What’s Your Damage, Heather?
Walking to Rosie’s, Will though that this move to Chicago was not working out like it was supposed to.
Back at Berkely, he’d taken a class called Race and Politics and had been captivated by Harold Washington’s campaign. Chicago’s first (and only) African-American mayor had been elected after a campaign that was a study in the artful interplay between political calculation and genuine idealism. Will was attracted to this juxtaposition. He hated the hippy dippy liberalism of his mother’s friends, but no so much so that he’d joined ranks in the odious Reagan Revolution. Washington had been a liberal, but he’d been a liberal with teeth. Will thought of himself as a liberal with teeth, a pragmatic politico. Will had come to Chicago to find (or become) the next Harold Washington.
Will was smart and he was energetic. And he had some history in Chicago politics. His grandfather had been an alderman in an influential ward. Surely, Will thought, there were some lingering family connections he could latch onto. He felt bound to be part of something important. But after four months, Will hadn’t become protégé to some brilliant young up and comer. Will hadn’t even managed an internship.
He hadn’t put much effort into it, of course. But it didn’t matter, thought Will. Washington was dead and the current mayor was another fucking Daley. Probably another mayor-for-life. Harold Washington’s heart stopped beating and the old machine just sprang back into life. And Will had neither the impetus nor the pedigree to do something about it.
It was just so cold here! Will felt like his blood had chilled into a syrup and was moving so slowly through his body. Everything felt dialed back and ground down.
He’d never even met his grandfather the alderman who was as dead as Harold Washington now. The only family he had left was his dusty dead-ender cousin, Teddy, whom Will was utterly disgusted by and whom Will was also living off. And that was the most depressing fact of Will’s cold Chicago existence.
Will had come from money. His grandmother and Teddy’s mother were sisters, heiresses of a sort. Teddy’s mother had left Teddy enough to live comfortably without working, but Will’s grandmother had apparently been spendthrift and Will’s mother had rejected her posh upbringing. None of that family money had found its way to Will.
When Will’s mother had died, an agreement had been reached among the remaining members of the family that Teddy would finance Will’s way through college and would give him some kind of allowance until he reached 25, at which point, Will would make sure to release any legal claim, tenuous though it would be, on Teddy’s Gold Coast flat. Will had another year before that deadline, but he was miserable taking money from Teddy. He hated Teddy.
Almost to Rosie’s he carried on fiddling with his interior mechanisms and wondering what else to do. He was thinking, as drifting twenty-somethings are wont to, of returning to school. It’s not like it was a brand new idea. He’d taken his GMATs and applied already to a few area schools. But he hadn’t followed through even though he’d been accepted at all of them. He hadn’t really wanted to bother with school when he got to Chicago. But now that he was here, maybe a Masters in PoliSci might help. It would give him some structure, introduce him to the scene a little. He could bone up a little; spark up that old Northern California idealism with some cold Chicago calculation. University of Chicago could be the place for him. He could get into school and make some changes. Maybe look into how environmentalism was playing these days. Al Gore was into that and he was a big name senator. Brooke would probably have some ideas…
Will thought that Brooke had been springing into his mind a lot lately. And this realization lit a match under the dwindling shittiness of his mood. Shittiness restored, he grimaced and headed into a liquor store to buy a bottle of vodka. He’d start making changes tomorrow. It was too fucking cold today. It’s too hard to get moving in Chicago in the winter. An afternoon getting drunk with Rosie was all he could handle that day. Tomorrow, he’d do something.
When he arrived at Rosie’s door, if his knock was a little more urgent than necessary, this is only because Will was eager to drown out the sound of his own bullshit.
Rosie threw open the door with a “Ta Da!” She was wearing a green leotard with side cutouts, red fishnet hose, motorcycle boots up to her knees and held silver and gold eyeliner pencils in her hand. Will had arrived as she was drawing ornaments on the flesh exposed by the cutouts.
“What do you think?” she asked, laughing.
“Ho Ho Ho!” said Will, grinning. “I guess I know which list you’ll be on.”
“It’s nicer to be naughty,” said Rosie. “Santa knows that. Let’s drink some vodka.”
“And listen to the Pogues,” said Will. “I brought music.”
Rosie and Will had come into an understanding of sorts. They flirted. Sure, they leered and paid compliments and bandied double entendre about. But they steered clear of the loaded, expectant flirting that leads to regrettable rushes into inappropriate beds. Rosie was sure that Will wanted to fuck her and she was practicing the art of having men want to fuck her without thinking that they’d be able to do it. Will was busy not thinking of Brooke.
They passed a pleasant afternoon together, drinking vodka over ice, smoking cigarettes and taking turns at playing DJ.
When Tré came home that evening, the TV was on but muted, showing a silent Mork and Mindy rerun. The Cure was playing at loud, but tolerable levels. Rosie was lying on her back, idly blowing smoke rings into the ceiling. Will was sitting cross-legged at the other end, drawing Christmas lights with eyeliner pencil around Rosie’s left leg.
“Hey, baby,” said Rosie, as he walked into the living room. “How was your day?”
Will at least had manners enough to look a little guilty.
Tré was irritated. He’d had a long day with long meetings and another two scheduled that evening with a couple of Lightweight managers about the imminent rebrand. He’d brought home Chinese food and a bottle of wine. He’d spent some of his very limited cash on that, since he was hoping that his homecoming would come with a side of détente. He and Rosie could have a nice dinner, drink some wine, maybe roll around in the bedroom for a while, and then head out for the evening. He thought maybe Rosie would come with him to his meetings, since she knew how the bar business worked. But she was already dressed for the clubs.
And there was Will. Again. Will seemed to be around a lot these days and it was starting to grate on Tré. It’s not cool to be drawing shit on another guy’s girlfriend. But he was too tired for a fight. So, instead, he sighed and said, “You guys want Chinese?”
Tré headed into the kitchen to open his wine and put the food on plates. He figured there was enough for three, especially since Rosie wouldn’t do much more than sniff at it.
The three sat on the floor and ate. Mork and Mindy gave way to the Bulls game, which Rosie permitted to keep the peace. Will and Tré watched the first half, growing increasingly excited about the Bulls’ chances. They really could go all the way.
As halftime approached, Tré stretched and said, “I’ve got meetings tonight, Rosie. Do you want to come with me?”
“No, thanks, sweetie,” said Rosie. “I’ve just been killing time until club hours. Maybe you could blow off your meetings and come with me? Everyone at Lobo misses you!”
Tré looked at her amazedly.
“All right, all right,” she said. “Will, you’ll go with me to Lobo, right?”
“I guess,” said Will, a tad uncomfortably. “I don’t really have anything else to do.”
“Maybe you could meet us after your meetings,” said Rosie to Tré.
“After my meetings, I’m coming home and going to sleep,” said Tré.
She kissed the top of his head from her perch on the couch and said, “Maybe I’ll wake you up when I get home.”
This was awkward enough to make Will decide to be gone before Tré got home in the future.
At around 9:30, the three left the apartment. Tré’s first appointment was at 10:00. He’d taken to scheduling meetings with tavern managers at this strange weekday time, since the managers tended to have time to spare at this point and Tré got an opportunity to check out the store’s vibe.
When he got to his first meeting, the manager was in the middle of something else, so he bought Tré a Heineken, and asked him to wait. Tré sat at the bar, checking out the scene and thinking how glad he was for the free beer. Things were bad for him money-wise. And he wasn’t sure he was ever going to convince Rosie of that.
Meanwhile, Rosie kicked up her heels at Lobo. She danced and flirted and charmed and if anyone asked bout Tré, she just grinned leeringly and said, “He’s keeping the bed warm for me.” And spun away.
Midway through her spin her eyes landed on Will, who sat quietly in his seat, picking at the label on his beer bottle, still fiddling with those internal mechanisms, wondering what to do with his life.
School really was the best plan. He’d go back to school.
Rosie spun away.