This originally appeared at In Our Words: A Salon for Queers & Co. Republished here with permission.
After the election night fiasco, I stop dating. I’m bored. I’m restless for a distraction from the constant gnaw of the open place where love used to be. I spend Christmas with my family in Indianapolis and on Christmas Eve my phone buzzes at 4 a.m.—a new email. It’s from my ex-boyfriend, who I ended a six-year relationship with in September, who I will now call David because that is not his name. We haven’t spoken in months. He wants my parents’ address. He wants to drive down from Chicago to Indianapolis on Christmas Day to see me.
Two thoughts: 1) ohsweetJesusHChristno, 2) After six years, you need their address?
I try to pretend that I can go back to sleep. I pretend so hard that it happens. I wake up on Christmas morning with a sudden start and my chest aches as I remember. He wants to see me. What caused us to separate is still there—he does not want children, does not want marriage, may not actually want me. He says he does now, but that may only be because now I’m far away. When I was close he did not seem to want me. I have to trust this, my memory of actual events, over the vague emailed promises of change.
Still, I excuse myself from opening presents to go cry in the closet. I remember that I have been invited to a post-Christmas keg party at my friend Mary’s house. I decide to leave my family Christmas early and drive to Chicago as fast as I can so I can go to this party.
Over the holiday, Chicago had heavy snow but it is now freakishly warm. All of the snow is melting quickly and, as I step into my apartment, I see water streaming down the wall, buckling the paint and spreading a weird white reside over my bookcase. This is terrible and my ex-boyfriend wants to see me and Christmas was the worst and I need to focus: There is a keg party. I decide that I will get drunk at this keg party. I will talk to strange men and I will have fun.
An hour later, I’m at the party, in the bedroom where everyone’s putting their coats, sitting on the floor, talking to someone I already know. I tell myself I should go out into the kitchen and flirt with someone, but instead I stay put. When I do get up, it’s only to go to the bathroom. There’s a line. I get in line and a tall man gets in line behind me. I try not to look at him because I think he might be cute. He taps me on the shoulder.
Tall guy: “I’m sorry.”
Me: “What for?”
Tall guy: “Oh, I…I was just checking you out and my friend said that you saw me doing it.”
Me: (getting red faced) “I didn’t notice.”
Tall guy who is so very cute: “Well, I just want to say that I very much appreciate your presence at this party.”
I sputter “thank you” and run into the now open restroom. Holy shit. That was a good line. And the man is hot. What do I do? Stay in the bathroom for the rest of the party? Seems like the best option.
When I leave the bathroom, I force myself to smile at this man. He smiles back. OK. That was good. Now I can go and casually hide in the bedroom again. I pull Mary in there with me and find out that man is a friend of a friend. Mary thinks I should “jump on it.”
I go to get another beer and he’s standing by the keg. I stop, think about turning around, but when I’m sitting at home, on my couch, restless and aching, I say that I want to flirt with men. Here is a flirtable man. Go flirt with him.
I approach the keg and he smiles, greets me, pours me my beer, and we talk. His name is Brad and we find commonality instantly: He just moved back from Denmark, where I once spent a semester in college. He also just left a long-term relationship behind so, not only does he share my weirdly specific passion for all things Danish, he’s also an emotional wreck. This is fucking perfect. My mind races forward—we can date and be sloppy broken messes together. But I don’t say this—I keep it cool, asking him about his ex, not really talking about mine. And then he asks, “Can I kiss you?” We haven’t moved from the keg, which is located in the back of the apartment, in full view of the entire party. I say, “Yes.” It is on.
I come up for air and see Mary in the kitchen giving me an exuberant thumbs up. I realize that a lot people are looking at us and most of them would probably like access to the keg. I try to think: Where can we go? I ask Brad, “Wanna go make out in the bathroom?” He’s game. I go first, and he waits a few minutes and joins me. Like we’re on an airplane.
We make out in the bathroom for a length of time I cannot accurately state due to drunkenness. Somehow I manage to be sitting on the sink for most of it. Brad tries to introduce some post-graduate work into our sweet high-school level making out, but I communicate that’s not what this is. Sure I’ll make out with a stranger in a bathroom at a keg party, but there’s no way I’m involving genitals because: tacky.
The banging on the door interrupts us. People, apparently, need to pee. We leave the bathroom and Mary high-fives me. She’s so supportive. Brad lets me know that his ride is leaving and he has to go while a drunk partygoer yells at me, “Do him! You should do him!” I yell back, “I will! But he has to ask for my phone number first!” Brad immediately asks for my phone number.
When it’s time for me to go I retrieve my coat and purse from the bedroom and check my phone. I have missed calls, all from David, and voicemails, also from David. I listen to the first voicemail—his voice is low and he says that he still needs to talk to me, needs to see me. A different Dana, one who had not just made out with a tall stranger in a bathroom, would call him back. But, due to some sort of a Christmas miracle, this Dana has just made out with a tall stranger in a bathroom. I delete the voicemails, hands shaking.
Back at my apartment, my wall is still buckling, water cascading down, and it’s starting to smell. I clear out the bookcase, leave the landlord a voicemail, and climb into bed. The gnawing greets me, along with the guilt of not calling David back. I’m not changing my mind, but I’m scared that if I talk to him I’ll want to change my mind. And I don’t want to want that. So I lie in my bed and distract myself. I think about Brad. Maybe he’ll call.
Dana Norris is the founder and host of Story Club, a monthly show for stories. She has served as the Nonfiction Editor and Managing Editor of TriQuarterly Online. She performs around Chicago with Mortified!, The Kates, Essay Fiesta, Stories at the Store, This Much is True, Beast Women, Waiting for the Bus and Cafe Cabaret. Her stories have been published in Tampa Review, Partner Dance Press, and been featured on Vocalo.org (89.5 FM). Dana received a Bachelors in Creative Writing and Religion and from Wittenberg University and a Masters in Religious Studies from The University of Chicago. She has a Certificate in Creative Nonfiction from the University of Chicago and is currently pursuing her MFA in Creative Nonfiction from Northwestern University.