i hear bad things in a good way.

First, refresh your memory here.

That first night–April Fool’s Day–Ryan asked me, “Why haven’t I ever seen you around the neighborhood before? There’s no way I could have missed you.”

I admitted sheepishly, “For some reason, I usually hang out at the same three places: Earwax, the Empty Bottle, and Rainbo Club. And despite my best efforts, I end up at Rainbo almost every night.”

He wrinkled his nose in disdain. “Oh, I would never hang out at Rainbo. Too many hipsters!”

I was caught in my aspiring hipster tracks. “Oh, oh…no, I mean, I don’t really LIKE it there or anything. It’s just, you know, cheap drinks and it’s um, near other places I like, you know?” Honesty rarely leads to sexual conquest.

But here we are at Rainbo yet again. This place he has always claimed to hate. And as usual, it’s the corner table with all of the regular characters: Andy, Thom, Adam, Cheryl, and a few others I don’t know well. Someone’s coworkers or something. Maybe old college friends. I’m too bored (and high on grape Triaminic) to care.

Usually I take it upon myself to carry the conversation. If I don’t make the newcomers feel comfortable, no one will…especially when everyone else is taking long trips to the bathroom every fifteen minutes. But I don’t have the strength to play the part of gracious hostess. I should be in bed, drinking clear liquids and reading this week’s comic books. But Ryan was so insistent: four phone calls in two hours, cajoles and compliments. Saying no was futile. An extra teaspoon of cough syrup and copious amounts of blush; I was ready to go.

The conversation is sporadic, at best. I’m busy mustering the strength to play some pinball.

Adam has an appalling amount of white crust around his nostrils. I’ve been wanting to hand him a tissue for the last hour, but I’m afraid of offending him. He’s really strange tonight. I get this feeling that he’s on the verge of freaking out at any moment.

Meanwhile, Ryan’s pupils have conquered his irises. They are about to spread past his eyes, enveloping his entire face in blackness. When I reached into his pocket earlier for his keys, my hand brushed against an assortment of capsules and tablets.

I’m expecting that blood will start to run down my chin at any moment, the result of determined tongue biting. I’m the last person that should criticize anyone about their abuses and addictions.

I’ve been trudging off to the ladies’ room several times an hour, to cough and blow my nose. If I dare even the slightest throat clearing or sniffling at the table, I will be forced to listen to the latest installment in Ryan’s ongoing lecture series, “The Perils of Smoking.” This often functions as an introduction to a larger program entitled “Everything Else that is Wrong with You, Amanda.” Previous topics have included “You Should Learn to Eat Spinach” and “Stop Wearing so Much Black Clothing.” And my personal favorite “Cheryl Is a Bad Influence on You: Remember that time you went out with her and ended up drinking so much gin that you threw up on the sidewalk outside that gay bar ?”

I’m stifling back yet another coughing fit when Adam reaches across the table to grab my hand. “Lovely Amanda, will you buy me a drink?”

I shrug my shoulders. “Sure, why not? Just go up there and put it on my tab.”

He doesn’t like this. “No, I don’t want to do that. It’s weird. Don’t you have any cash?”

I look around the table, hoping that someone else will thrust a five dollar bill into his hands. But everyone is avoiding eye contact.

I sigh. “Well, all I have is some quarters I was saving for my laundry. But you can use those, if you don’t mind. I have more than I actually need.”

He nods his head. I pull my change purse out of my bag, counting out $4.50–the exact cost of a well drink with a $1 tip. I slide the quarters across the table to him.

No thank you or anything. He just stands up and heads to the bar. But then just as fast, he’s back. My face is pelted with quarters. It stings more than I would care to admit.

I’m frozen, too shocked to say anything.

Adam, on the other hand, is completely irate. “You think you’re better than me because I don’t have a job? So you think I deserve to pay for my drink with change? Stupid coins? I don’t deserve paper money like the rest of you?”

I still have nothing to say. I sneak a glance at Ryan, hoping that he will intervene, defend my honor or whatever. But his eyes are too glazed to witness anything happening around him.

Suddenly I’m super pissed. I don’t know which is angering me more: stupid coked up Adam or my foolish drug-addled quasi-boyfriend. I leap to my feet.

“Fuck you, Adam. Maybe later you will rewind the footage and realize what an ass you’re being. “ And then I grab my bag and stomp out of the bar.

It’s so fucking cold outside, my teeth are chattering as I try to unlock my bike. I rummage through my bag for a pair of gloves, finding only two mismatches. Beggars can’t be choosers.

I’m in the process of pulling my hat down over my ears (the last step before riding away to Bucktown), when Ryan seems to fall out of the door of the bar.

“Amanda! Wait, wait!”

I can only scowl at him. “What do you want?”

He’s wobbling from side to side, obviously completely fucked up. I grab his hand and wrap it around the bike rack, hoping that will steady him.

“Listen, you should come back inside. Adam is sorry. He’s really messed up tonight. His new thing is mixing coke and heroin. It makes him a little weird or something.”

I shake my head. “No way. I’m tired and bored and pissy. I just want to go home and get some sleep.” I don’t mention that mixing those two substances seems really counterproductive and wasteful.

He grabs my hand. “Well, then let me come back to your house with you. I want to spend time with you.”

“No, no. I can’t even imagine why you would spend the night at my house. We’re broken up, remember? If you want to be friends, fine…but most friends don’t sleep in the same bed on a regular basis.”

His face registers emotion for the first time that night: confusion. “I don’t understand. Don’t you want to get back together?”

I can feel my head growing hotter. He’s hit the right (or wrong) nerve. “Why do you assume that I want to get back together? What about you? It seems like you’re the one who’s eager to see me, stay at my house, whatever else you were hoping to achieve tonight.”

He says nothing.

I realize that this is not the time to have a conversation of any consequence with him. He’s probably not going to remember it tomorrow. And right now his IQ is at least 40 points lower than usual. I could have a more fulfilling interaction with Stella.

Nonetheless, cold medicine and whiskey are telling me that this is right moment to really set Ryan straight.

“Why would I get back together with you? So you can break up with me in 45 to 60 days? Because that’s your track record. It’s like, you can sense when I’m starting to believe that things might really work out between us…and then you pull the rug out from underneath me. Each time it gets harder to keep my balance. I’m tired of falling.”

My response is a sleepy shrug of the shoulders.

“I’m going home. And I suggest you do the same thing. Think long and hard until you can decide what you want. Because this time you are really going to have to prove it.”

I jump on my bike and head off to the intersection.

“Amanda! Amanda!” Suddenly he is awake.

I turn to look at him.

“Are you seeing someone, Amanda? Please tell me you’re not seeing anyone right now?”

I shake my head and pedal away against the red light.


One thought on “i hear bad things in a good way.

  1. Miriam says:

    “Honesty rarely leads to sexual conquest.”

    words to live by. from now on i am using that in lieu of “honesty is the best policy”.

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