half-listening while he lists who he saw, what he drank.
And then he says something that takes my breath away.
“And I met the most amazing girl last night!”
Oh fuck, I think he just stabbed me in the chest.
“I stayed over at her place.”
Okay, now he’s jamming the knife in my stomach.
“It all started, because she was wearing this red pants and no panties.”
“You know, you should really get a pair of red pants. You would look really hot!”
I put the phone on the bed for a moment while I catch my breath, willing the hot tears forming at the corners of my eyes to disappear. Breathe in. Breathe out.
I light a cigarette and return the phone to my ear. He is still talking, apparently unaware of my absence. Her name is Brigitte. She is thirty. Allegedly a writer. Lives in the Ukrainian Village. Her roommate is dating our friend Fred. Apparently she’s really beautiful and perfect in every way. And on and on.
I feign enthusiasm. “Oh, wow, that’s so great!” I think I might just die. I can’t feel my extremities, so maybe I really have already passed away.
And then he asks me what I’m doing tonight. I’m really bad at lying. I should say I’m being deported or I have this new famous boyfriend and we’re eloping in southeast Asia at 8 pm. Instead I hear myself saying, “Going to this show at Empty Bottle. You should come.”
“Yeah! Awesome! I’m supposed to hang out with Brigitte, so I’ll bring her along. You are going to love her!”
I’m sure. I hang up the phone and pull a bottle of gin from the freezer. Tonight will require a heavy amount of chemical fortification.