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“Wake UP!” I plead, lying on the floor of the bathroom stall while holding Blake’s lifeless body in my arms. The booming, thumping, thrashing, and swishing of dance music from outside the bathroom envelopes my begging of Blake to breathe; not even a conscious person could hear my panicked pleas at a dance club in the gayest neighborhood of Chicago.
“Come the FUCK ON, dude!” A guy outside the stall bangs on the metal door.
“Juss… just WAIT… WAIT a FUCKING SECOND, GOD DAMN IT! I’ll be out in a second!” I somehow manage to slur. I’m so drunk and so panicked and so confused and so fucking scared that I don’t know if the words I just scream actually come out of my mouth or if it’s my imagination— you know, what if this is all in my head? What if leaning my back on a toilet trying to shake Blake awake from a possible drug overdose in the middle of a dance club’s bathroom floor was just a bad dream? What if our entire six-month relationship was just a nightmare in my sleep? YES! My twenty-two-year-old brain somehow conjured up THIS nightmare.
The music seems to be getting louder, and the pounding from the bass begins to match the pounding of the dude’s fist thrashing outside the stall. I don’t want to make a scene. I don’t want anyone to know that my boyfriend is passed out on this pissed-on floor. He’ll be arrested. I’ll be arrested. I don’t even know if that’s true, but I’m so fucking scared. I’m not thinking right. Let this be a dream!
“BLAKE! Please! PLEASE wake up!” I whisper. I slap his cheeks in hopes his eyes will shoot open. His facial hair proves he’s a man, but in this moment, his lifeless expression just shows a weak boy— a boy with an addiction. I somehow fell for that same vulnerability almost six months ago.
Blake strolled from across the crowd wearing dark denim, v-neck sweater, and a backward baseball cap. He kinda looked like a mid-thirties version of Chris Pine, you know, that guy that from the “Star Trek” movie? My friends nudged me from their bar stools as they watched him head my way. All I remember is the loud music seemingly setting the tone of his swagger through the crowd.
“You’re really, like really hot.” Blake whispered as he finally approached the section where I was drinking beers with friends. I had just moved to Chicago and was new to the dating scene. Actually, I had just come out and never experienced being able to confidently accept a compliment from the same sex. For years, I dealt with being in the closet. Now, being far from my conservative hometown in Wisconsin, I could enjoy flirting. I’m not gonna lie, I did look good in my tight black tee, but this was the first compliment a man had given me in my life. For once, I felt important.
“Well, thanks. You’re, uh, you’re pretty nice-looking yourself!” My early twenties totally oozed out of my nervous repertoire. I’d never had a boyfriend. Actually, I’d never even been kissed. I was totally buzzing on lust.
“I think I should take you out for dinner,” Blake winked. He had those ice-blue eyes that you either trust or fear.
“I… I think I’d like that,” my hands sweated from excitement while the cold beer bottle made them slippery. I quickly excused myself through the crowd to the closest bar and motioned to borrow a pen from the bartender. I scribbled my number on the back of a movie stub from my wallet and handed it to Blake. He said he’d call soon. I’ll never forget it; The Killer’s “Mr. Brightside” was blasting in the bar’s speakers while a group of guys at another table sang along. It felt like the whole room understood my new victory!
A few nights later, I wore my favorite black Diesel jacket—one with a popped collar that made me look super built in the arms— to our first date at a Thai joint in my neighborhood. I had spent the entire day picking out something to wear, imagining what we’d talk about, and practicing conversations in the mirror. Hey, it was my first date. This a pretty big deal, you know?
The cozy restaurant was packed with couples holding hands from across the tiny tables and smelled of spicy noodles mixed with the occasional gust of crisp October air that followed peoples’ entrances through the front door. I slipped off my coat, put my name on a list for a table, and waited for Blake— who was ten minutes late.
Fifteen minutes: I started to check my phone for missed texts. It was my first date, but I knew you’re supposed to be on time.
Twenty minutes: I stood on my tiptoes to scan through the crowd to see if he was sitting somewhere I’d missed.
Forty-five minutes later, (yes, I stayed that long!) a guy wearing a baseball hat stumbled in to the place. He bumped in to two of the waitresses by the door and knocked a water glass off a couple’s table.
I realized it was Blake.
“Hey… are you… are okay?” I asked as he stumbled in to me laughing. This wasn’t the sexy guy I fallen for from the bar only a few days before; he looked pale and sick. When he touched me, his hands felt icy.
“Fuck, yahhhh!” He yelled with a slur and a half smile.
“What’s going on… why are you… why are you acting like this?” I tried to whisper hoping he’d catch the drift to lower his voice. He threw himself limp in my arms, as if he was attempting a hug, but continued to laugh uncontrollably. He didn’t reek of booze, so I didn’t think he was drunk.
The swarms of people waiting for a table started to whisper. I couldn’t hear what they’re saying, but I’m guessing they knew something I didn’t. Now, ten years later, I’ve had enough experience. The older you get the more you see people do stupid things: like drugs. But I was a young kid from Wisconsin at the time. I got buzzes off mouth wash— I knew nothing about real buzzes.
I should have stormed out, walked home, and gone to bed crying innocent tears in to my pillow. I should have chalked it off as “first date bad luck.” Sometimes, though, there are certain moments when we are too young/stupid/naïve and actually believe you can fix people. Sometimes you don’t have enough confidence in yourself to expect more from others. Sometimes you’re so desperate for love, you accept whatever you’re dealt— So I stayed.
“Are you sure everything will be okay?” I asked still debating escaping through the crowd and not look back.
“Dude, chill… it’s FINE! ” Blake snapped as we followed the hostess to a quiet table in the corner.
At the table, Blake slouched in his chair while he recited the menu aloud in an incredibly racist Asian accent. I tried to hush him and reminded him that he was being rude, but he wasn’t there. He laughed and took big gulps of water, but missed his lips at every attempt. The water dribbled down his chin and wet his loose white t-shirt.
“You look SOOOOOOOOO FFFFFUCKING HOT tonight, MAN!” He screamed from while tossing his plastic menu up and down in the air. Other tables began to look and I even heard a “tsk” escape a woman’s lips.
“Blake, PLEASE tell me what’s going. PLEASE! It was then when I made eye contact with him. Those sharp-blue eyes that wooed me the night we met were now red and glazed. He looked distant. He looked so lost.
Like our first date, like our second date, like our fifth and every date we ever had for sixth months, Blake was “lost.” Most people would actually call it “high.” I’m proud to say I never took anything, but Blake was willing to stick anything up his nose or in his mouth: He was banker by day and total junkie by night. Name it, and I could tell how it made him act: Oxycotton? He’d get crazy angry and punch late night taco joint servers that he thought were flirting with me. Pot? That made him horny while on taxicab rides home. Cocaine? Well, that was his drug of choice for Saturday nights out at dance clubs.
I was in love. I actually thought that was love. There were good days. I mean, those off chances he wasn’t on something gave us some wonderful moments. He’d hold me while we slept. He’d leave folded notes in my jean pockets for me to find when I was looking for change in line at the grocery store. He’d rent my favorite movie and pause it when I had to go to the bathroom. I thought I could fix him. I thought me, a drug-free, could save an addict. Anytime I’d try to talk to him about his problem it would turn in to this explosive argument. I just wanted to help.
But most of that time, our love was actually me wiping urine off the of the thirty-five year old man’s apartment bathroom floor after he had so much coke he would miss the toilet. Our love was wondering if him excusing himself from the dinner table meant he was going to come back out “rolling” on something. Our love meant that my friends didn’t want to hang out because they knew he was bad news and wanted no part.
Our love was watching him possibly die of an overdose on the bathroom floor of a dance club.
Multiple fists begin to pound outside the stall door as the impatient crowds of men waiting to use the toilet start gaining up. They shake the stall walls and someone even attempts kicking the door open. I clutch on to Blake’s limp body and cry louder. The graffiti on the stall walls jiggle with every shake like scribbled cartoons coming to life. The whole place feels like it’s shaking—the bass make the speakers in the club shake, the fear that Blake is dying in my arms makes me shake, my head is shaking back and forth just begging for this all to stop.
“Get the fuck OUT YOU ASSHOLE!” A guy screams at me from outside the stall. I can’t stop crying. Why am I here? Why haven’t I gotten help. I don’t even know what he took. I don’t want to be arrested! I will be arrested. I’m so lost. I can’t feel anything. I’ve lost all feeling since I met him.
I can’t fight back anymore. I can’t scream to get help. I can’t do anything. I’m giving up. I’m shutting down. The stall is shaking. I keep shaking. It feels like an earthquake and I’m slipping in between the cracks. It feels like I’m overdosing on all this bad relationship.
The music seems to be getting louder. I don’t think he’s breathing. A guy from outside the stall finally kicks open the door, sees Blake in my arms, sees me crying, and sees my world going numb.
At Your Mother's Knee: Stories of Learning and Acceptance
May 11 - 12, 2014
Webster's Wine Bar
1480 W. Webster