Originally appeared at In Our Words. Republished here with permission.
Dana Norris once went on 71 Internet dates. This was one of them.
It’s 1am on a Sunday morning and I’m on an L platform with a man named Patrick. We aren’t on a date, exactly, but we’ve been on a date before, just earlier this same week. So maybe this is our second date? Both of us are drunk so it’s hard to tell.
We just attended a mutual friend’s birthday party, which was an evening full of scotch and margaritas and pirate stickers and bar hopping and beer. When the party dispersed Patrick and I found ourselves standing on a street corner in Greek Town. We were within walking distance of a Blue Line train that goes west, to where Patrick lives, but I live north. Patrick waited with me as I scanned the empty streets for a cab. Then he suggested, “Why don’t you just come home with me?”
Why don’t I? I like Patrick. I like him very much. He’s well-muscled with a wide smile, dark hair, and the ability to grow a beard overnight. Our mutual friend told Patrick to check up on me and he began to holler at me via both Match.com and Facebook simultaneously.
We’ve been talking on the phone for several hours every night. Patrick’s voice is fantastic, booming, and authoritative. We talk about politics and personal fitness and gender roles and zombies and cookies. It’s been so long since I’ve lain in my bed at night, lights off, the reflection of soft street lights illuminating the ceiling, my head on my pillow and a man’s voice at my ear.
We go out on a fairly mediocre first date. I bring him a book I own about how to survive the zombie apocalypse but the conversation isn’t flowing and we both seem unduly nervous. But then, that night, he texts me, and when I get home I call him and we talk for another three hours. I feel good about this.
On the corner in Greek Town I consider his question, “Why don’t you just come home with me?” I consider it for exactly one second before I respond, “Yes!” We hold hands and walk to the Blue Line platform, a skinny concrete island in the middle of a wide rushing highway. We hop on the west bound train and I am giddy to be going home with Patrick.
Patrick used to be in the military and has libertarian leanings and Patrick, drunk, on the Blue Line at 1am, decides to get really political. He starts peppering me with questions about my position on universal healthcare. I think that healthcare is a basic human right that should be accessible to all. He’s getting more and more animated, sitting on the plastic edge of his seat and using his hands to punctuate his points. “You really think that everyone should have health care? Even people who are alcoholics or drug addicts, who willfully hurt themselves?” I honestly don’t especially care either way at this moment because I’m more focused on the fact that I have to pee and I have another 30 minutes of this train ride ahead of me, but I answer his questions: Yes, I think everyone should have healthcare, no exceptions.
The Blue Line is a 24-hour train, so late at night it’s populated with individuals who are riding it for shelter, a gently rocking bed full of loud drunks that shuttles back and forth from Forest Park to O’Hare. There are several seemingly homeless men on the car with us and Patrick starts gesturing toward them as he gets louder and louder. “Really? You’d give up more of your salary to buy that guy teeth?” I try to laugh off what he’s saying and change the subject but Patrick is persistent. “You would pay more money so these people,” again, gesturing around the car, “can continue to live however they want?” I find myself trying to physically distance myself from Patrick so I can show the homeless men on the train that I am not, in fact, with this guy. I quietly state that, yes, I would pay money out of my salary to buy this man some teeth. Patrick throws up his hands and he yells, “Universal healthcare is an abomination!” The toothless man just looks at us like, “Crackers.”
We finally reach the end of the line, where Patrick lives, and we shuffle off of the train. I now have to pee so badly it’s physically incapacitating. I’ve taken off my high heels but I’m still tottering down the sidewalk, almost walking sideways to keep the contents of my bladder from sloshing too much. Patrick also has to pee but he just finds a bush and goes for it. I laugh and turn my back, to be polite. After he’s done he’s insistent that it’s my turn. “You should pee now! No one’s looking! Go pee in that bush!” I keep demurring because, no matter how badly I have to pee, I still like to think of myself as above peeing in a stranger’s front yard in the middle of the night, but Patrick is going after this issue like it’s universal healthcare. “Why won’t you pee! Just pee and you’ll feel better!” I tell him to stop yelling at me and show me where he lives so I can pee in his toilet like a damn lady.
We go to his apartment and I pee one of the most glorious pees of my life. He hands me an unnecessary beer, we go to his room and he fires up his game system. He wants to show me his favorite game, some first-person shooter where the world has been overrun by zombies. We sit on the edge of his bed, balance beers between our thighs, and shoot zombies. We talk while we’re playing and I notice that he continually ranks the attractiveness of every women he mentions on a 10-point scale. “She’s a 7,” or, “That’s so like an 8,” or “I hate it when I see a 9 girl with a 4 guy. So sad.” Me, drunk, is tired of this guy telling me how to set up healthcare and where to pee and I decide to call him on it. “Why do you rank women like that? It’s objectifying and kind of gross.” He looks at me with soft, sad eyes. “I didn’t mean anything by it. I’m sorry—it’s a stupid habit. I mean, I’m like a 2 and you’re like a 9.” And suddenly I’m fine with the whole ranking thing. I assure him that he’s not a 2, but he doesn’t seem to believe me.
Eventually, he puts down the controllers, leans over, and kisses me. What follows is a very drunk makeout session that I don’t think either of us is really into since it’s late, we’re drunk, and the world is just too swirly. I stop him because I want to express what’s in my heart: “We’re not having sex tonight.” He’s a bit disappointed but I stand firm because I never enjoy sex when I’m drunk and I’ve resolved that I’m not running a not-for-profit in my pants.
It’s now 4am and time for bed. He gives me a T-shirt of his to sleep in and we cuddle up. His bed seems to be shrinking around us as we lie there. What is this, a full? A fucking twin? Why is it that no matter how I lay I have an elbow in my back? Why does it feel so weird to have his arm around me? How is it that he manages to toss and turn while snoring?
In the morning I’ve gotten maybe 45 minutes of sleep. His room smells like we’ve both been sweating beer out of our pores all night long, which we have been. I have to go because I have afternoon Cubs tickets and plans to meet up with friends. I say goodbye to Patrick and he kisses me, joking about what a weird night the previous evening had been and what a shitty night of sleep we both got. I proceed to walk-of-shame to the Blue Line and when I get there I’m so overwhelmingly nauseous that I elect to pay for a cab ride back to my house vs. sitting on a swaying train for over an hour.
I get home, change clothes, and meet my friends in Wrigleyville where I immediately start drinking bloody marys in an attempt to beat back my hangover. I tell my friends about my spontaneous date last night, this loud, brash man who took me home and showed me his video games and was just so decisive. And as I’m telling them about him, he texts me, thanking me for the night and, asking if I had a good time, and asking to see me again. I text back, “Yes and yes.”
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.