Chapter 2 – Dark & Damp

A mild January afternoon in 1998, I finished my last shift at a bank in Iowa City, Iowa. I went to my apartment, packed my car full of what I felt were my most valuable belongings, and drove to Chicago.

That dark, wet, evening I found an illegal spot to park my car, near a hydrant. My heart raced. The noisy busyness of Clark and Belmont on a Friday night exploded into my face as I ran to a pay phone to call him, “I’m here, but not sure where to park. Can you come down to help me?”

I found I wasn’t welcome that evening.

It was a strange, icky place while I stayed with him and his brother until I lined up school, a job, and a place to live. The initial plan was to live with my former Iowa City roommate, but she was dating a guy and no longer wanted a roommate.

He was distant. He blamed his brother not being happy with our arrangement.

He didn’t want to have sex.

I cleaned their disgusting apartment, mainly the bathroom and the kitchen. And other than that, I stayed out of their way.

I existed as though I didn’t exist. I didn’t take up too much space. I disappeared when they were around.

One night we went out to a movie. When we returned, we parked on Clark Street across the from his building.  Climbing out of the car, I noticed movement in my periphery. I zeroed in and gasped, “Whoa do you see that?” and motioned for him to look up. Two sets of naked men adorned in leather chaps, studded dog collars and chains on top of the building, along the ledge, were fucking. Fucking hard.

A beer bottle crashed next to us on the sidewalk. He didn’t look. Instead he turned angry, told me to shut up, squeezed the top of my arm, and charged me inside his building.

I’m from Iowa, I hadn’t seen anything like that before. Isn’t this something you would gasp at and bond over? Maybe go fuck over?

It was April by the time I finally moved out. I had to sell my cute, little orangey-red beamer. A 1985 318i. I loved that car. That car felt like home.

On a sunny, slushy, Spring Friday I drove it to some jackass mom and pop dealership on Western Avenue. The guy gave me $1200 for it then drove me home in it to his apartment. I repeated to myself it’s just a car, it’s just a car. Bigger things ahead, let it go. I needed the money to get into my own apartment.

The unsettling part nagging me besides losing my material possession was it meant I would be stuck in Chicago for a while.

Monday, when I went into the office, my boss told me they were planning on giving me a little loan to help me get into an apartment. Damn it!

I lucked out with my first real job in the city of Chicago. I worked for the Jewish Community Centers of Chicago. A small office on Franklin and Madison just a block from the train. Everyone there was quirky, genuine, quite supportive, and very much a small knit and at times dysfunctional family. I met a few great gals there. Two of whom I’m close with today though we don’t see each other much. Three were in my wedding. That first “real” job experience was full of laughter, goofiness, and fun.

I was still me then.

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