Megabusses and Malort

The backstory:

It was my birthday. It was February 2014 in Chicago, Illinois. I was headed to a birthday party. It was not a birthday party for me (mine was the night prior), and I was heavily intoxicated because of that. I was hanging out with my ex-boyfriend (who is actually a great human and the best ex anyone could ask for) and his weird friend before the party, and part of me was concerned we would never actually make it to said party.

Cut to me sitting on a cot in the living room at the aforementioned party (we did indeed make it there), with my ex passed out on the other end. It’s a little blurry, but somehow this guy, who had only been introduced to me as an asshole by some stranger earlier in the evening, sits down next to me and strikes up a conversation. He is also very drunk. Turns out his name is Danny, and he is not actually an asshole. He informs me he lives in Indianapolis and is visiting his friends (my friends!), and I am sitting on his bed (the cot). At some point he leans in to kiss me and partly succeeds. Eventually I give him my number, which was lucky for him, because I had just finished a self-imposed, month long dating strike.

I leave the party alone, in the wee A.M. hours and catch my bus home. Over the course of the next few days, we make plans to go on a real date with maybe a little less beer.

The First Date:

I worked on Tuesdays, but was usually out of work by 9pm, so I told this Danny guy to meet me at a bar, Weeds, nearby the pseudo-hair salon I worked in (it was a blow-out bar, where women would pay $40 to get their hair washed and blow-dried – seriously). My friends told me there was an open mic night, and I thought that would be great because Danny is a musician.

Of course, on this particular evening, we had a finicky client that would not leave until some curl on the back of her head would sit the way she wanted it to. Meanwhile, I get a text from Danny informing me that this open mic is actually a comedy open mic, and the only table available was directly at the front, right next to the performers. In retrospect, I should have known it was a comedy night, being that we were in Chicago and all.

I finally get out of work, and if I recall correctly I was about 20 minutes late. I walk in and I see a guy up at the front table that looks familiar. Remember, the night we met I had consumed an entire bottle of Barefoot Moscato and one tall boy of PBR, so the particulars of his (handsome) face had escaped me.

The beer special was Miller High Life, I think something like $2 a bottle. Anything more than that was out of our price range, and we sure as hell weren’t taking shots of Malort (the Chicago-exclusive-made-in-Florida liquor. Google it, but do not consume it).

So we sit and can’t really talk, because there is a comedy show happening 5 feet in front of us.
We’re both incredibly nervous so the beer goes down quickly and as smoothly as one can consume High Life. Throughout the night, the comics range from entertaining to downright awful. I only recall two jokes from that evening:

1)   The comic starts talking about how ‘hot girls’ are usually gross. They don’t shower enough, they fart all the time, they talk about poop, etc. Quality first date material, you know? And then comic points at me and says, “I bet this girl is filthy!” That really happened. Thanks for the compliment?

2)   A different comic joked about how Malort is actually named because it’s onomatopoeia for the sound you make when you vomit after taking a shot.

The open mic comes to a close, and somehow there are at least 10 beer bottles between the two of us on our table. The host of the event makes sure to give us credit for “pounding beers and sticking it out because we’re clearly not comics.” I think that one was actually supposed to be a compliment.

We close out our tab at Weeds and decide to head back to our friends’ place, where we first met, and Danny is staying. He stops me right at the intersection of North and Clybourn, and very politely asks if he can kiss me there, so we can have a proper first kiss. Again, I swear to you that’s how it happened. When we get to our friends’ place, there’s a bit of a party happening in the living room. In the winter of 2014, parties on any day of the week were a frequent occurrence in that Clybourn house.

Danny and I had made a prior agreement that I would stay up all night with him because he had to catch a Megabus back to Indianapolis at 5am and in those days I was often up that late anyway, writing. Everyone had drifted off to bed except our dear friend Jedd, who continued to play this NBA video game long into the night. The three of us hung out and Danny obliged Jedd to a couple rounds of video gaming, all while subtly hinting that, technically, we were still on a first date and would love to continue to spend time together. Eventually, Jedd made his way to bed, leaving us with about an hour before Danny had to catch a cab downtown so we sat on the floor. He told me about his backpack he always had with him because it belonged to his grandfather and he held my hand. I distinctly remember that my butt fell asleep from sitting on the hardwood floor but I was far too tired to get up and sit on the couch.

When it finally came time for me to head home and for Danny to head downtown to catch his Megabus, he walked me to my bus stop on the corner of Western, Belmont, and Clybourn. It had to have been one of the coldest nights of the 2014 Chicago Winter, and Danny claims he actually got a brain-freeze from the bitter cold. My bus was pulling up as we approached the intersection so we ran. Our goodbye kiss was quick and frozen, with an annoyed bus driver as our audience. For the first months of our relationship, there was always an annoyed bus driver around.

The Last Comedy Show:

Fast forward to May 2015. Fast forward through the long-distance months and the megabus rides, through Danny’s move to Chicago, into the house we met in, through my move into the house we met in, through bike accidents and attempted stabbings, through giant centipedes and floods, through living with some of our best friends, through late nights at Hamlin park, through all of the things that made our time in Chicago magical and chaotic. Fast forward to May 2015, the month before Danny and I moved to Pittsburgh to start a brand new chapter of our lives.

We were at a comedy show in a house venue called Shithole. It was likely the last show we would attend in Chicago, as the next couple weeks were filled with packing and job applications and confirming we really had a place to live in June. The only important part about this show was one of the comics. I don’t remember his name and I’m not sure I ever knew it, but Danny and I immediately recognized him as the comic that performed the Malort joke at the first comedy show we attended together, on our first date.

-Ashlee Christensen