Uptown Rantz

Don't Wanna Be No Uptown Fool

Archive for the category “relationships”

Tinder is the Night

I kind of wanted to be at home, sitting on my red love seat finishing Then We Came to the End, wishing for a Tinder notification from the sexy girl at work with the French last name that no one can pronounce and who is a dead ringer for a healthy 2007 raven haired Lindsay Lohan…a notification that she saw me on Tinder, is within my 20-mile radius, swiped right and wants to meet-up…tonight.

But I wasn’t at home. I was on a date. I was at Guero’s on South Congress on a seventy-two degree January Saturday night in Austin with Kristine. Just a little over 24-hours prior, she caught my eye on Tinder when I was in the midst of a happy hour buzz of Heinekens and hummus. I swiped right, we chatted via text and now we were eating Mexican food at an outside table.

At first sight, Kristine struck me as a creative professional – a graphic designer or maybe an art director at an ad firm. She was wearing a black Castro cap over her neck length blonde hair with a dark blue V-neck t-shirt un-tucked on top of light blue skinny jeans. The cap perfectly matched her black ballet slippers…ballet slippers never fail to remind me of an unhealthy 2007 bruised and track-marked Amy Winehouse. With her small, narrow nose and large brown eyes, Kristine reminded me of an animae girl come to life.

Kristine is a doctor in her first year of a psychiatric residency. I had to assure myself that she’s not necessarily smarter than me, just that our brains are dominated by different spheres causing us to think differently. If we both pictured a cube in our heads, mine would be floating and hers would be attached to the ground. Mine would be transparent and hers would be solid. Different, not smarter.

We sat at our table with our tapas and with plenty of foot traffic alongside our table. On any given night in this part of Austin, there is usually loud Latin music blaring from some undetermined location. Kristine gently gyrated her upper body in rhythm to the salsa horns and percussion.

Her being a doctor and a future board certified psychiatrist, and me having watched a ton of television in the late 90s and early 2000s, I brought up an episode of Felicity…the one where Noel seeks help from a psychiatrist after Felicity dumps him.

“I remember that one,” Kristine said. “It was a trivial portrayal of depression, almost insulting to people who suffer from it and the doctors who treat it.” She grasped the top of her Corona bottle and forced the lime down its narrow neck with her thumb.

“Why?” I asked with a real level of interest. The stray limejuice stung my cheek.

“Because no one suffers a chemical brain imbalance from a break-up. The only reason Noel was there was because Felicity dumped him…chose Ben over him. It would be borderline med mal for any doctor to prescribe meds in that situation, and that’s what that doctor did.”

“Med mal?” I asked. Different not smarter. I regretted not bringing up a smarter psychiatrist-TV reference. Jason Seaver from Growing Pains? Even less smart. Bob Newhart in his first sitcom? She’s too young for that. Sidney Friedman in M.A.S.H.? Still too young, even for the re-runs. The hot brunette psychiatrist in St. Elsewhere? I barely remember that one. My babysitter let me stay up and watch that with her.

“Medical malpractice…to potentially risk making a patient dependent on medication just because of a broken heart. Breakups trigger acute symptoms and rarely lead to chronic depression requiring medication.” She dipped a chip into the guacamole with her right hand. I’m left handed. Her blue nail polish looked freshly applied, like she cared about the details before meeting me. It made me feel guilty about wishing for a Tinder swipe from the French Lindsay Lohan.

“What about meds after a divorce?” I asked, thinking of Parker

“If there’s a prior history of depression, in some cases, and if it persists.”

“What about people who engage in recreational drug use?” I asked, thinking of Cheney.

“Maybe, when combined with rehab and treatment.”

“Day drinking and Internet porn?” I asked…Parker

Uhm…there might be deeper issues of addiction in that case,”

“Extreme episodes of sexual promiscuity?” I asked…Cheney

“Talk therapy would generally be the first route to take with that. Should we have some more Coronas?” She sat straight up and looked for the server.

Then I stopped asking because she changed the subject, and she started to stare at me for a few seconds before answering, indicating a suspicion that I was asking on behalf of myself.

The server took our empty plates and we moved inside to the bar for another 90-minutes of reminiscing about the early days of the WB network. After her fourth Corona, she said she was off work for 48-hours after being on for 72-hours straight. Then she asked if I wanted to drive her home.

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Spotify Rainer Maria

“It’s the small things, you know…the two of them grocery shopping together, sniff, waking up together that first morning as husband and wife, boarding airplanes together, Jason calling her from the golf course, sniff, the framed black and white wedding photo in their cubicles at work, the joint checking account, getting ready for bed together for the rest of their lives…fuuuuccckkk…sniff.”

It was 3:14am and Cheney was freaking out about her ex-boyfriend’s recent engagement, which she found out about through a series of tagged photos that led directly to his fiancé’s Facebook profile. Cheney called me because she witnessed my slow, months long unraveling after I ran into Amanda at Lifetime Fitness and felt the stomach punch of seeing the engagement ring on her finger as she grasped the elliptical.

And Cheney was right. It is the small things…I didn’t know that then, though. The eye of Hurricane Amanda was the proposal, ceremony and honeymoon. That was it, and I swirled around it.  The metadata and micro-ness of it all never even occurred to me…until now. The shouting voice inside my head had to remind me that I’m over it, I’ve dealt with it. Move on. This is Cheney’s hurricane now, not mine.

Nonetheless, her way too early morning phone call shocked me out of bed. Scared the crap out of me, actually, like middle of the night phone calls will do to most people. With my iPhone on speaker, I walked the few steps in the dark to my fridge and grabbed a sugar free Red Bull. The refrigerator light was a sudden wall of illumination that made me squint like I was peering into a telescope. Cheney’s trebly, trembling, crackling voice filled my Austin studio.

I left the refrigerator door open for the light as I searched the kitchen counter for something to set the wet can of Red Bull on. I put it on a faded blue Post-It note that had ‘Spotify Rainer Maria’ scribbled on it. I wrote that reminder to myself over a year ago when I was still struggling day-to-day in Minneapolis. It recently fell out of my copy of Prozac Nation, which I re-read from time-to-time.

Cheney half-sobbed, “She wrote a comment on her wall that said, “Yesterday was amazing. Jason says we need to get a dog.”” I could hear the rapid tap-tap of Cheney’s finger on her laptop’s down arrow as she scrolled the fiance’s wall. It sounded like she was tapping out S.O.S. in Morse code. In a way, she kind of was. My job was to listen and be the sounding board.

Catastrophe keeps us together- Rainer Maria

Sniff, sniff, “And then some old lady comments in return that she was glad to help. She means they helped Jason and her move into their house. Fuck. I wonder if his fiancé knows about Jason’s collection of hardcore porn DVDs that I found when I was dating him…at least 30 of them with titles like Butt Sluts IV and Anal Intruders. All that porn and he was still shitty in bed. The worst.” Tap, tap, tap, sniff.

All the dams will give at the end of the world/Will you swim for me? – Rainer Maria

“Oh, here’s the best one…she writes here on her wall, “I saw a deer as I was getting into my car after work. They don’t understand why we have to work. It’s deer season.”” Tap, tap. Cheney let out a sincere laugh at that one, and it was kind of funny. It seemed like his fiancé was making an attempt at poetic insight that fell flat on its face. It was infinitely stupid, which comforted Cheney who never wrote a sentence that she didn’t edit at least four times.

And what you couldn’t find in books/And you’ve broken every spine/Is that I’ll make you mine – Rainer Maria

I got back into bed with my Red Bull, lied on my side and pulled the covers over my head. It was a 64-degree humid January Austin night, which caused little sparks when I moved my bare legs under the sheets. It looked like I was being attacked by fireflies. I put my iPhone on the vacant pillow next to my head. Pillow talk, literally.

Cheney’s voice grew sad again, “She posts a comment here about how she forgot to sign their Hennepin County marriage license and had to return to the government center on her lunch break to sign in it.” There was a long pause. I thought Cheney hung up, but then I heard rapid sniffling and sensed a severe holding back of tears. There was no more tapping.

The fruit is golden when it falls from the tree/And spoiled by the time it gets to me – Rainer Maria

That last comment revealed another level of the micro-matrimonial process that I’m glad never occurred to me during Hurricane Amanda. The marriage license has nothing to do with the ceremonial, and has everything to do with the legal and administrative process of becoming recognized as husband and wife.

It was about three minutes before Cheney said anything, during which I heard the low rustling of a plastic zip lock bag, which meant she was reaching for Adderall or Ambien, or a mixture of both. Then I heard the familiar hollow pop of a cork being pulled from a wine bottle. Cheney has no furniture or anything hanging on the walls of her studio. With nothing to absorb the sound, everything sounds digitally enhanced.

“So how are things with you?” She asked when she returned. Her tone sounded genuine, but I couldn’t bear to be honest. Misery loves company, and I would be shitty company if I told her how much I love Austin, the cool girl I met at Target last Friday, the life-affirming show that the Breeders put on New Year’s Eve, sleeping with the windows open in January, meeting Jacob from Kings of Leon at The Parish during ACL and how cool he was and the freelance work that won’t seem to stop coming my way.

“Ah, you know, it ain’t easy being me,” Is all I could manage.

There was nothing I could say to her, because I’ve been where she is and there was nothing anyone could’ve said to me back then…back then Amanda’s life was an exciting, constantly updated Facebook page with a scrolling wall of new friends, well-wishers and future in-laws. My life felt like an old MySpace page holding on for relevancy, with Tom as my sole friend and in desperate need of re-branding.

I’m supposed to be a seasoned fighter/It feels like my first hit and it hurts like hell – Rainer Maria

Parker and Surfer Girl

“Mid-day masturbation and random trips to Target.”

That’s how Parker described his daily life to me in a recent text. Since his divorce five months ago, he’s moved into the bottom apartment of a south Minneapolis duplex. He was initially excited about the pretty 20-something blonde living above him, whom he described as a surfer girl who looks like she smells like cocoa butter. He then concluded that she sees him as the old divorced dude, which means he hit on her and she felt creeped out by it.

Since I moved to Austin, he’s talked a lot about coming down for a visit. But I know he goes days without leaving his apartment, so any enthusiasm and initiative he shows for it is fleeting at best. Nonetheless, I was looking forward to seeing him on my recent trip back to Minneapolis. It didn’t feel like I was visiting him, though. It felt more like I was checking up on him on a bitterly cold Saturday.

I met Parker when I was in fourth grade and he was in sixth grade. He was the kid seeking shelter from the cold during recess by leaning against the 4-story brick elementary school. His winter coat looked worn, thin and so small that the sleeves were almost halfway up his forearms. He didn’t have a stocking cap or gloves, so he kept himself semi-warm by holding onto a Zippo lighter inside his pants pockets and lighting it every few seconds for a burst of warmth. Our school uniform required dress pants with slant pockets, which allowed just enough room for his makeshift pocket furnace.

Parker has been in and out work, like Cheney, but unlike Cheney in that he does not think that he as any discernible talent. After greeting me semi-enthusiastically, Parker disappeared into the kitchen and reappeared holding two bottles of Heineken.

He was wearing red flannel pajama pants, a blue t-shirt and no socks. His blonde hair looked like it has every day since I’ve known him – like Calvin’s from Calvin and Hobbes. He had that look of someone who hadn’t left his home in days because there was no need to. His apartment felt and smelled warm. I was still living in central air when I left Austin.

The walls of his apartment were bare. The one piece of furniture was a satellite chair facing the television in the corner of the living room. The small circular ottoman serves as his desk and dining room table. I’ve never known Parker to play guitar, but there was a small practice amp leaning against the wall. I didn’t bother asking him about it.

“Beer?” He extended one toward me as I set my coat and scarf on the floor and looked for a place to sit. Even though he saw me looking around for a chair, he never offered me one. It looked more like he was squatting there as opposed to living there.

“I do not miss this fuckin’ cold, man,” I said shaking my head and taking a seat on the windowpane.

“I bet. How’s Austin?” Parker sat back down on the satellite chair. It made a loud creaking noise that sounded like it was about to break. He pointed the remote control towards the TV.

“It’s warm and starting to feel like home,” I looked around to notice the envelopes from the state unemployment office. Parker has been living off unemployment and the occasional temp gig.

It’s early Saturday evening, and I could hear the muffled, excited telephone conversation of the surfer girl in the above apartment as she shuffled around in stocking feet on her hardwood floors. Plans were being made and outfits were getting picked out. At that age, Saturday nights mean excitement, opportunity, memories, selfies and sometimes regret.

I was sitting on the windowpane behind Parker’s satellite chair, which was facing the television, which never stayed on one channel for more than ten minutes of the two hours that I was there. He commented that it feels weird watching the television that he and his ex-wife picked out together. None of our conversation was face-to-face. If he wanted to talk, I would have listened.

Parker was happily and busily married when I was under my post-Amanda dark cloud. Everyone goes through an isolated pajama pants period, but Parker’s seems debilitating. I fought mine with working out, writing and saying “yes” to almost anything in order to create opportunities and step outside my mind, because thoughts and imagination can be awful enemies at a time like that.

“Your ex-wife is likely taking this just as hard as you, you know.” His ex-wife’s name is Carrie, but I never knew her that well, so I didn’t feel comfortable mentioning her by name.

Parker heard my attempt at consolation, but he didn’t acknowledge it. Not even a shoulder shrug. I later realized that by saying that, I was disclosing that his life doesn’t look all that great right now.

I felt bad for him then I began to feel guilty, I guess, because I didn’t want to be at Parker’s anymore. He’s one of my oldest friends but all I could picture is me back at my hotel or in my Austin apartment – lying diagonally on the bed reading a Henry Rollins book while listening to Sugar’s Copper Blue. It seemed like he didn’t want company.

The shuffling stocking feet of surfer girl had now become the clicking of high heels on hardwood. Her hair and face are probably done, Facebook status updated, Tweets have been tweeted and iPhone fully charged. Her voice will be hoarse in the morning after an evening of shouting over club music.

I know Parker’s divorce broke him emotionally and financially. It’s easy to spot someone who’s underneath a cloud of depression when you’ve been there before yourself. The cloud covers you like Deon Sanders in his prime covering a receiver. No matter where you go, it’s there – swatting hope away from your hands and then shoulder tackling you out of bounds just for good measure. Eventually, you just give up and watch the game…watch life from the sidelines.

From my windowpane seat I saw a taxi pull up in front of the duplex. The upstairs door slammed shut followed by two clicks of a turnkey lock. Surfer girl high heeled her way down the narrow staircase. Her steps were slow and deliberate, so I could tell she was steadying herself with the guardrail. She scurried to the taxi wearing a tan overcoat over a black dress with black stockings. There was just enough daylight left that I could see her puffs of breath in the freezing air.

That’s My FWB!

jessicaJes2

(click for larger views)

Ever have a FWB (if you don’t know, click here), and then you see your FWB out on an actual date with someone else? A little jealousy creeps in followed by the guilt of feeling jealous because there’s a supposed mutual understanding that you’re not dating each other.

I stopped in two nights ago at Green Mill Uptown after an evening of Christmas shopping traffic. I sat at the bar and immediately saw Jessica (not to be confused with my ex-g/f Jessica) at the corner table with some dude. His back was to me and she was facing me, but she hadn’t noticed me yet. I sent her a text. I saw her type her reply right in front of him. He got up to go outside and smoke, so I walked over to her table.

“You cheating on me already?”

She smiled, stood up and gave me an unusually long hug (she smelled amazing). Her date saw the hug through the window and immediately put out his cigarette. He returned to the table while I was standing there talking to his date. Jessica introduced us, he shook my hand and I returned my attention to Jessica. He was prematurely gray, shorter than me, and I was standing tall after seven straight days of workouts…stomach flat, delts bangin’, arms jacked (I know that sounded douchey as hell, but he was with my FWB!)

Jessica and I were talking about her work and her family, so he easily figured out that I know things about her that he doesn’t know. She told me she has more free time later in the week and that she would text me to hang out. I didn’t look at his reaction because I didn’t have to. He’ll shell out money for dinner and drinks, get a friendly goodnight hug and never come close to seeing Jessica naked. And the chance of him reaching the stage with her where she’s peeing on the toilet while he brushes his teeth, zero.

I returned to the bar and we continued to have text with each other right in front of him. I win.

What Would Riggins Do?

(Angela’s text)

Cheney wasn’t hard to find. She sat at the bar wearing a black men’s V-neck undershirt draped over her skinny frame. Her long mane of black hair was unwashed and a clip held a pile of it on the back of her head, while the rest of it fell down over her ears and along side her black Buddy Holly eyeglasses. The giant blue $19.99 Casio sport watch that she “borrowed” from me months ago clung loosely to her left forearm. She looked like how Demi Moore still desperately tries to look.

She was flanked by middle-aged men in football jerseys and baseball caps with plates of orange chicken wings scattered about in front of them. Their wives sat tolerantly, only occasionally glancing at the plasmas, wondering if this is the rest of their fall Sundays for the rest of their married lives. It is, ladies. It is.

With the promise of food and liquor on me, I summoned Cheney to the Green Mill Uptown on a Sunday afternoon to help me sort out Angela’s latest text after I suggested we go on a date. I always seek advice from Cheney…the self-described master of the fuck-n-run who still cites Liz Phair’s Exile in Guysville as the way for a single lady to conduct her life.

I grabbed the bar stool Cheney saved for me and the bartender gave me a nod. I pulled out the bar stool, “Pint of Stella, please, and another for her. Thanks.”

“Let’s see it…the text,” Cheney said, her voice sounded well-rested for once.

I handed her my phone and her fingers with red chipped nail polish began tapping the touch screen.

“So let me guess, you’ve been obsessing about this text exchange ever since she sent it?”

“Umm hmm…I may stay home from work tomorrow to iron out the finer points if you can’t help me.” I was barely kidding.

Cheney began talking while still reading the texts. “It looks like she doesn’t want to date right now, but she wants to go on a date with you. And she puts ‘but’ in all caps and calls it a reading ‘date.’ And she tells you that she’s not back together with her ex. The easiest way for a girl to brush a guy off is to tell him that she has a boyfriend, so it’s important that she clarified that.”

Cheney grabbed her pint and took a sip while her other hand held the iPhone. Eyes still on the phone, “As a woman, which I am one, this is what I think.” She set the phone down on top of the City Pages, removed her glasses, rubbed her eyes and hung the glasses on her V-neck collar. “You’re in that little thought bubble above her head right now.”

My eyes were glued to Cheney as if she’s telling me the theory of Oswald’s magic bullet. This was that important to me.

“By you not yet replying,” Cheney continued, “She’s 1) wondering why you haven’t replied; 2) wondering if you’re still interested in going out with her; and 3) wondering if she should call you when she finds a reading she wants to attend.”

I grabbed my pint for a quick sip. I never thought of girls as having the thought bubbles like I do. I sometimes have the Hindenburg of thought bubbles when it comes to women.

“If you do send a reply, she’ll know you’re waiting patiently for her to maybe ask you to attend a reading with her if she happens to find one she wants to attend. And that little thought bubble bursts and you’re no longer on her mind.”

Genius. Not since Karl Rove breaking down the electoral college had I been witness to such brilliant analysis.

“It just seems rude not to reply at all. I like this girl,” I said with the pint in front of my lips.

Cheney put her glasses back on and stared at a menu. “Kilby, you’re a nice guy, but sometimes you can be too nice when it comes to relationships. This girl asked you for your number and you tell her in that text that you’re attracted to her. And there were times in your break-up with Melissa where you really let her take advantage of you.”

I straightened my back to start to defend myself but she’s right. In the midst of that break-up, I was already trying to lay the groundwork for a possible reconciliation that I knew would never happen.

“Remember when I had that cat, before it ran away?” Cheney said, adjusting the mop of hair on top of her head.

“Haven’t you had like three cats that escaped from your apartment?”

“The first one…the black one.”

“Yeah, I remember. Why?”

“I had a piece of string attached to an unraveled wire hanger. I would bounce that thing in front of him and he would get winded just trying to catch it. But the second I set it on the ground for him to have, he would look at it and then walk away. It wasn’t elusive to him anymore, so he got bored with it. Us women are like that…we chase things that are elusive and challenging to us. We’re fucked up that way. You are so worth chasing. Be a little elusive and challenging for once.”

I stared over Cheney’s shoulder out the window onto Hennepin Avenue. Cheney grabbed my forearm.

“Besides,” she said, squeezing my forearm. “What would Riggins do?”

And that’s all she needed to say. WWRD?!

Dick Nabber Died

“Dick Nabber died,” Melissa announced as if it was a normal way to begin a conversation.

Melissa sells pharmaceuticals and she is great at it. She decided that she wanted to work for a different company and did what you’re supposed to do when looking for a job, but what few people actually do. She called hiring managers, waited outside offices to meet with people she didn’t schedule a meeting with, created a brochure of her experience and accomplishments and stayed up ‘til two or three in the morning making flowcharts of people she should network with.

She’s the extrovert to my introvert, and I wish I possessed her swagger. She has the confidence of a young Mick Jagger on The Ed Sullivan Show, the presence of Freddie Mercury at Live Aid and all the sincerity of a Dashboard Confessional record.

Melissa K.

Melissa got the better job she wanted and now has to sit out six months on a non-compete before starting. She spends an hour on the treadmill every day while watching re-runs of The Gilmore Girls. I once again came home to the whirr-whirr of the treadmill belt whirring from the basement. I walked down the steps with the aid of the new guardrail that wasn’t there yesterday…a by-product of her free time.

I saw her newly blond ponytail bouncing around about as she kept a steady pace, watching mother and daughter Gilmore cleverly quip in a way that absolutely no one quips in real life, even if they are genuinely clever.

“Who’s Dick Nabber?” I plopped down on her brown couch that she insisted on moving into my house even though it’s two apartments old.

“Dick…Neiber,” she clarified. I had to filter out her words in-between her panting and her 7.0 mph paces on the treadmill. It was like trying to talk to someone who is treading water.

“Oh, I thought you said Dick Nabber”

“I did. He was…the old gay man who lived…near my parents when I was growing up. He…was a member of the country club…where I waited tables in high school. We…all called him Dick Nabber…get it? Some called him Dick Nibbler, but I preferred…Nabber.”

“Yeah, I get it,” I stared at the ceiling thinking about the Tyson chicken strips in the freezer and Coronas in the refrigerator. Dinner.

“All us wait staff…were high school kids. When we poured him coffee and cream he would say… ““I was so poor growing up that if…we wanted cream for coffee…we had to jack off a dog.”” He was saying this to high school kids!”

“Corrupting minors with images of beastiality. How nice.” I fixated on her body from the couch. She wore a white Nike sports bra and pink Under Armour running shorts. A lone trail of perspiration ran down her back between the bottom of her bra and the top of her shorts. It collected in a small patch of wet fabric on her boy shorts visible through the Under Armours. I always loved the fact that she made it through her late teens and early 20’s without a tattoo – not even one on the ankle or a tramp stamp.

I got up to pick up the floating bookshelf that fell to the floor next to the television.

“I’ll fix that…I fixed it myself yesterday,” Melissa said, now walking on the treadmill in the cool down phase of her workout.

“And I’m picking it up off the floor. You did a good job fixing it.” When she moved in, I unpacked one of her boxes that contained an electric drill, electric sander and a plumbing wrench. I owned none of those things. Without a dad in her life growing up, her mom taught her and her sister how to change the oil in a car and how to change a tire. I can’t do either of those things.

I started to walk upstairs to pre-heat the oven for my chicken strips. As I reached for the freezer handle, a voice no longer out of breath shouted, “Don’t eat anything! We’re going to Lurcat tonight – my treat. And no calling Cheney. Just the two of us. I’ve missed you this week.”

Cheney’s Abortion

“I gotta quit doing fucked up shit,” Cheney grogged. Her voice was whispery, and she looked like how I feel when I take Nyquil and don’t get a full eight-hours sleep.

“People have one-nighters all the time,” I assured her while moving my eyes around her hospital room. She had a private room that was probably four-stars by hospital Zagat’s standards. Her adjustable bed looked comfortable, as she reached up to turn off the fluorescent light attached to the wall above her head. There was a caramel colored couch underneath the almost floor-to-ceiling window overlooking the Crosstown. A blue accent wall opposite her bed had a three-tier bookshelf against it that was empty until I put the flowers I brought her on it.

“I think the nurses at that desk outside thought I was your irresponsible condom-less boyfriend.” I sat down on the desk chair next to her bed and propped my cap toe shoes on the foot of her bed.

Cheney half-smiled, “He was condom-less and irresponsible alright, but not my boyfriend…just a bartender who looked really cute one night, and he had nice teeth. But I guess I’m just as irresponsible for not taking my pill every day,” she shrugged.

“Did he at least pay for the procedure? Or help pay for it?”

“He’s a bartender who still has roommates,” she said while looking at me and raising one eyebrow.  I assumed that answer was supposed to indirectly tell me that he didn’t have the money to pay.

“How’s work going?” she asked to change the subject.

“It’s going well,” I said. “I had lunch last week in the downtown Barnes & Noble. I was eating my over-priced Panini in a window seat while a homeless woman sat on the sidewalk leaning against a streetlight with an empty collection cup next to her. Our eyes met a couple of times. I felt guilty.”

Telling someone who just had a living being ripped from inside her that you feel guilty about something, anything, is preposterous…borderline ignorant. I apologetically raised my eyebrows and gave a half-smile realizing my mistake. Cheney did the exact same thing back…apology accepted.

“You survived Amanda’s wedding day? I thought about you.”

“I did. Morgan and Bishop came to town. Bishop was sad he didn’t get to see you. It only made his crush on you stronger and…”

“This is the worst thing I’ve ever done,” she interrupted while staring at the small flat screen hanging from the ceiling in the corner. It was as if she made the confession to the bald dude from Ghost Hunters, who was talking to the camera bathed in night vision.

I’ve spent plenty of drinks listening to Cheney tell me about her days as a club kid in Manhattan…the LSD lollipops, glow sticking, lesbian makeouts and 3-day sleep binges. She moved to the Midwest to get away from all that and just write. She landed in Minneapolis with a trust fund and a Blackberry filled with the names of a dozen editors in New York who agreed to accept her stuff on spec. When she told me those stories, it was with a strange sense of accomplishment and never any regret.

But this was different. This was all regret and nothing else. It was hard for me to comfort her, and she doesn’t have any close girlfriends to offer female empathy.  I imagine some night in the near or distant future, while the two of us are having one of our all night drinking and music listening marathons, she will discuss the guilt and what-ifs of this whole situation. But not now.

“Are you keeping this from your parents?”

“Fuck. Yeah,” she took her eyes off the cute girl from Ghost Hunters with glasses whose breasts got mysteriously larger since season one. “The administrator of my trust promised me she would list this as something else on the monthly accounting…like a urinary tract infection or something, I don’t know. My parents rarely look at those accountings anyway.”

“What time are they releasing you tomorrow?”

“The nurse said I could leave as early as 6 a.m.”

“Okay. I’ll be back tomorrow to pick you up at six.”

“Thanks.”

 

 

Here Comes My Girl

“Can I throw out this dusty sneaker for fuck’s sake?!”

Melissa has her fake pissed-off voice and her genuine pissed-off voice. The question about the Adidas sneaker fell somewhere in-between the two.

She meant the Adidas Rod Laver resting in the corner of my bedroom. It’s taken up permanent residence there because, despite my searches, I cannot locate its right-footed counterpart. So there it sits, looking like a misbehaved elementary school kid sentenced to stand in the corner as punishment. The only thing missing is the needle-nosed dunce cap.

Last I checked, a new pair goes for about $60.00 on Zappos, but then there’s the breaking-in period and I don’t have the dedication for that right now. If I’m patient, the Prodigal Shoe will find its way home when it’s ready.

“Nooooooo!” I yelled from the basement where I was playing the table-top Ms. Pac Man machine –Amanda and I once had make-up sex on it. The floor is so thin that there was no need for Melissa to shout the one stair level that separates us.

“So you just want it to sit here and collect more dust and cobwebs? There’s a spider living in it!”

“Yeeeeeeeesssss!”

Melissa was cleaning because Bishop and Morgan are in town from Austin and they were due here in a few minutes. Despite our offer, they opted to stay in an apartment near the Bryant Lake Bowl because it’s near the apartment where Bob Stinson died.

She knows they’re like brothers to me and I think she was more than a little nervous about meeting them. Two nights ago, she was looking at all the pictures in my old scrapbook…the three of us in little league…at each other’s birthday parties…standing next to Bishop’s hospital bed after he broke his leg skateboarding in second grade…posing with Morgan’s Ford Bronco that we spent our 16th summer refurbishing…at high school keggers…UT graduation day…my brother’s funeral.

Their weekend trip to Minneapolis coincided with Amanda’s weekend wedding. The fact that Bishop and Morgan got together and decided that they needed to visit on this, of all weekends, is touching and embarrassing. But they witnessed the months where telling me not to think about Amanda was like telling me not to blink…no matter how hard I tried, I had to do it thousands of times daily.

But now it’s just after 5pm and the opening notes of “Here Comes the Bride” are likely bellowing from the church organ as the aisles of heads swivel to the sanctuary entrance. Amanda stands there in a dress that should be anything but white, hoping her fine hair that she constantly complained about stays curly at least long enough for the best man’s toast.

And here I sit in my living room with my two oldest buds and the only girl that matters, watching the UT football home opener. Melissa’s ponytail sticks out from behind a “Hook ‘em Horns” baseball cap as she stands in the kitchen, holding a bottle of Budweiser laughing at Morgan’s Dane Cook impression…the over-annunciation, the exaggerated stepping, the crouching, the lack of any punchlines whatsoever. It is quite funny.

Melissa has thick, naturally curly hair and she told me on our second date that she wants Tom Petty’s Here Comes My Girl playing through the church p.a. system, as she begins her walk in a dress that I want to be the whitest of white.

Zuzana Stays and a Votive Candle

Melissa calls it softcore porn…she found the bodyrock.tv bookmark on my browser. Zuzana…a goddess. I’m sure there are guys who watch her workout videos for the wrong reasons…watching the videos like the Warren Commission watching the Zapruder film, pausing frame-by-frame for something they may have missed the first 1000 times.

I found her one night while searching for body-weight workouts on Youtube. It was too cold to go to the gym, and going to Lifetime Fitness these days means about a 50/50 chance of running into Amanda and seeing how she’s gotten shorter and wider. Staying home with Zuzana made me stronger and faster.

Each of Zuzana’s videos begins with a familiar, “Hey guys,” or, “Hi body rockers,” in Zuzana’s eastern European accent where every syllable is sharply annunciated.  Her workouts use minimal equipment and are filled with spandex, sweat and Zuzana’s heaving chest. If the sweat froze in her abs, she would have perfectly square sweat ice-cubes.

We’re on our way to Melissa’s storage facility on a summer night when the humidity sticks to you like Saran Wrap. I tell her Zuzana stays in my bookmarks…not negotiable.

Going up the elevator to Melissa’s 4’ x 4’ storage unit, and the cement floors make it unusually cool inside among the maze of metal-padlocked doors.  She wants to get one thing…a candle. I said we were just at Target, why didn’t she buy one there?

And she told me this story:

When Melissa was 11-years-old, her grandmother gave her a small votive candle with red wax surrounded by glass that’s slightly burnt on the inside. It was one day after they buried her grandpa.

Fearing he would never find his life-partner, Melissa’s grandpa stopped by a neighborhood Catholic Church every day, put 25 cents in the rusty tin offering box and lit one votive candle to represent the hope that God would send him the woman he was supposed to marry. It was always the same candle…the corner candle in the bottom right-hand row.

The day after Melissa’s grandmother accepted his proposal, he stopped by the church and told the parish priest how God had answered his prayer. The priest gladly handed him the candle and he rushed to give it to his new fiancé. Melissa’s grandmother told her that tiny candle meant more to her than her wedding ring.

So that’s the candle we leave the storage facility with. On the way home in the car, Melissa cups it with both hands like holding a tiny bird that can’t fly.

“Have You Ever Cheated on Someone You’ve Dated?”

“Have you ever cheated on someone you’ve dated?” Melissa asks and then stares at me, awaiting an answer and ideally an honest one. The answer to this question needs to come quick, lacking hesitation and heavy on conviction. Melissa is aware enough to notice any give-away gesture indicating a lie…a, “no,” followed by my quickly changing the subject or a, “no,” while my eyes quickly dart away from hers or a, “no,” while my eyes stay fixated on the television. If she had asked me while I was driving, I could say, “no,” while keeping my eyes on the road as an excuse.

But we’re not in the car, unfortunately. We’re sitting in my backyard on a calm, windless evening in plastic Adirondack-looking chairs. There are no distractions to rob my attention away from Melissa’s question – not even a mosquito to slap against my arm.

It needs to be a resounding, “NO,” on par with the way instructors teach women to yell it in self-defense classes as the guy in the ridiculously-padded suit mock attacks them, which comes in handy if a man with limited mobility ever attacks a woman in real-life.

With every past girlfriend, a “no” would be an honest answer from me…until now. I hesitate to tell the truth because I can’t pass it off as a mistake made five or ten years ago. It was only two years ago that I cheated on Amanda. It’s not like I was unprepared for Melissa’s question. Next to the how many women have you been with question, it’s a relationship inevitability.

Amanda had just gotten out of the hospital where she spent three days with pancreatitis. She was going to come over and then wake-up early to meet-up with her parents. My cell phone vibrated.

Text from Kim: do you want me to come see you?

My phone call to Amanda: Hey, it would make more sense if you stayed at your place tonight since you have to be up early tomorrow, don’t you think?

Amanda: But I want to see you…(she said it in a whiny, baby voice)

Me: I want to see you too, sweetie, but it’s late and you know how finding parking is in Uptown at this hour. I’m just going to go to the gym, anyway. Come over tomorrow afternoon when your parents leave, though.

Amanda: Okay…I’ll be over tomorrow. Bye.

Me: Bye

My text to Kim: sure, how soon can you be over?

Kim came over and we had a lot of fun that night and more in the morning. Kim knew I had a girlfriend, so she had no problem being out the door right after she took a shower. I opened every window in my apartment to rid it of Kim’s perfume as quickly as possible. I never believed that one could smell like sex, but I took an extra-long shower regardless. I threw the sheets in the laundry, flipped the mattress and vacuumed the bedroom carpet for some reason. As far as I was concerned, this was a crime scene…move along, move along…nothing to see here.

Amanda came over and after three days of not seeing me, she was more than willing to make-up for it. It’s the first and only time in my life that I felt like a sociopath. The blatant lie of telling her I was going to the gym came so effortlessly. The actual act of infidelity was completely unaccompanied by even the tiniest sliver of guilt or remorse – even to this day. In fact, I remain quite impressed by having sex with two different girls within a 24-hour span.

I tell Melissa all of the above and you know what? She already knew about it. Shortly after it happened, I told my good friend, Jeanine (Melissa’s sister) about what I had done. And being sisters, Jeanine told Melissa…Melissa only asked me to see if I would lie about it.

p.s. – Kim fully approved this post. She even sent me the picture of her you see here. On the chance that Amanda reads this, it’ll be fresh news to her.

Kim J.

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