“Can I invite my this friend of mine to hang out with us tonight? He broke up with his girlfriend a few months ago and he’s been hiding in his apartment since then.”
Davy asked this as I hunched over my desk figuring out the utility bills for the month. Three unclaimed phone calls on the long distance bill. Less than five seconds of internet research revealed an area code in Vermont. For a moment I doubted myself. “Was there a chance that I met some guy at a bar from Vermont and then called him later, using the house phone instead of my cell phone? And did I roofie myself before making this call?” No, no. I didn’t know anyone there.
And surely Stephen would have mentioned a new long distance girlfriend, even if he had met her through a dating service for obsessive Belle and Sebastian fans.
Only one member of our household really used the home phone. This meant another awkward conversation with Ashley. Awesome. Things had been weird between us since one of her co-workers tried to kiss me during a rowdy game of Scrabble in Humboldt Park a few weeks ago. I could taste the slightest hint of Carmex as she grabbed me by my arm and dragged me out of the building. I was too drunk to resist. She shoved me into a cab, sending my head flying opposite window. And then she berated me for the next 15 minutes, while I rubbed the goose egg forming above my eyebrow. Who knew Bucktown was so far away? And also, who knew that she liked that guy? I certainly didn’t.
“Hey, Abbie…did you hear me? Is it cool if my friend joins us?”
I rubbed my eyes, hoping the “amount due” would magically transform itself. No. I it was still $74.77.
I looked up at Davy. “Sure, “ I said. But I was thinking, “Great…another weirdo hippie friend. He’ll probably talk my ear off all night about numerology or the origins of Chicago’s street names.”
“You’re going to love him,” Davy gushed. “He’s a painter and he really likes hip hop.” He listed some more ostensibly important details, while I envisioned an upcoming confrontation with Ashley, tentatively entitled “March Utilities: Maybe you should get a cell phone so I don’t have to play amateur collection agent every month.”
Insert a blank smile from me.
Davy was already calling his friend.
I met him a few weeks ago at the Rainbo Club. It was St. Patrick’s Day. Somehow I was able to convince Stephen to go out for a few drinks. My friend Sam tagged along. I promised hours of fun, excitement, and cute bookish girls. Only slight coaxing was required to convince my companions to don green outfits. Stephen opted for a fine holly sweater, while Sam played it safe with an olive army jacket. I wore a Girl Scout uniform. Subtlety was not my strong suit.
Obviously Wicker Park hipsters weren’t down with compulsory holiday drinking, because the bar was mostly empty. We sat in a booth, throwing back Irish whiskey (not for irony’s sake, I swear) and being bored. Drunkenness settled in faster than I was planning. Following the conversation became more and more difficult. I find myself unable to clearly pronounce “Kierkegaardian.” I considered switching to beer.
After a particularly woozy trip to the ladies room, I started talking to a really, really cute boy in a straw hat. He was unfazed by my not-so-subtle slurring. Soon he was biking back to our apartment for popcorn and board games. This was Davy.
Since then, we had been hanging out almost everyday. We spent a lot of time eating soup and listening to music. He was so cute–best described as a “grown up little boy”–but I just wasn’t into him. Maybe it his tendency toward discussing topics I considered “flakey”–stuff like reincarnation, the significance of the number 23, weird healing crystals. Maybe he just didn’t smell right to me. I just felt like none of our conversations were ever real. I was using only half of my brain, using the remaining half to think about what I would wear tomorrow. Or how I was sad about getting so drunk at that Elliott Smith show years ago (if only I had seen the slightest glimpse of the future, I would have appreciated the moment so much more. I certainly would have drank less.)
But then again…he was always down for anything. One night we were at his house, when the sky just exploded. It was the sort of downpour one saw only during raging Lake Michigan thunderstorms. I took off my shoes and climbed out onto the roof. “Come on! It will be fun.” He joined me as I was taking off pants. We danced around and sang Fleetwood Mac songs. Anyone else would have wrapped me up a towel before dragging me back indoors.
I knew that I did not want him to be my boyfriend.
I was changing clothes when Ashley called from work, greeting me with a barrage of questions. Did I know that today was April Fool’s Day? Was that a big party holiday? What was I doing that night? I explained my plans–vague at best–and she said she wanted to come along. She commanded me to hang out at the apartment until she got home from work. I agreed, because A. I have a hard time saying “no” to anyone and B. I was hoping to talk to her about the bills, after buttering her up with a few free drinks.
I was in the bathroom brushing my teeth when I heard the buzzer. Davy’s friend. He was probably too busy thinking about medicinal gems and Native American healing rituals to answer the door. I trudged out to the intercom. “Come to the third floor.”
I still had a toothbrush hanging out of my mouth when I opened the door.
Well, really, the door just seemed to disappear. I never could remember the actual act of turning the knob.
I might have imagined it…he emerged from a shroud of fog.
And he was the most amazing boy I had ever seen. I just couldn’t explain it, but he just seemed to glow or something. My body forgot to breathe.
Words failed me.
Maybe birds or angels were singing. Stars were born. Somewhere halfway around the world, the largest rainbow in history was recorded.
He was smiling at me. Waiting for an invitation to come in.
“Wow! Nice glasses, “ I said in a voice I didn’t recognize as my own.
He giggled. I did not imagine this. “I was just going to say the same thing about your toothbrush.”
We stood there for a moment just grinning at one another. I wiped at my chin, worrying about forgotten toothpaste.
We were still in the doorway.
“Oh yeah, you should come in…” I directed him with my toothbrush.
We stopped in the kitchen. And maybe it was simply because he didn’t know how to get to my bedroom. But I had the feeling he just wanted to look at me some more.
“Your hair is really cute,” he said.
“Oh yeah? Wow…thanks. I cut it off a couple weeks ago after my friend Sam told me it was hard to take a girl with pigtails seriously as an intellectual.” I don’t add this opinion was probably payback for the whole green garb/alcoholic holiday episode.
We were standing there again, just sort of staring at one another.
I cleared my throat, hoping this would lend some focus to the situation. We couldn’t gape at one another all night. I straightened myself to the full 66 inches, before leading him to Davy.
I excused myself to ostensibly continue brushing my teeth. But really I was just in the bathroom trying to be cool. I looked at myself in the mirror. My face was flushed. And my heart was pounding.
“This is ridiculous,” I declared to my flustered reflection. Yeah, this guy was cute, but Wicker Park was filled with attractive young men. And of course I didn’t know enough about him to appreciate other aspects of him.
“I’m not shallow.” I found myself making this statement quite frequently.
Is this love at first sight? Ridiculous! The mirror revealed a disgusted face.
“Pull yourself together, “ I hissed. If I acted foolish and silly all night, I was going to hurt Davy’s feelings. And furthermore, this guy was possibly stupid. Or he could have weird conservative views. Maybe he was secretly gay. No need to work myself into a tizzy over a stranger.
I returned to the bedroom with beers for my guests.
After handing a bottle to Davy, I turned my attention to his friend.
“Hi…I’m sorry…I’m really bad at remembering names. I’m Abbie. What’s your name?”
His face was so bright. I felt lightheaded.
He extended his hand.
“Hi, I’m Henry.”