When I crawl out of bed, it’s almost noon. Ryan is still fast asleep.
I stand in front of the medicine cabinet mirror rubbing my eyes and trying to make sense of my dreams. Was Ryan awake during the night? Or was it one of those dreaming-I’m-awake-but-actually-I’m-asleep situations?
I put in my contacts and brush my teeth.
I walk out on to the back porch.
The lake is below, down an almost infinite number of stairs. Water stretches all the way to the horizon. For some reason I thought I might be able to see Chicago from here. I feel like I’m standing on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean. Lake
Michigan is always bigger than I imagine.
It’s really a beautiful fall day. The sky is the brightest blue and all of the trees
shake in the wind.
I tiptoe back into the bedroom to check on Ryan. I sit on the each of the bed before gently nudging his shoulder. “Hey, wake up. It’s awesome outside.” He groans and pushes my hand away. I swear he mumbles, “Come back later.”
I get dressed and take Sadie–Ryan’s dog–down to the beach. She has a blast, barking and chasing sticks. I chase her around in circles until I think I might never catch my breath again.
I collapse on to the cold sand. The wind is deafening. The water itself is absolutely silent. No place in Chicago could be as beautiful as this.
I should move out here. Get some sort of mindless job in the nearby town. Throw away my leather pants and uncomfortable shoes. Grow out my hair. Take up knitting or something. Paint or write every single night until it is time for bed. I could save so much money without the temptation of bars, drugs, and endless wardrobe expansion.
I envision myself giving my resignation at work. Then packing up my belongings. Saying goodbye to Ryan. “You can visit me on the weekends, if you want.” My friends will undoubtedly throw a huge farewell party for me. Freedom at last.
But then again, it probably snows a ton out here. And I would have to buy a car. I certainly can’t drive through inclement weather. I wonder what rent is like out here? Obviously the lakefront properties are owned by wealthy people. Maybe no one actually LIVES here.
I sit up. I’m starving and I really, really want some coffee. I whistle for Sadie. I take a deep breath before charging up the stairs. I feel like I’m Rocky or something when I reach the top.
Another mission to the bedroom. Ryan hasn’t moved. So much for the nice breakfast I was planning.
Instead I have tea and toast. I’m mad at myself for not bringing coffee. And oh man, I would love a cigarette right now. What was I thinking?
I grab and blanket off the couch and take it out on the porch.
I sit there for an unknown amount of time, just huddling in the blanket and staring at the lake. I’m thinking about books I want to read and places I want to visit and jobs I wish I had.
I hear the door open. I turn around. Ryan is actually awake!
He sits down next to me. “I was just watching you through the window. You had this look on your face…well, it’s this expression you get when we’re at a restaurant and I’m trying to figure out the tip. You try to act like you’re not paying attention, but actually, you’re calculating everybody’s portion of the check, including some arbitrary tip, like 16.9% or something. And of course, you’ve figured it out long before me, but you’ll never say that.”
I laugh. He’s right. Arithmetic is not his strongest point. I worry about stepping on his sensitive toes, so I never offer my assistance. But I do expend a lot of energy attempting to telepathically communicate the correct answer to him, silently chanting “Ten forty-nine” over and over again. I swear it has worked more than half the time.
“The thing is, you make that same face other times, too. Like, when I know that I have just said or done something totally stupid and hurtful. You don’t call me out on it, instead you just silently sit there making your math face. And I know you’re giving it some point value. Something like, ‘Well, he wouldn’t let me pick the music in the car. That’s minus 25 points.’ And maybe other times I get some points. ‘He ignored that girl, so that’s plus 10 points.’”
I bite my lip. I can’t really think of a witty response. I’m just so surprised. He is more perceptive than I would have ever guessed.
“So, I’m just wondering, do I have any chance of getting back into a positive score situation with you? Because I know I’ve lost a lot of points with you in the last few months.”
I look out at the lake. This would be a good chance for me to lay it all out: the entire list of Ryan’s mistakes and petty crimes. But that’s not my style. And I don’t want to reveal myself as the grudge holder I really am.
And then I say something that shocks even me. “So be honest: When was the last time you used heroin?”
He mumbles something about “August” while he stares at his feet.
“Is that really true? What about the O-C? Because that’s serious, too.”
He shakes his head, still avoiding my face.
I take a deep breath. “Well, it’s like this, Ryan…Wait, look at me. Because I’m going to say something important.”
He looks up.
“I’m not going to lie and say that I don’t care if you’re getting high or not. I mean, I definitely care. But beyond that, I have to think of myself. And the thing is….if you’re using it around me…or even if I know it’s at your house and all I have to do is ride my bike out to Humboldt Park to get it…Well, I’m going to get back into it again.”
“Honestly, I still have that urge to do it. I miss that feeling. I guess that’s what addiction is. And maybe it never goes away. But this summer, I didn’t care about anything but getting high. Even you, me, what we have…I lost all interest in that . I mean, I can’t even REMEMBER this summer…except for all of the moments that I was at work, wishing I was high. Or riding my bike like so so so fast because I felt like my bones were going to just pop out of my skin if I didn’t get home RIGHT AWAY so I could get fucked up again.”
He just looks so sad as he reaches out for my hand.
“But even worse, it just make me lose my grip on everything. Sleeping and eating and showering and going to work. Even just my ability to interact with others. And then I’m just panicking because I can feel my life slowly falling apart. You know, I’ve had some psychiatric issues in the past, and well, drugs just break down everything I’ve built up to keep myself sane.”
I move closer and stare into his eyes. “I guess I’m saying that, yeah, I want you to stay away from all of this, too. But if you can’t, then you have to lie to me and say you are fine. And I’ll force myself to believe you. Because otherwise, I’m never going to make it. Can you promise me that?”
He nods his head as he turns toward me to grab my other hand.
“Say it. Say ‘Yes, Amanda…I promise.’”
He sits up straight. “Yes, Amanda. I promise.”
I lean forward to kiss him. I stop myself. “I love you. In fact, I love you more than I have ever loved anyone.”
“I love you, too, “ he whispers. “Oh god, I’m so sorry for ——–”
I cut him off. “Come on…I want to make you breakfast.”