I wake up astoundingly early in the morning–like, eight–and I decide to call Cheryl on a whim. The chance she is awake is slim, but…she actually answers the phone. And minimal effort is required to persuade her to go to breakfast.
We meet up an hour later. We don’t have to wait for a table because none of the hipsters have crawled out of bed yet.
After our food arrives, Cheryl exclaims, “Is it just me or are all of the old people of the world onto something? I mean, we didn’t have to wait for a table AND this breakfast tastes better than usual, I swear!”
I’m about to respond when I see a familiar face walk in the door.
I focus my eyes on my food and whisper to Cheryl, “Don’t look now, but fucking Larry is here. Whatever you do, do NOT let him sit down with us.” She scowls in disgust.
I try to watch him without being obvious. He grabs a coffee and then leaves. Crisis averted.
I sit up again. “I can’t stand him. He’s so creepy. And it’s like he’s on a mission to consume twice as many drugs as anyone else.”
Cheryl snorts. “Someone must have told him he was a pussy in junior high.”
I roll my eyes. “Probably. I think that’s the issue with half of the guys in our neighborhood. They’re all trying to prove their manhood or something. I saw him Friday night, and he was all King Leer…making sexy eyes at me and staring down my dress.”
“You know that he and Emily broke up, right?”
“Yeah, I know all about it. You know he was cheating on her with this girl Jen, right? Right around the time Emily found out she was pregnant. Both of them agreed that she should get an abortion, because she’s on so much serious medication. But then, the day Emily went in for the procedure, Larry spent the whole day with Jen.”
“What the fuck? How do you know this?”
I’m about to explain, when the waitress stops by and fills up our coffee cups. We spent the next few minutes rustling around sugar and soy milk.
I’m stirring my coffee and spacing out when Cheryl interrupts me. “So wait, are you going to tell me more about this Larry story or what?”
“Oh yeah, well, I know because I got semi-drunk one night last spring, and I ended up sleeping with that Jen girl. And afterwards, we were just sitting on the floor in the kitchen eating frozen raspberries when she started telling me all about it. And she was crying, you know, because she felt really shitty about it. ”
Cheryl’s jaw drops. “You’re always full of surprises, aren’t you?”
“Whatever…but you want to know the fucked up thing? Emily didn’t break up with him because he was cheating. And she didn’t break up with him because she had to take the bus home from Planned Parenthood. No, HE broke up with HER because she seemed so cold and unresponsive, (i.e., not interested in fucking him), after the abortion.”
“Fuck, one more reason to hate him. I mean, I thought he was just creepy and most likely to steal your wallet to buy more blow.” She shakes her head.
“Listen, I know that everyone thinks I’m crazy now. And before that, they thought I was just happy-go-lucky, go-with-the-flow Amanda. But I’m neither. If you don’t think that most of the guys in Wicker Park view women as something to be traded and tossed aside, like currency, you’re wrong. It doesn’t matter how sensitive or tortured a guy might seem. They don’t care how smart we are or how much we know about music…because in their eyes, THEY are the smart ones. We’re just supposed to come to their shows and fuck them after WE buy them a drink. They don’t care about what we are thinking. They don’t want to hear our ideas or see our art projects. They don’t want to read your book or hear you opinion on the the Velvet Underground. They only way to protect yourself in this circle–as a woman–is to do what you want. And if that means sleeping with the girl that is also being fucked by your future boyfriend’s best drug buddy, then so be it.”
Cheryl grabs my hand. “I love you! And I’m glad you’re finally coming back to life. I was afraid that you’re brain had gotten soft from too many drugs and a stupid baby boyfriend.”
“Ha! Yeah, I’m not going to lie, most of my brain has been turned off for the past few months, but I realize now, more than ever, that I need to wake up and regain control of my life.”
Cheryl claps her hands. “So what about Ryan?”
“Oh fuck, he called me when I got back from that show last night. And I agreed to hang out with him today. But trust me, no matter how cute or remorseful he might seem, he’s not spending the night in my bed.”
“Look, Amanda…I know you have the best intentions or whatever, but do you really think you can turn him down? Because, well, you know I love you, but dude, that boy is your kryptonite or something.”
I just shake my head. .