“Okay, okay,” I laughed as I turned to face her, “I know we drank hella whiskey last time, but would you judge me if I ordered a vodka soda?”
Lizzie smiled coyly. “I won’t judge, but I will definitely make fun of you for it.”
I had decided to stay an extra night in Phoenix because the flight I was supposed to be on wouldn’t arrive in Chicago until around midnight, which sounds like hell to me. Knowing that, I texted Lizzie at the beginning of the week to see if she wanted to grab drinks, and she texted me back a resounding “Yes!”
We complimented each other perfectly. I was in black skinny jeans, gray Henley tee shirt, with an open white dress shirt over it. She was in white skinny jeans, a black Jack Daniels-style tank top, with a jean jacket over it. Whenever the cover band played a country song, she would belt it and I would shake my head. She would do the same to me whenever they played a pop-punk song from the early 2000s. Something just clicked; we were in sync.
Last time, we drove all over the Scottsdale area, heading to dive bars and doing shots of cheap whiskey. This time, we stayed in downtown Phoenix. The combination of the Final Four, free concerts, and everything within walking distance was enough to sell us both.
We left the first bar, Copper Blues, after three rounds of double vodka sodas, double whiskey gingers, and a few Jim Beam shots. When she asked me where I wanted to go, I told her to take the reins. She knew what I liked from last time, and this time she delivered again. We walked a few blocks and then she pulled me down an alley.
“Woah, wait, what the hell?” I said. I didn’t want this to turn into another Nicole situation. Lizzie grabbed my hand and turned around.
“Do you trust me?”
She led me down the alley and into an opening between two buildings. There was a line forming outside of a door, denoted only by a neon Coors Light sign. Putting two and two together, I figured this would be another bar. We got in line.
“So, we’re going to Valley Bar,” she told me. “I’ve been here tons of times, but I’m usually so drunk by then that I don’t remember how we got there.”
“Sweet!” I said. “What are we talking? Club? Dive? Orgy?”
“Oh, dude,” said some guy who was eaves dropping on the conversation. “It’s going to be like nothing you’ve ever seen before.”
“I highly doubt that, but thanks for the ominous heads up,” I replied.
“It’s pretty cool, honestly,” said Lizzie, “Half of it is a music venue, the other half is divey with arcade games. I typically don’t go to the venue because they play a lot of EDM music and I’m not really into it.”
“Oh, you have to go tonight though!” said the stranger in line. I rolled my eyes.
“Okay, I’ll bite,” I said, “Why do we have to go tonight?”
“DJentrification is playing!” Lizzie and I looked at each other, clueless. “You guys don’t know DJentrification?”
“N—no,” we said.
“He’s this awesome DJ from Phoenix, and he fucking hates gentrification. Every time I see him, he fucking kills it. He’s got this deep house beat and finds a way to incorporate, like, African tribal beats into his music. Trust me, you’ll be dancing.”
At this point, we had moved through the line and found ourselves face to face with the doorman. We looked at each other, shrugged, and gave the guy a few bucks to go see what the hype about DJentrification was.
He sucked, we left after one beer.
Luckily, the next bar she took me to was right across the street. It was an Irish pub called Seamus McCaffery’s, and it had a cover band playing there too. I’ll be honest, at this point, all the booze was stacking up on me, and I don’t really remember how we got in. I think what happened was that the bar itself was overcrowded, but the patio was fine. Only one of us was allowed into the bar to get drinks, and we had to take them back out. Naturally, Lizzie performed this task, because she is tiny and can get drinks fast.
I sat down on the bench outside and listened to the band play their own rendition of “Gold On The Ceiling” by The Black Keys. Just as they hit the second chorus, Lizzie sat next to me and handed me a vodka soda, singing along to the music.
“You know this song?” I asked.
“Of course I do!” she replied. “Just because I love country music doesn’t mean I don’t listen to other stuff!”
And so for the next 20 minutes, whenever the band played a new song, we would ask each other if we knew it. It was a dumb, dumb game, but we had fun playing it. We laughed, she leaned on my shoulder, I put my hand on her knee, and we finished our drinks.
When I came back from getting the second round, she was in the same spot. I don’t know why I was expecting her to be gone, but there she was, smiling on the bench. I sat next to her and handed her the whiskey ginger. We took a sip of our drinks.
“Hey, thanks for getting these,” she said, turning to face me.
“No problem! Thanks for showing me around!” I said, turning to her.
We both smiled. She shook her head. I looked out to the street we were facing, looked back, and we leaned in towards each other. I brushed my hand through her hair, and we kissed. And then we kissed again. And then again, but more intense. And then a waitress tapped me on the shoulder and passive aggressively let me know that there are other places to make out.
“The way I see it, we have two options here,” I said to Lizzie. “We can take an Uber to your place, which I understand is pretty far from here. Or, we can take an Uber to my Airbnb, where you’re not technically allowed to be, and you’d have to be quiet.”
“Interesting,” she said, thinking through both scenarios. Then, she winked at me and said, “Well, I can try to be quiet.”
We successfully snuck into the Airbnb without waking my hosts. I slowly shut the bedroom door behind me, and we had a mini celebration. She took off her shoes and jacket and laid down on the bed. And then, she looked at me and said something I won’t soon forget.
“You know, if I weren’t so drunk right now, I would fuck the shit out of you.”
And then she passed out.
The next morning, we awoke to the alarm I had pre-emptively set for 6:30 a.m. I still had to pack, and I wasn’t sure how long it would take to get to the airport since I had to be there at 8:00 for my flight. Come to find out, we had about an hour to kill. We looked at each other, smiled coyly, and started making out again.
In my head, this was going really well. Not to be gross, but it was starting to get wet on our faces. I thought it was just saliva. That is, until I pulled back to get some air only to see her face covered in blood.
“WHAT THE FUCK?!” she shouted.
“HOLY SHIT!” I yelled.
I ran to the bathroom and looked in the mirror. My nose was bleeding. I’ve experienced a few things in the bedroom that have killed the mood before. Poorly timed farts, teeth, and offensive odors to name a few. Nosebleeds are a new one that I have to add to the list.
After we cleaned ourselves up, we managed to laugh about it. I sat back down on the bed, and she put her head on my shoulder. I don’t know what came over me. Maybe it was the uncertainty, maybe it was the adrenaline, maybe I was still drunk from the night before. Either way, I decided to go for bold.
“Hey, can I tell you something?” I asked. She nodded. “I think you’re an amazing person. You’re fun to be around, you’re incredibly intelligent, you make me happy, I truly enjoy talking to you. Frankly, I really like you.”
She started to lean away from me.
“And I know that this is insane. I know this probably won’t lead to anything. I just…I needed to say it and put it on the table.”
“You say that now. Let’s see how you feel once you really get to know me,” she said, and kissed me afterward. And then she changed the subject.
We managed to sneak back out of the Airbnb undetected. We hugged and kissed before I got in the Uber to the airport. The entire flight home—layover included—I thought about what she said. It echoed in my head, driving me slowly insane. I don’t know what I was expecting. I knew it wasn’t going to work, but what’s worse is the uncertainty that comes with a lack of closure. For the time being, I’m putting her non-response as a sign that the feelings weren’t reciprocated.
That doesn’t mean that I’m mad at her. Far from it. I still appreciate her and hope the best for her. I still plan on talking to her and if she’s ever in Chicago, she knows she’s got a standing drink date. But from here, I think it’s time to move forward. Anything can happen.
Cheers, friends. I’ll see you in Boston later this month..