I can’t even remember when exactly I met Andrea now that I think about it. When you text with someone everyday, it just seems weird to think about there being a time when you didn’t. But I know it was 2008 and we met on the Etsy’s Dark Side member forum. She found my blog and started commenting, and if you don’t know by now that the fastest way to my heart is by acknowledging my blog (and presenting me with a fine array of cupcakes), then we probably just weren’t meant to be friends.
It also didn’t hurt that her Etsy oeurve was full of bloodied Barbie dioramas, hair fascinators with toy revolvers in the middle and jewelry featuring hacked-off limbs. And with Chooch being such a pint-sized aficionado of the undead, he quickly became a fan of hers too. (It probably helped that she started spoiling him right off the bat. When she found out he was going through a Ben Franklin phase when he was 3, she made him a zombie Ben plush. Who does that!? Creative geniuses, that’s who.)
Then it just got to the point where we texted every day and it eventually occurred to me that after Henry, she was often the first person I was going to when anything would happen to me, good or bad.
The one glaring problem is that she’s in California and I’m in Pennsylvania. “Stupid geography” had become kind of our catch phrase since we were always having to miss everything each other did.
But then one night in August, I was sitting at work when she texted: “So I’m thinking about coming out there for a visit;” I almost died. And then a bunch of my co-workers almost died too because her My Pretty Zombie eye shadow has become quite the sensation at The Law Firm. When Andrea settled on a date, Wendy even canceled a tentative trip to visit a friend to ensure she’d be in town to meet the brains behind the cosmetic crack. Andrea is kind of a big deal ’round these parts.
Somehow I managed to pick her up last Friday morning from the airport without folly. We went straight to the hotel so she could check in (she schmoozed Stanley at the front desk and wound up with Comfort Inn’s version of a honeymoon suite) and give me all of my presents.
Because she is, after all, the goth Mary Poppins.
She got stuff for Chooch too, but also Henry, so now he thinks he’s like part of the club or something.
After introducing her to my cats, it was time to take her downtown to The Law Firm. We walked the several blocks to the trolley stop, where I proceeded to spaz out about the fare. (I never know if I have the right amount!) Within 5 seconds, Andrea confirmed that we were OK. Then she took the cash from me because I had clammy Waiting For the Trolley palms and she was afraid I was going to fuck up the crispness and make the bills unable to be accepted by the fare machine. (I think she said something about me being adorable at that moment, but that sentiment only lasts so long. None of my other friends think I’m adorable, ever. And that’s just a shame.)
That happened to me once in May, you know. I couldn’t get my $1 bill sucked into the machine and the trolley driver freaked out and screamed, “OF COURSE IT’S ACTING UP AGAIN! THIS FUCKING PIECE OF SHIT MACHINE! JUST GO SIT DOWN! I GUESS EVERYONE JUST RIDES FOR FREE TODAY!”
Meanwhile, everyone who got on after me had no problem with it. I sat all hunkered down and sheepish in my seat the whole way to work, where I then proceeded to make everyone feel sorry for me.
“Aw, you got yelled at? What an asshole! You poor thing,” everyone said. (Shit, this memory might be from the delusional side of my brain, but now I can’t remember.) Anyway, when I went home that night, I gave Henry the dollar back and he was all, “Um, what did you do, put this through the washer? No wonder it wouldn’t go in the machine.”
I’m pretty sure it was my sweaty, nervous mitts that got it in that state, though.
Andrea was nice (see also: smart) enough to insert the fare for both of us, alleviating so much of my anxiety.
SO MUCH of it.
And thank god the lady sitting in front of us let us know we were at the last stop, because I completely stopped paying attention since I had a shiny new toy-person in the seat next to me. Every other minute, I was back to being stunned that we were actually hanging out in real life.
The next huge obstacle in our journey was that we had to cross the street, which is always scary. (When Henry drives me to work, I never have to cross the street. It’s super safe.) I managed to get her to the 10th floor of The Law Firm unscathed, but then she got mobbed a few minutes later by eyeshadow addicts; a plummet down the elevator shaft might have seemed preferable by then.
Seriously, Andrea is a rock star at The Law Firm.
“Did you make that bracelet?” Barb asked me after I introduced her to Andrea.
“Uh, yeah,” I answered in this snotty, indignant tone that I know Henry for one really relishes. “I’ve worn it here before, but I guess that was back when I wasn’t cool enough for you to notice me.”
This inspired Barb to go on a tirade about how awesome I am. She is like putty in my hands. PUTTY.
And then Wendy rounded the corner and I was really impressed at the restraint she showed; she had really dialed it back a ton. (Andrea still seemed alarmed that this was Wendy toned down. She’s just a very excitable person!)
After spending about 25 minutes watching Andrea be overwhelmed by attention, we went to Olive or Twist for some midday drinks. (Amazing that I even got us there considering I just blindly follow everyone else when we go out for late shift happy hour; I’m a navigational dunce when it comes to downtown.) I absolutely had eaten nothing all day but some licorice that Andrea shook into my cupped hands while waiting for the trolley but I ordered a lavender lemonade martini at the bartender’s suggestion. Who am I to turn down lavender? Plus, the bartender was practically fellating the drink menu while describing the drink to me. Andrea had the audacity to inquire about their champagne selection, which did not exist, so the bartender got a little snippy with her, illustrating her feelings by pouring way more martini in my glass than Andrea’s.
I openly gloated about this and the fact that my drink was way prettier than Andrea’s ugly pear concoction. She seemed to take it in stride, hopefully because she knows I’m mercilessly cruel to the ones I like the most.
Afterward, we sat around outside on eyeball chairs and heckled a tour group on Segways. There was one lady who was frantically calling out, “Can’t stop! Can’t stop!” I was disappointed when someone who apparently had flipped their operating manual saved her with their wisdom; I kind of (read: really) wanted to see her crash into the side of a building. They seemed to be taking some sort of stretching break, which made me wonder if it’s really that strenuous to maneuver on a Segway. Is limbering up really necessary? I don’t want to fully hate on these people unless I know for sure, so maybe I should put one of those stupid helmets on and become a Segway nerd for an hour.
I mean, I could stand to learn some shit about the city in which I’ve lived for 32 years yet know nothing about.
Henry and Chooch picked us up down there because I’m too stupid to figure out how transfer tickets work. Andrea was going to teach me, and also find out from Wendy how I can get a monthly pass, but then quickly realized that if I know too much, Henry might make me use that knowledge and officially resign as my work jitney.
We had dinner that night at Blue Flame, which was one of the few places that Andrea was adamant about going to since I have written about how special it is to me. This pleased me greatly. When I was friends with Jessy, Blue Flame was a really good halfway point for us to meet, but she’d always be like, “Babe, please. I really hate that restaurant.” Because it wasn’t a chain, you see. And every time she would say that, it was like she was ripping straight from my teeth a grilled cheese wrapped in my Pappap’s photo and curb stomping it.
“This is great,” Andrea said when we sat down in a corner booth. And then after dissecting and reassembling the breakfast menu like she was about to be quizzed on a Japanese game show, she wound up ordering some stuffed chicken thing and potato pancakes, which she then sent a picture of to her husband to taunt him. He was apparently very jealous.
Chooch was still riding high on his excitement that Andrea was here and was showing off and acting out accordingly. (Occasionally he’ll say things like, “Am I ever going to see Andrea?” and “I wish Andrea could come to my birthday party” and then he makes me show him a map so he can remember just how far away we are from her. It’s really sad.) Blue Flame never gets a dinner crowd, but there were still several people in our section who would periodically turn and gape at the hellion in the corner and his parents who had long ago relinquished any parental control. Henry finally reached his limit and drug Chooch out to the parking lot to cool off. The last thing Chooch said before disappearing out the door was, “I want my foooooood——-” Just the way it came out, all cartoonish and desperate, like he was falling off a cliff when he said it, made us lose it. Andrea had been up for like, 24 hours by this point, so she REALLY lost it. And I was just so happy to finally be hanging out with someone who laughed until they cried, that it made the whole situation even funnier to me.
They eventually came back in and Chooch kept instigating. He reminds me so much of someone sometimes, the way he knows just how to get under Henry’s skin like his antics are a scalpel, but I just can’t place it. He was making Andrea laugh so hard that she thought she was going to have to go outside. Again, I felt relieved to finally be hanging out with another laughing idiot, but then she kept blaming it on delirium. I think she’s lying though; she’s just as chuckle-abusing as I am.
Either that or those were real, fat “WTF am I doing here in Pittsburgh with these assholes?” tears.
The waitress never brought us a box, so I wrapped Chooch’s leftover grilled cheese and my potato pancakes all haphazardly in several napkins, bunched it up in a ball, and then went up to pay the bill with my hobo luggage. On the way up there, we past a table of old ladies who were ordering. The one lady asked for a side of beets and when the waitress said they were out, she loudly whined, “Aw, no beets?!” What a small victory for the self-esteem of beets.
We both started laughing all over again and Andrea totally ditched me so I had to stand there, paying the bill and laughing alone.
On the way home, Chooch’s dream of browsing the Halloween store with Andrea finally came true and Henry told me I’m fat. I’m sure other things happened during the hour we spent in that store, but that’s all that stands out to me right now. Later that night, Henry sat alone with his nose pressed against his phone, playing Words With Friends while Andrea mindlessly stared at music videos on MTV Hits and I taught her about all the things she’s (not) missing with pop music. Then I made her watch FRANCIS! eat a cricket and she was like, “OMG is this seriously all he does, just sits there?” but I took that as jealousy from not having her own Pacman frog. She probably already bought her own since she’s been back in California. Why else would she have been asking me all these questions, such as, “Where are they from?” which might actually have been the only question she asked. And then she got to experience in person and for the 7895th time that day my patented “I dunno” mumble, which I sometimes pair with a half-shrug.
“Maybe like South America?” I guessed.
Henry smirked. “Probably some breeder’s basement.”
And then Marcy’s daughter Willie peed on Andrea’s purse (which was thankfully vinyl).
Welcome to Pittsburgh!