back by popular demand…

Yes, that’s right…I’m resuming “Peeling an Onion.”  It’s been a while, right?  I suggest either reading the most recent entry here OR re-reading the entire epic saga by choosing “Peeling an Onion” in the drop down box on the bottom of the  page.   So here we go…


I force myself to leave the house. Sure, staying in bed all day would be easier, but only as long as I am willing to replay the same mental record all day.

It starts off with “I’m such a fuck-up.” It’s got a catchy hook.

The next track–most definitely the single, the one true hit–”I can’t believe my boyfriend may or may not have hooked up with some guy who fucked me last spring.”

It ends with a crescendo of “I make the worst decisions that have ever been made by anyone in the history of decision-making.”

The secret bonus track goes something like “And I take stupid drugs.”

Listening to this all day could only lead to further miscalculation and error; binge drinking and regretful phone calls would be just the beginning. No thanks.

I’m blasted with Arctic wind and tiny bits of icy rain as I sail down North Avenue on my way to the the six corners (for non-Chicagoans: this is the intersection of North, Damen, and Milwaukee, the iconic “heart” of Wicker Park). Cold days like this were made for whiling away with mimosas and breakfast in bed. I’m a good soldier. Only those with the strongest fortitude bike around the city in December.

But despite my self-congratulation, I feel awful. For one, my hands won’t stop trembling. I spill coffee all over the table at Earwax while I eat a forgettable breakfast. My ears are ringing and my stomach hurts. Whatever we took last night…it was shitty. Probably filled with rat poison, crystal meth, and drug store diet pills. If I close my eyes, I can see my organs turning blue-black. My mom would be so proud.

I am not calling Ryan. I realize that I just don’t want to see him for a while. Maybe I’m not supposed to be angry at him. I mean, I’m liberal…open-minded…everyone should explore their sexuality…blahblahblah. But the damage to my ego has gone beyond bruising. It’s more in the realm of broken bones and tattered tendons.

I drag myself up to Belmont for comic books and new sneakers. That makes me feel slightly better, so I pedal down Clark to buy underwear and new jeans.

When I’m lugging my loot up the stairs to my apartment, the sky is already dark. It’s Saturday night. I’m supposed to go out tonight. Not that I have any plans, but this how the world works. Twentysomethings are required to spend both weekend nights in smoke-filled bars, attempting to spread their luscious young DNA. Alternately, they can go to a show or drop by a well-attended house party. I imagine that I will spend the night at Rainbo with Cheryl, sharing the excruciating details of last night. And most likely she will respond with something along the lines of “I always knew that little fucker seemed a little gayish.”

Maybe I should just spend the night reading. Alone. Drinking water.

As soon as I step into the kitchen, I realize that something is wrong. I can hear coughing coming from my room. Male coughing. There’s no way it’s Nate.

I probably should arm myself with a frying pan or a particularly large knife, but I’m somehow convinced that I CAN take down any intruder with my own brute force. I take a deep breath and throw open the double doors to my bedroom.

I’m about to scream something intimidating like “I’VE GOT YOU NOW, MOTHERFUCKER,” when I see a familiar silhouette on the couch. Svelte and about four inches taller than me (though this person might argue that he actually stands five-and-a-half inches above me).

Great.

“Ryan, how did you get in here?” I hope I sound welcoming.

“Well, your apartment door was unlocked. That’s a really great idea. What if I had been a rapist or something? You’ve got to learn how to take care of yourself.”

Oh, great. Here comes another lecture. I wonder if I should grab some paper in case I need to jot down some of his helpful suggestions.

Instead I swallow my annoyance before donning a huge blank smile.

He is not amused. “Don’t even try to smile at me. You disappeared from the bar last night. You left me some fucked up message…the kind of message only a CRAZY person would leave. And then you don’t call to apologize? Now everyone in Wicker Park thinks I have some crazy ass girlfriend. Oh wait…they already thought that because my girlfriend tried to fucking KILL HERSELF a few months ago.”

I try to ignore him, busying myself with unpacking my purchases.

“You went shopping today? While I was sitting here worrying about you?”

I shrug my shoulders.

“I saw your bike outside Earwax today. I knew that you were fine. But I wanted to have a chance to talk to you, so I came over to wait for you…like, five hours ago. All that time, you could have called me and said, ‘Oh, hey, Ryan. I’m so sorry for being psychotic and selfish last night.’ But no, you needed to buy some shoes first.”

I walk out of the room. I pretend to drink a glass of water, hoping that he will just slip out the window into the night.

But no such luck. He wants to fight.

“You know you’re crazy, right? I mean, listen, you’re really sweet and cute, but you are a fucking disaster. It’s a wonder you’ve survived this long. You don’t lock your door and you smoke too much and you don’t even have real curtains on your bedroom windows. You’re trying so hard to kill yourself because you know there is no hope. You know you’ll never be happy.”

I look him square in the eye. And I can feel my head burning. My heart has acquired a deafening pound and I can take only the shallowest breaths. The glass of water in my hand is turning to steam. If I don’t open my mouth, flames are going to burst out of my eyes and ears.

“I’m crazy? I’m a mess? Because I seem to see you doing everything that I do, but to a fucking exponential degree. Crazy squared? No, more like crazy cubed.”

He opens his mouth to respond, so I hurl the glass in his direction. He ducks, just before water and shards of glass explode against the wall behind him.

“Just shut up. Don’t say anything. I want you to leave right now. Do you know that I slept with Andy during the spring, after you broke up with me? Wait…I guess that actually doesn’t matter. What’s really fucked up is that you think it’s okay to ‘experiment’ with one of our friends when you and I are supposed to be in a RELATIONSHIP. Wow! That’s a really impressive level of respect, right?”

The little hairs on the back of my neck tell me that he wants to hit me. But at least he is silent.

“Furthermore…and trust me, this is the really huge issue, the root of all of our problems. Why do I feel like you’re constantly handing my pills and dots of paper, when you should be giving my flowers and notes? Real boyfriends, real relationships, they don’t involve regular feelings of regret and shame. You want me to be fucked up. You WANT me to be crazy. Does that make you feel better? Like, “At least I’m doing better than Amanda?”

He steps toward me. I push him towards the door. “Just get out.’”

His feet will not move.

“GET OUT! GET OUT! GET OUT!” My voice belongs to a hysterical stranger.

I can’t see him slam the door because my eyes are filled with scalding tears.

I guess I’m not going out tonight.

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