Uptown Rantz

Don't Wanna Be No Uptown Fool

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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

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Visit from an Ex and Prozac Nation

My ex, Amanda, came over today. She never liked Uptown. The lack of available street parking often caused her to enter my place in a bad mood. She would circle from Dupont to Fremont attempting to find a spot for the night. I always felt like I had to apologize to her for the poor city planning.

I open the door and our hug is slightly forced and stiff, like we’re reluctant to touch each other. It seems odd considering that I always had my hand up her shirt while we lied on the couch watching TV, and she liked to sleep next to me with her hand on my crotch. She looks exactly the same but I know she’s had experiences in the past year that I know nothing about. I don’t even know if she’s seeing anyone, and I don’t think I want to know. But her hair is kind of curly, and I know she only takes the time to do that for special occasions. I don’t know if this visit is that occasion, or if this visit is a stop on the way to that occasion.

I notice her eyes scanning the room. I can’t tell if she’s having flashes of good or bad memories at the moment.

Some things are still the same around my place…like the copy of Prozac Nation that rests on my toilet tank. It’s creased and its pages are warped from shower moisture, but it’s the only book that I can open to at any page and begin reading. I’ve never been Prozac depressed, but I know what it’s like fearing that your present life is the best it will ever get. And the can of Raid atop the fridge, Morrissey CD serving as a paperweight on my desk, scattered post-it notes with scribbled items to be purchased at Target, canvas tote bag hanging on the kitchen doorknob, dusty TV remotes on the coffee table…all still there where she last saw them.

The only noticeable change is the three month old couch that replaced the seven year old futon in the living room. I sold that to a young college girl moving into her first apartment. My Craigslist ad described it as only two years old, which I thought was believable. When I helped her haul it to her truck the stains became highly visible in the bright sun, and I could tell she was questioning my honesty. But I already had cash in hand and I was ecstatic to be rid of that thing and the years of procrastination it brought me.

Amanda compliments the new furniture as we sit. She doesn’t lean back on the couch. Instead opting to sit up straight with both feet flat on the floor, which denotes that she won’t be staying long.

Few things equal the awkwardness of making mindless small talk with someone you used to share your entire life with. She tells me about her new apartment and all I can think of is whether a boyfriend helped her move into it. Her birthday is in less than two weeks – I think about asking what she has planned for it. I don’t ask because I know those plans don’t include me and she’ll have long forgotten about this visit two weeks from now.

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