God it felt good to just relax. Saturdays don’t usually mean much for reporters. News is just as likely to break on the weekend as during the workweek, so having one completely off was a rare luxury.
I don’t care for this place as much as my own apartment, but this is where Gabriella is and that’s good enough for me. There’s nothing really wrong with it, it’s just not the look and feel I’d put together myself. It’s fine.
We haven’t been able to agree on living together just yet so we alternate between her apartment and mine until one of us finally gives in, which doesn’t appear likely anytime soon. Next weekend we’ll spend at my place.
I’ve been up for a while now and can hear her starting to emerge toward consciousness in the next room. It’s after 9 am and I haven’t been able to sleep past six since I was in high school. With nothing better to do as I steadfastly avoid any source of news I settle in with on-demand cartoons, the perfect choice for a Saturday morning.
It’s immature, granted, especially for a grown man. Everyone has their own vices and this is one of mine, one that brings me calm and centers me in a way that’s usually reserved for descriptions of intense transcendental meditation.
Scattered around the apartment, both in front of and behind me, are the tools of Gabriella’s trade. Canvases are propped against walls, drop cloths are either spread out under current projects or rumpled into heaps, showing where a project has recently been completed. In between watching my shows I glance around to see what she’s working on, impressed both by her talent and her dedication to her craft.
The sound of half-awake groaning echoes down the hallway, indicating she’s closer to fully waking up. If there’s one thing this place has going for it over mine, it’s space. When I first visited I was shocked an apartment of this size could be in this building, the living room massive and a surprising number of bedrooms providing living quarters. In my apartment something “across the room” is still only barely out of arm’s reach.
A much louder groan indicates she’s up and has walked in to see me watching cartoons, which she finds silly and indulgent. My argument of “that’s the whole point” has so far proven unconvincing.
“Ugh, not cartoons.”
“And good morning to you too, sweetheart.” I love the way she looks first thing in the morning. “Feeling alright this morning?”
She gives the distinct impression the English language is a struggle for her at the moment, the result of overindulging in wine at dinner last night, something she only does on Fridays. “No talk till coffee.”
Conversation will have to wait. She walks to the kitchen, where I’ve had coffee going for a while now, a fresh pot waiting for her now. While I’m strict about not having more than two cups a day, Gabriella lives on the stuff, preferring dark and earthy flavors that are much more sophisticated than the paint remover I tend to enjoy.
She fills a cup and comes over to join me on the couch, which is tiny for the space but perfectly suited for the oasis of furniture that sits among the detritus of the artistic life dominating the rest of the room. Both hands envelop the warm mug while she puts her head on my shoulders and I’m smitten all over again.
“Gab, could you do something for me?”
“Come on. You know you’re going to and it’s not Saturday morning if you don’t.”
She moans as she buries her face in my shoulder. Finally she sits upright. “Never again.” Her head stayed vertical just long enough to get that out before falling once more.
I’m acutely aware of how lucky I am to be with Gabriella. As is the case with most heterosexual relationships, I’m punching way out of my class here. She’s a well-known artist and as gorgeous as they come as well as being infinitely patient with the unpredictable schedule that comes with my life as a reporter.
“Thank you,” she mumbles.
“The coffee.” Her hair brushes against my chin and cheek.
“Only because I love you.”
“Do you really have the whole day off?” she asks.
“Really?” Suddenly she’s fully alert and ready for action. “No deadlines or interviews you have to rush off to?” The surprise and elation on her face would keep anyone close to home.
“Today I am completely at your disposal,” I say with more than a bit of overly-dramatic flair. Her smile outshines the sunlight pouring in through the massive windows, which is substantial. “What do you have in mind?”
“Oooo, a whole day with Dan, I don’t know.” Where moments ago she could barely move she’s now acting like a kid who just found out school’s closed due to snow. “There’s some window shopping I want to do on Michigan Ave. Come with me and we’ll have lunch and walk around and maybe end with a movie.”
Window shopping for Gab means perusing the various galleries and other artistically-inclined stores along the Magnificent Mile, avoiding the tourists on their way to Water Tower Place.
“Can we fool around in the movie?”
“Still ‘no,’ Dan.”
“Fine. Let me get ready.”
She practically jumps off the couch to go begin preparing for the day, meaning I have time to at least finish what I’m watching before doing likewise.
Nothing beats early spring in Chicago, that span of about five weeks when the city hits peak liveability. The weather is pleasant, the sky is blue, the trees are reclaiming the leaves lost seven months prior and the whole city is ready to emerge from its fleece-lined cocoon. A breeze off the lake covers everything in a maritime scent, reminding us it’s always there defining civilization’s boundaries.
I know what the paper’s circulation numbers are, both online and in print. Many of the people I’m walking past have likely read my pieces and yet I am completely anonymous. Success is not always synonymous with fame.
Gabriella is leading me by the elbow, pointing me in the direction she wants me to go in. The morning is getting late and we’re starting to talk about where we should have lunch as we head toward our third gallery of the day. It’s at that moment my phone buzzes in my pocket. She looks at me skeptically as I pull it out and look at the screen.
“It’s Kyle.” My editor. Both she and I know this means I have to take it, regardless of my promises of the entire day being free and open. Disappointment is clear on her face. “Let me just see what he needs. I’m not going anywhere.”
Stepping away a bit I click to accept the call. I glance over to confirm that yes, we’re less than two blocks from the office the call is originating from. “Yeah, it’s Patterson.”
“Dan, I need you at City Hall.” No preamble or apologies, just a directive indicating my Saturday is being turned upside down. “The mayor is about to hold a surprise news briefing on the cops involved in that killing on the west side last week.”
“Kyle, it’s my day off. Send someone else.” I don’t have the kind of pull to make this kind of demand but do so anyway. Gabrielle is visible through the window of the store, inspecting various pieces on display.
“Can’t. Need you and your familiarity with the story and City Hall in general.” I’d written the initial piece that had begun raising concerns about the cops in question as well as the leadership’s first reaction to the shooting. At this point I could tell him I’m in Baton Rouge and he’d still expect me at the briefing.
“There’s no way I’m getting out of this.” It’s not even a question, just a blank and resigned statement of fact. A heavy sigh, then “Alright, I’ll be in the office in 20 to get my things. Text me the details.”
Sheepishly, I walk into the storefront gallery and fight the perception that Gabrielle knows exactly where I am and is avoiding me despite her not once looking in my direction. Finally I get close enough she has to look up.
“You need to go in.”
“I get it. And I appreciate you making an effort.” She kisses me on the cheek, clearly indicating she’s done with this conversation.
“I’ll bring something home for dinner.” With a smile she turns and walks up the stairs to a private viewing area. Meanwhile I exit the gallery and walk toward a world of deadlines, police shootings and other problems.
“I love you, Gabriella” I say to the sidewalk as I rush toward something far less important than the woman I’ve left behind.