The lights from the street below my new apartment filtered in through windows that still had no curtains- I had forgotten them on my trip to IKEA earlier that day. My cousins must have reminded me a dozen times, and yet I still forgot.
I curled up on my small bed, childhood stuffed animal squeezed tightly in my arms. I caught my bottom lip quivering and bit it, hard. No babies allowed.
10:30 is a weird hour. It’s not technically late, but it’s getting late for most of the responsible adult population that isn’t already at work. I knew that he’d probably be asleep, but even so, he was the only number I thought to dial.
“Please tell me you’re not in jail.” A thick Minnesotan accent sleepily begged from the other line.
“You stupid fogey,” I stated, in mock annoyance, “If I was in jail would I be calling from my own cell phone?”
“You have a point. Don’t be mad, babe. It’s late.”
“Sorry to wake you.” I apologized, fiddling with my toes.
“It’s fine. Some loser giving you shit at a bar?”
“Good.” I heard him roll over. I could see his bedroom- living room, really. I missed the blue walls. I wondered if I ever told him that I liked them.
“What the fuck could you do if there was some loser at some bar?”
“Pay for an Uber for you to go home.”
In spite of myself, I giggled. “I live in the big city now, Tertius. I can just walk home.”
“Hell no. You live in the big city now, you take a cab home.”
“Cab. God you’re old.”
“Did you call me just to beat me up for being an old man?”
I paused, sucked in a breath. “No,” I said in a tiny voice.
“What’s wrong? Did that Alex girl not text back?”
“No. I actually haven’t texted her back yet.”
“WHAT?! Why not? She was smokin’, she likes you! I will take you over my knee-”
“Ew shut up-”
“So text her back!”
“D, don’t you dare. You text that woman first thing tomorrow and tell her what you told me last week.”
“I can’t promise all that.”
“What’s wrong, D. I don’t have all night. Some of us have to work in the morning.”
“So do I.”
“Do you think I made a mistake?”
“You mean moving?”
I nodded. “Yeah.”
“Are you crying?”
“No!” I yelled in indignation, clutching my stuffed mouse harder. “My apartment echoes and I don’t want my neighbors to hate me.”
I heard more rustling. I imagined him sitting up, running his hands through his hair, his beard. “You didn’t make a mistake. You’re spreading your wings. I wish you were still here, but… I love you. You did the right thing for you. You missed your cousin- you see her every day at work. You felt smothered, now you’re free. You’ve got plenty of pretty women, plenty of dumb guys to buy you drinks.”
I giggled because I know the last bit isn’t serious. “But… I miss you.”
“So come visit. Frankie asked about you the other day.”
“Mhmm. She says send gifts.”
“Ok, I will.”
“Go to sleep, D. Wake up tomorrow, go to work, and just be happy for once.”
“Ok.” I wiped my eyes on my pajama shirt and took a deep breath.
“I mean it. Don’t overthink this.”
“Now I know you’re sad. You’re not arguing with me.”
“Shh. Go to sleep.”
“Kay. Love you.”
“Love you too. Text that woman or I will.”
I don’t remember hanging up, but the call was over, and I was alone again with the lights of Diversey creeping through my window.
Me: Hey Lex. I’m sorry it’s so late.
Lex: Bartenders work is never done 😉 Yours was a few hours ago though, everything ok?
Me: Of course. But this new bed is really cold.
Lex: I’ll be over in 20.
Me: I didn’t invite you?
I crawled under stiff sheets and set a ten minute alarm. I might have regrets, but at least I’d know for sure.