The apples were bubbling up with little pops of steam through the rich, golden crust. The pie was ready, but a little too late. Carolyn was at the Lincoln Park Zoo for another hour and there was no way the pies would be cool enough to taste when four o’clock rolled around.
I got a late start rolling out the dough and peeling the apples. I had eight days to go to make adjustments to my recipe and I couldn’t rush this.
Carolyn was in town from Las Vegas to see her new boyfriend so I invited them over for the afternoon to try my practice pie and get feedback on the cutouts that I did to make the pie pretty. I only had eight days to go before the pie contest and I needed to test my final pie.
I warned Carolyn when she got there that the pies weren’t ready.
“Oh that’s OK. I just wanted to see you anyway,” she said.
I offered to take them around the corner for a beer while the pies cooled. They agreed so we put on our coats and made our way down the block.
When we got to the bar they ordered fancy beers and I ordered a cider. Crispin was a weakness of mine. It was syrupy sweet but refreshing like lemonade and wicked strong; I tried not to drink it too often but Carolyn only came to town once in awhile, so it felt appropriate to indulge.
We continued a conversation we started on the phone about mortgages. Carolyn had a townhouse in Las Vegas, but when the housing market crashed, she stopped paying her mortgage and gave up her home in a short sale. It was something I’d been considering for a year. I had read numerous articles about how, in most cases, it was a wise financial move if homeowners were underwater with their mortgages to walk away. Being the responsible bill-payer that I was, I resisted the idea. But Carolyn was even more responsible than I was and she did it, so it made the idea appealing to me.
“It was the best thing I’ve ever done,” she said. “It just didn’t make sense anymore.”
“Have you had any trouble with your credit yet?” I asked.
“Sort of,” she said. “The real estate people for the apartment I got in Seattle did a background check and at first they gave it to me, but then told me I couldn’t have it because of the house. It was a pain, but it worked out.”
“I don’t know what to do,” I said. “Everything I read tells me that I’m stupid for continuing to pay.”
“Yeah, I didn’t want to either, but I feel so much better now,” she said. “And the nice thing is you don’t pay any rent or mortgage for the months while it’s working its way through the system. The bad thing is it ruins your credit. In my mind though, it was worth it.”
The alcohol made the conversation seem more interesting than it was, but once we got through the boring mortgage stories we gossiped about old co-workers at the TV station where we worked together and talked about our current situations.
I wanted details about her summer — she had moved to Germany in the spring for a guy only to have him break her heart and return her to the United States, but with her new boyfriend there, the topic was off limits. So we talked about my boring boyfriend that I didn’t want around and my failing relationship with my friend of seven years.
“Lucy and I haven’t been getting along,” I told her. “We’ve been fighting over email and she takes it so personally when I don’t want to hang out. She sent me a nasty email just before you guys got here and I’m just tired of it.”
“Well, all relationships have an expiration date,” Carolyn said. “Maybe it’s time to cut ties.”
“Perhaps,” I said.
We were enjoying ourselves and let the time slip away. We were to go to my comedian friend’s CD release party which was about to start. We paid our bill and caught a cab headed to Logan Square.
When we got to Cole’s Bar, we ordered beers and went to the back where comics were taking turns on stage telling jokes. I ran into friends left and right, but I was three sheets to the wind, so I did a bad job of introducing Carolyn and her boyfriend to them. When I got to closer to the stage, I spotted Lena who was standing next to Lucy. I quickly said hello to Lena and turned back to go to the bar. Lena followed.
When I pulled out my money to order a drink, Lena asked, “Are you OK?”
She knew how I got when I was drunk but she never argued with me when I made the decision to have a beer.
“Yeah,” I said, swaying. “I’m fine.” I wasn’t. When she turned around, I walked out the door and got in a cab. An Irish exit. I didn’t even bother to find Carolyn to tell her I had to leave.
When I got home, I saw an email from Lucy. It was another nasty one so I responded with something even nastier. And then I went to bed.