when i tried to think.

My glass is empty much faster than I intended. I turn to Cheryl. “I’m going to walk home now.”

“Oh, wait…let me just finish this drink and close my tab. We should walk home together.” She illustrates her commitment by polishing off half of her drink in one long gulp.

I shake my head. “No, you’re having fun,. I just need some time myself, to think about stuff.”

She laughs. “I’m guessing that thinking about ‘stuff’ is the last thing you should do. But I know how you are, so I’ll see you at home in a little bit, okay?”
I give her hug and then summon all of my wits to maneuver my way through the crowd.

The cool air lightens my eyelids. But then I remember that my stomach hates all of the booze I’ve consumed in the last few hours. And my throat is less than thrilled by the 10 cigarettes I have smoked.

But at least I can remember how to get to my apartment. It’s not even that far. Ten blocks maybe? The arithmetic is a little too challenging right now.

Less than thirty seconds after I hung ended that phone call with Ryan, I stormed into Cheryl’s room.

“Listen, I’m aware of my shortcomings. I know that I’m weird-looking and I have big feet. I am terrible about remembering names and phone numbers. And obviously I’m prone to attacks of melodrama. But one thing I’m pretty sure about is that I am essentially a real tiger in the sack.”

Cheryl was sitting on the bed filing her nails. She froze for a moment. And then she dropped her pink emery board and started laughing.

“Oh, god, now what? What did the little prince say to you this time?”

“Nothing too new. Except that now I’m really boring in bed because I’m so selfish. And he would rather just jerk off.” Somehow I managed to not only mime the phrase “jerk off,” but also “boring in bed” and “selfish.”

She shook her head. “Listen, I can tell that no one wanted to fuck Ryan when he was in college. Not because he’s not cute–because he obviously is–but because he is such a fucking weirdo. How many people do you think he has slept with?”

I shrugged my shoulders. “How would I know? It’s not like he would actually be honest with me about it.”

“Well, as an educated woman of the world, I’m going to hazard a guess.” She closed her eyes and tilted her head to the left. “Hmmmm….five. Yep, I’m going with five.”

I knew she was probably right.

“And how about you, Lady A?”

I bit my lip. “Well, I would rather not add it up. But you know, more than five. “

“Ten?”

I gave her a dirty look. I’m not that pathetic.

“Twenty?”

I shook my head. Probably more.

“Thirty?”

I nodded my head. “I mean, I’m sure not more than thirty. But you know, in that neighborhood.”

More laughter from her. “Yeah, yeah…we’re all rounding down, right? Anyway, the point is this: how much experience does that boy have? How does he really know what’s good or bad? Hasn’t he had only ONE girlfriend?”

I sat down on the bed. “I get that. But I mean, it’s quality over quantity, don’t you think? I just feel really bad. I mean, aren’t smart people supposed to be like, automatically good in bed? And I swear I haven’t just been lying there thinking about my own interests.”

“Trust me, this has nothing to do with your ‘skills.’ Listen, obviously he’s completely insecure. And when he senses that you’re actually feeling pretty good about yourself, he has to deflate you a little bit. Otherwise, you might realize how great you are and leave him for something better.”

I grabbed one of her cigarettes off of her dresser. “I know you’re right. But then again, I can’t stop believing what he says. It’s like my mind wants to think that everything bad that anyone says about me is nothing less than the absolute truth.”

She passed me a lighter. “Light one for me, too….you know what? Let’s go out for a drink. You need to see some cute boys. That will make you forget about all of this.”

Fifteen minutes later we were out the door.

And now it’s god-knows-what-time-in-the-morning. I feel sick. I could just lie down on the sidewalk for a while. Or make myself throw up on the sewer grate.

But puking makes me cry. And public sleeping is generally ill-advised in Chicago.

My usual trick for these types of situations (ie, excessive drinking while thinking) is singing. Not so loud that I might interrupt the dreams of wholesome individuals. But not silently either.

“And what costume shall the poor girl wear
To all tomorrow’s parties
A hand-me-down dress from who knows where
To all tomorrow’s parties”

Why did I chose the Velvet Underground?

I’ve moved on to “Run Run Run” by the time I approach my building. I reach in my bag for my keys.

I can’t find them.

More rummaging. I don’t even here them clanging around.

I sit down in the gangway to inspect more closely. I remover everything from my bag: notebooks, pencil case, Sharpies, wallet, various makeup items. No keys.

Shit. They are on the kitchen table. I know it.

Now I have no choice but to wait for Cheryl to come home. Nate will kill me if I wake him up.

Fuck, fuck fuck.

I feel terrible. I’m already anticipating the hangover that will appear in a few hours. I am glad that my office is closed tomorrow for some sort of technological upgrade. So much for being productive on my surprise day off.

What the fuck am I doing? Forgetting my keys yet again? Classic stupid Amanda. Maybe I should go back to the bar so I can manage to misplace my debit card or passport. And why did I drink so much? I’m not even supposed to drink.

How is that I seem to have absolutely no control over anything that happens in my life? And why can’t I even keep myself in check?

I pull my knees to my chest. I can feel sobs starting to form in my chest. No, no, no. I cannot start drunkenly crying in my own gangway just because I left my keys upstairs.

It’s more than that.

Ryan’s probably right. Somewhere along the line I forgot to maintain a desperate level of obedience. Months ago I would do anything and everything to hold his interest. Somehow I would manage to earn his love, if I just tried hard enough.

And now I don’t care about that. I least, I think I don’t.

He loves me right? But if he does, then why does he try to hurt me? I know that Cheryl is right. It’s all about keeping me in my place so I will stray. And it works, because honestly…he has more control over my life than I do.

I can feel my cheeks getting wet.

I mean, I didn’t just spend the night gulping down booze because I thought it would improve my health. I did it because I wanted to erase his words from my memory. Just one more way he is dictating my decisions. I planned to spend the night returning lost buttons to my shirts. And reading a book. Maybe watching a movie with Cheryl. Such activities could only result in a sense of accomplishment and well-being on my part.

Regret and self-loathing will keep me in line.

We can’t share control of my life. Power must be returned to me before I turn into dust.

I must be free.

I have to break things off with him tomorrow. I promise.

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