Saturday, November 9, 2010
She rolled over in her full sized bed, with rumpled black Jersey sheets and dirty socks gathered at the foot. Beside her lay a tall, dark and handsome victim of another night, caused from too much pot, whiskey and coke, and low self-esteem.
Fuck. Her life was the definition of a middle-class rut, getting money from her mom every weekend, despite the fact that she had very little to give these days, and working at a hotel bar in the theatre district of Chicago to support her growing drug habit. She remembered getting the job, as it was only a few months ago that she had applied and interviewed with them. The upscale atmosphere, modern décor, and artsy shit on the wall was a bit much for Anna Paige’s’ unrefined taste—her idea of decorating involved throwing some stills on the walls, lighting some incense, and housing a sound system with enough bass that her dubstep could be appropriately played. She didn’t have much of a choice in her job selection, and while she had a Photography degree from Columbia College Chicago, the closest she got to an art gallery and the promise of a full-time job, was posting random photos taken while waiting for the El train around her apartment, and her poor mother’s house.
She walked into the hotel during an evening out on the town a few months ago, one of the few evenings that her family came out on the town with her. Her mother Janice and older brother Patrick came into the city for a showing of Wicked at the Oriental theatre, and although Anna Paige wanted to spend time with her family, especially now that her mother had been diagnosed with breast cancer, she couldn’t bear to sit in the seats (despite how comfortable those little red cushions were) and watch hours upon hours of Wicked. Her Columbia friends raved about how wonderful of a production it was, but all Anna Paige wanted to do was get high and ease her mind. Smoking pot wasn’t much of an option at five o’clock p.m. with her family in the theater, and although she made up an excuse about how she left her money at home and couldn’t buy a ticket, she was really bailing on the show to find some Jack and people who wouldn’t recognize her.
Her mother found out she had breast cancer well after the lump first appeared, and by the time it was diagnosed, her stage-three cancer didn’t show any promise of allowing for recovery. Her mom was holding it together fairly well, going to work at the state office for adoption, and pretending that there was nothing wrong.
Anna Paige didn’t find out about the cancer until about three months after her mom first found out, when she found an envelope on the counter in her mother’s kitchen, and allowed curiosity to get the best of her. Around that time, Anna Paige was busy making plans for the summer after college graduation, involving spending weeks in San Diego with her boyfriend Dixon, and backpacking through Europe, pausing only for afternoon tea and lovemaking. None of those plans happened, and with the way things were going, would never happen.
A month after Anna Paige found out about her mother, in late July, Dixon smiled at the cameras, and posed for pictures with Anna Paige at his friend’s beach house in Pacific Beach all the while secretly formulating the sentence that would crush her life. He wanted to be there for his girlfriend, especially while her mother was going through treatment and needing a strong support system to help do things around the house that she could no longer do—cooking and tidying up, which were seemingly impossible chores for her mother to do after chemotherapy. But, their relationship was quickly falling apart and he taking a job out in California did little to numb the situation.
Anna Paige was inevitably distant, and while she rarely drank more than two or three glasses of some fruity concoction in college, she was drinking much more than that now and picked up drugs as well. His girlfriend was falling apart as her mother fell apart, and he couldn’t bear to watch either of them live so vulnerably and blithely unaware of what was happening to their family. He broke up with her the night after she got back to Chicago, and everything else seemed to go downhill as well. The Eurotrip that they had been planning disappeared, as quickly as it appeared, and while Anna Paige was out of 1,000 something dollars for the flight, she was relieved that she wouldn’t be spending the rest of the summer with someone who quite blatantly abandoned her.
These days, the radiation and chemotherapy treatments were so expensive and the damn medical bills weren’t being fully covered by her mom’s insurance, and while most of Anna Paige’s money went to substances that would successfully, and temporarily, take away the helplessness she felt, the rest of her money went to paying for her Chicago apartment (if it could even be called that) a block outside of Chinatown, and for the all too frequent trips to her mother’s house off the Dan Ryan in sketchville Chicago to take care of her.
Her mom couldn’t afford Anna Paige’s Wicked ticket. She could barely afford her own; it had been given to her by one of her coworkers at the State Department for Social Services as a ‘get well’ soon present that seemed to be more of a suggestion. At this point, four months after her mom had been diagnosed, she was completely bald, with discolored skin, and eyes that looked like the Crypt Keeper. Her mom had the perpetual look of someone who spent their whole life crying, and her sullen look and synthetic brown wig on her bald head—a way to mask her feelings of discontentment over her present condition, was enough to make anyone feel badly for her. And, although she couldn’t afford the gas, and could barely stay awake for the whole show, Anna Paige’s mother Janice recruited her son to accompany her to a musical that would bring life into her eyes for about two hours and thirty-five minutes.
That night, back in September, Anna Paige hugged her mom goodbye as they walked into the theater, and she walked, no ran, into the nearest bar, desperately seeking a drink. It was depressing to see her mom so helpless and weak, and without even the slightest hint of a post-college career, there wasn’t a damn thing that she could do to help financially.
“Hi, welcome to Rue 13, my name is Darren and if you would like I can seat you at a table. Our happy hour includes the soup of the day, lobster bisque, and five dollar martinis,” the host said, waving his arm flamboyantly around the upscale restaurant and sashaying toward the counter to pick up a black menu.
“Hey. Um. I just really think I need a drink. Which sounds kind of bad but,” she chuckled uncomfortably as she looked at the clock on the wall behind the bar. Anna Paige glanced around the place so as to scale the clientele’s look of judgment as they glared at her black skinny jeans, oversized black sweater with flashy gold starbursts and blue-black hair that hung well past her shoulders and featured the most asymmetrical haircut and bangs it was almost scary.
“I’m really no alcoholic, just someone who craves the feeling of whiskey every now and then … and rum. And vodka. And, ahem, gin,” Anna Paige chuckled uncomfortably again; hoping a joke would ease the tension she felt was present in the room.
The host stared shamelessly at her, questioning not only her judgment but also her character, but refusing to speak out against her decisions and risk failing the reputation of the hotel bar and restaurant. Its gold chandeliers glimmered against the retro velvet red and purple walls of the establishment, and for a second, Anna Paige questioned her judgment as well. What the hell am I doing, she thought. Six months ago I didn’t even drink and now I’m a functioning alcoholic.
What the hell ever, she reasoned silently. Her mom had breast cancer and it was single-handedly ruining her life, a tub of gin would be appropriate at this point.
“You know what? It’s okay. I’ll just help myself to the bar,” she said, smoothing out her hair and reaching for her wallet inside of her large, royal blue Jimmy Choo hobo knockoff.
“Okay ma’am, enjoy your drink,” the host said quickly, with undoubtedly the fakest smile in all of Chicago, and sashayed away to grab a tea pot off of an abandoned table in the corner of the restaurant and disappear into the kitchen.
Two months later and that same guy was naked in her bed, save for his tight gray Hanes boxer briefs and smile of noncommittal romance. His flamboyance that Anna Paige too quickly assumed for homosexuality was actually a consequence of being raised by a single mother and two older sisters. His metrosexuality was more a factor from being an art institute graduate and theater nerd, but he wouldn’t let on, or explain. He was a quick fix and while she wouldn’t get into the specifics, the high she felt after sleeping with him wasn’t nearly as liberating as when she smoked pot, but at least in the physical sense, he took away the pain she was constantly feeling. Either that, or he was putting her in so much pain that after a while, it all seemed to be pleasurable.
What the hell was the difference anyway she asked herself and in the same mental breath, realized that the two fucks that she could give in figuring out why her life was like this, could be spent sleeping away the hangover that had formed somewhere around April, along with her drinking habit, and her mother’s cancer.