This is a story about the most perfect night of my life. It’s perfect because it wasn’t. it was build upon a series of mishaps, mistakes and words misspoken. and it was all so beautiful.
but first, we had to say our initial goodbye. i walked down the two flights of stairs which led to the spacious, airy 3rd floor of my brother’s Pilsen apartment. we strolled hand in hand to the white camry we’d rented for the trip up and back to Michigan. i handed him a paper folder containing a sentimental Calviin & Hobbes cartoon, with strict verbal instructions “not to open it until you get to the airport”. he still hasn’t said anything about it. i’m guessing it got left behind in the car/airport/shuttle, etc. i’m hoping it didn’t.
we kissed. he said “i’ll see you in Lima” and i said “that works for me” while my heart screamed out for him to tell me how he really felt, or for me to tell him how i really felt, the words like fire rising up in my throat. why won’t he say it? why? the questions clouded my goodbye. it left a space between us, an unnecessary space. unsaid words stretch the strings of the heart, testing their strength, hindering their integrity. mine were tugged to their max.
we hugged again and i walked away and wiped the tears from my face with the palms of my hand. had i hoped he’d seen this? maybe. this was a goodbye, but not exactly the one i wanted. i wanted to tell him everything.
it began again with an accident. a flight scheduled for the wrong time, on the wrong day. in short; he had to stay an extra day in the windy city with my brother and i – after toting nearly 150lbs or luggage to O’Hare, only to find his flight was at 5pm, tomorrow. i had a feeling his flight was canceled – turns out he just wasn’t meant to board a plane that day.
so he called me and told me dilemma. he worked it out – it seems like a clusterfuck always follows this man wherever he goes. one unique debacle after another, which always seems to end…well.
so i lucked out with one more day with this man of mine. he comes back to the apartment. round: two. here we go. big brother was actually genuinely excited, which came as a pleasant surprise. i’ll admit it was strange having him back in our space. i’d wrapped my mind and heart around not seeing him again for over 6 weeks, and an hour later he was back? in his words: “i’m emotionally very confused at this point”. we sat on the couch, he told us all about the commotion, the dramatic story, the ups and downs. poor man – it actually sounded like a legitimate disaster. he worked himself up so much, his stomach hurt. “i don’t know what’s going on” he says, “you’re an emotional wreck right now, that’s what’s going on.” i think to myself. big brother is restless. he paces and paces and we wait for my man to feel better.
he chugs water like it’s water. he feels better now. we head out. we all need a drink.
we go to big brother’s favorite new bar. it’s a re-vamped old Pilsen staple, and i approve. no hipsters in sight. whiskey, good beer, cheap beer, a few shot’s of Chicago’s infamous Malört whoch goes down something like fermented jet fuel. Big Brother asks some hard hitting questions: kids, life, long distance relationships. we meet a few randoms, one named Odysseus. “Odysseus?” i ask him, “yeah” he replies. “oh, hi, i’m Penelope” i respond. nothing. waste of perfect literary name gold.
this bar scene is done. HONKEY TONK TIME. my favorite bar in Chicago. it’s a little bit hick, a little bit hipster, a lot a bit twangy and antiquated in a delightful, modernistic way. a band of bolo ties, banjos, and a stand up base gathered round the single microphone on stage, strumming and boot tappin as the men swung their ladies round and round and the bartender filled my glass with a fine Manhattan, house-cured bourbon cherries and all.
“if you don’t dance with my sister at least once, you will not be sleeping in my house tonight” big brother says. and before my man can respond, brother grabs me and swings me over to the dance floor with a “snooze, ya lose!” and we dance – he’s incredibly drunk and i’m drunk, yet we ull of some seriously magnificent swing dancin in the middle of Pilsen in the Windy City. eventually he and i dance. and it’s wonderful, a slow song, something we can both handle without dying of embarrassment. my face presses into his chest and i breathe him in, all of him, as brother watches with a smile from the dark corner where we left him.
we smoke cigarettes and walk home, yelling brashly at buses, swinging from light poles, tripping over curbs and scattered plastic Fanta bottles. we climb the stairs, brother retires, we make our bed. “i don’t think you’ve ever seen me this drunk” he says to me. “well, you’re handling it very well.” i say. in this night light, i can still tell his eyes are blue.
more staring. i can’t help it. i cave and finally the tears flow from my face like honey and he asks me what’s wrong, all the emotions, i say. which ones? he asks. you know exactly which ones i say. and i cry a little more. i’m really, really bad at sharing feelings, me too he says. and i really didn’t want to tell you when i’m drunk, that’s not how i pictured this happening. i tell him i don’t care, and that it won’t mean less. more tears. he looks at me, and rolls over and whispers in my ear i love you. and more tears. i love you so much i tell him and he cries. i’ve wanted to tell you that for a long, long time.
and we lay there, and we talk. we talk about his fears, how he feels so lonely doing what he does, a nomad, a gypsy of snow and ice, unfettered yet detached from a solid place to stand. he wipes tears from his face. he’s so beautiful, i can hardly stand it. i’ve dated plenty of other girls since i’ve met you, and no one compares. no one. i keep thinking to myself “she’s the one, why can’t i make this work?” he says. you’re it for me, i say.
i’ll keep you wild, if you keep me safe.