by: Caitlin Berg
We are sitting in the back seat of a cab on opposite sides, not touching and not talking, looking out our respective windows. In between us, I can almost see the silence hanging, mid-air—hot, sticky and impenetrable, like sludge. The cab driver’s radio is singing “hallelujah” over and over again. Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, so loudly that we probably couldn’t talk even if we wanted to. But we don’t want to. We just had a fight after going to two comedy shows together because we were both hungry and tired and I wanted to go to my house and eat cake and she wanted to go to her house and sleep. No she didn’t have any food, she said, but we could dream about the cake and eat it tomorrow. Tomorrow! I had screamed. Cake is a nighttime food! Sitting in the back of this hallelujah cab, I honestly can’t believe I picked a fight with my girlfriend because I wanted to eat leftover cake. And I wanted to do it NOW.
As I sit here, feeling ridiculous, my mind flashes back to the last time we were quiet in the back of a cab. That time, it wasn’t our choice. It was our first official date, almost two years ago now, and we were dying to talk to each other. Unfortunately, we had happened upon the one and only “singing cab” in Chicago, so we were literally silenced by this man who drives you around for money while singing your ears off, for his own pleasure. He gives you a choice of what song you want to hear, I guess to demonstrate how generous he is can be with his talents; the problem is, he never asks you if you actually want to listen to singing in the first place. In his long list of song choices, silence, or “we’re on a first date and want to get to know each other and don’t care about you,” are not options.
I remember how nervous I was the night that we took the singing cab. I had met Ever at the end of her shift at the coffee shop where she works. Yes, Ever is her real name and no, her parents aren’t weird. I sat at the counter while she gave me free water and said she had to clean up before we could leave. “It’ll just be a few minutes,” she said smiling at me and untying her apron. I could barely talk. “Oh, yeah, ok,” I replied, trying to breathe. This girl, this barista, she had me. She had me bad. I had first seen her a few months ago at the Town Hall Pub. I was there with a girl I was dating at the time, let’s call her Nancy. You could say that Nancy and I were on the rocks (if you wanted to completely understate how terrible things were between me and Nancy).
When Ever went on stage, I felt frozen. I was watching her like I’d never seen anything interesting before in my life. I love women on stage, in general, not the ones who cater to what everyone expects of them, like the ones who “play dumb,” which is supposedly “funny” for women to do. I like the ones who do whatever they want and make it work. That’s how Ever was. She did a joke about riding her bike and flipping some girl off. I loved that. In general, I love when people multitask on their bikes. I also love when people flip people off. It combined a lot of my interests. Then Ever did an impersonation of a cat impersonating a motorcycle and no one laughed but she could hardly breathe from laughing at her own triple impersonation. I loved that, too. This girl didn’t give a fuck. As she got off stage and started hugging and talking to the comedians in the back, I couldn’t stop staring at her. At all of them. It was like I wanted to date her and be her all at the same time, which I’ve only ever felt one time before (about the lead girl from the Swedish version of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” which was neither a realistic option for me to date nor be).
“Hey Nancy, didn’t we have a friend who had a crush on that girl Ever last year?” I asked my at-the-time girlfriend. “Yeah,” Nancy said. And then, without thinking, still staring at Ever, I asked Nancy, “why didn’t our friend hit that?” That was, I guess, the wrong question. Nancy recoiled in her seat. “Why,” she asked, “do you wanna hit that?” I blushed, not out of embarrassment that I liked Ever, just out of embarrassment that I was so indiscreet about it. Listen, I never said I am a perfect girlfriend, so don’t be so shocked. Remember, I picked a fight earlier in this story about leftover cake.
Sitting next to Nancy, I should have felt guilty but I just felt curious. I had a million questions running through my mind. Was Ever single? What kind of girls did she like? Would she even be interested in me? Would she date a comedian? Could I ever be as good at comedy as Ever? Could we both be comedians and date? Wait, I was getting ahead of myself, I needed to go back to the first questions, was she single? Would she like me? And the cycle continued, ending with, Could I ever really break up with Nancy for real?
Nancy and I had broken up so many times for fake. But I knew almost instantly after seeing Ever that I needed to do it. I needed to do it for real. As we left the bar and got into Nancy’s car, I watched Ever walking away in a red-plaid coat with her hood up over her head, her eyes on the ground. The black pants sticking out of her coat were attached to little black boots that were taking methodical, slightly pigeon-toed steps toward the Belmont redline. I remember thinking they looked like comedy pants, those black pants. And I remember thinking that I wanted to get in them. Sexually, and also comedically. I wanted to get in that comedian’s pants and also wear my own comedy pants. I wanted Ever and I to be two comedians, wearing comedy pants, walking beside each other, and getting in each other’s pants. Could we do it? Could it be real?
I wanted to talk to her so badly. I would do anything to be her friend. Friend, that would be a start. I would aim for friend.
It’s easy enough to stalk a comedian because they put all of their shows on the internet. I went to Ever’s next show, and I stood in the corner, sweating through my shirt. I tried to draw her over to me with some very intense, peripheral staring. I did it peripherally so it wouldn’t be creepy. I just stared very hard at her out of the corner of my eye. If she picked up on it, she did not make a move. What would I have to do to get her to notice me, wear a sign? Oh my god, I should really wear a sign.
Two days later, I tried again. This time I sat in the front row at her show and laughed and drank drinks like a normal comedy audience member. But secretly I was sweating and the sides of my eyes were still sore from all of my peripheral staring two days earlier. When the show was over, I started panicking. What was I supposed to do? How could I talk to Ever? Help. Help. Then I saw another comedian I knew named Mollie. I talked to Mollie, until finally Ever came over to talk to Mollie, and then, and then!!! Ever extended her hand to me, “Hi,” she said “I’m Ever.”
When you introduce yourself to someone, you really have no idea how long that person might have been waiting for you to do that. You have no idea how much they have been sweating or thinking of things to say or burning up the peripheral muscles in their eyeballs. That handshake was amazing.
“I’m Caitlin,” I said. “Are you a comic?” Ever asked. I said yes but inside I felt guilty saying yes because I’d just started and it was always unclear to me when it was officially appropriate to label yourself “comic.” “You should come to my open mic,” she said, oh my god I was thinking, is she really saying more words to me? The introducing herself was the most I had hoped for. Then Ever gave me her business card and I said something very embarrassing. I said to the whole group of comics from the show, “you guys are really inspiring.” There was dead silence. You could hear Ever’s business card drop as I dropped it. SHIT I was thinking, say goodbye to all of your dreams about wearing and getting in comedy pants, Caitlin. Just kiss them goodbye. You just made a fool out of yourself. Finally a comic broke the silence with “yeah…..” and I quickly said goodbye and left.
Down the street I met some friends at a bar and lamented how I had just ruined my life by saying, “you guys are really inspiring” to a group of comics, one of whom I had a crush on. They tried to reassure me, but they said I shouldn’t use strong words like “inspiring” with people I barely know. Did my friends know me at all? Strong words and strangers are basically what my life is made of. Later that week, Nancy and I had dinner and I broke up with her. Or she broke up with me. It was mutual. Neither of us were inspired by each other anymore. I hated the word “inspired” so much.
That’s how it started. I started going to Ever’s open mic. In my mind, Ever’s business card and invitation to her mic were her ways of telling me that she was secretly obsessed with me back, but it turns out she was just trying to get the word out about her open mic. I would later find out that, at the time, Ever had no idea I was interested, and didn’t even think I was gay. Surprise, surprise, no one ever does. I should really get a sign for that. I would later find out that Ever had told one of her friends that I seemed nice enough, but she didn’t really need more friends. It’s very funny in retrospect. So how did she find out I was gay?
As luck would have it, we bumped into each other one night at FKA, a queer dance party in uptown. I tried to play the quietly demure and mildly interested friend and admirer from a far, and I gave a very bad performance. Every time I talked to Ever at that dance party, I dug my hole of embarrassment deeper. My crowning achievement for the night was this line: “I’ve seen all of your YouTube videos.” Even in a loud dance party, the silence after that sentence was more deafening than when I had used the word “inspiring.”
By some miracle, Ever was able to ignore the fact that I’d just blatantly told her I’d been watching her on YouTube all alone in my apartment and dreaming about her and we made plans to go get drinks one night. I came to her coffee shop to pick her up, and that’s how we ended up in the singing cab. Actually, maybe the singing cab was a gift, because I was unable to tell her how inspired I was by her latest YouTube video or how I noticed that she wears a lot of button down shirts and what is the deal with that? Instead we sat in silence, wanting to talk. I took note of her comedy pants, and smiled as non-creepily as I could.
When we got to the bar where we were meeting friends for drinks, we were unable to talk, once again. It was too loud and our friends were there. We just kept shyly looking at each other. Luckily, the bar was cash only, so Ever and I had to go to a nearby Bank of America. Stepping outside into the cold March air, we were finally alone. Not at an open mic or a dance party or in a cab with a man who sings no matter what. We were alone, and there was a pleasant silence. I hoped I wouldn’t say anything stupid. I tried to remind myself that she is a person, not just a comedian, and that her pants are also a person’s pants.
We started talking about the weather or something and when we got into the Bank of America, I reached up to fix my hair and Ever saw the tattoo on my hip. She looked at my bare hip in the Bank of America vestibule and then she smiled at me, and for the first time I thought maybe I wasn’t the only one who is interested in getting in the other person’s pants. We stood there, smiling at each other in that vestibule, and I honestly felt like time stopped. That’s never happened to me with anyone but Ever. Time stopped, it froze. We were almost suspended. I don’t know what that moment was, and I’d really like to ask Bank of America for the tape to see if some kind of wizard swooped in and froze us there. I don’t know what it was, but in that moment, I did know that Ever and I were going to be together. And I knew we were going to be really happy.
Later that night when I dropped Ever off in a non-singing cab, hallelujah!, we were both too shy to kiss. But when she got out of the cab, she sent me a text as she was walking away. It said, “you are amazing.” I clutched my phone to my chest and slunk down in the backseat. I thought it was only me who thought someone was amazing. I wasn’t sure yet, but I had hope that maybe she was feeling just as inspired as I was. I really do hate that word.