Songwriters: Seal, Guy Sigsworth
Original Release: Seal
Definitive Version: None
Even though it would mean that we would see each other again just two weeks later, Laurie decided at New Year’s she wanted me to come back to Chicago for her birthday in January 2005. As she said later, she hadn’t spent a birthday with a regular boyfriend in a decade, so why not indulge? I had no problem with that.
I told Laurie to pick somewhere to celebrate; I’d pick up the tab. She chose a place that she had been once before and promised herself she’d never go again unless it was on a date. The place was Geja’s Cafe, which is a legendary fondue restaurant.
Her birthday was on a Friday, and the plan was to have a friends get-together that night. Fortunately, I already had met a large number of her friends on the last visit, so there would be nothing uncomfortable about that.
The discomfort came earlier in the evening when I arrived earlier than Laurie expected. I arrived about 6, parked around the corner from her apartment building and gave her a call, excited to see her.
“You’re here already?!” Well, yeah. We hadn’t arranged a particular time, just after she’d be home from work, which she was, and it had been smooth sailing on the highway and through the city, even though it was rush hour.
“I’m not ready yet.” Huh? Didn’t you just get home from work? You probably look fine, and besides, I’ve seen you naked before. What’s the big deal? Laurie said a bit sheepishly. “I need some alone time first. Come back in an hour.”
What the Hell? I drive six hours and I get sent away for an hour? Laurie apologized but said that was just how it had to be. By this time I had been made aware of a few of shall we say Laurie’s eccentricities, so I just chalked it up to that. Besides, I was in love, so what was I going to do, drive home?
I sat in my car and listened to music for a bit, but my computer battery was dying, so I had to find something else to do. I remembered there were a few bars a few blocks from Laurie’s apartment, so I decided to head to one of them for a drink.
The first place I came to was kind of a divey bar called Gio’s. I went in and grabbed a seat at a window table and ordered a beer. I quickly realized I was the only gringo amid a small clientele of Hispanic males. But no one bothered me as I drank my beer and bided my time.
After about 45 minutes, I called again, and this time Laurie said, yes, I was welcome to come up. I went back to my car, got my stuff and went upstairs. Laurie apologized profusely but thanked me for giving her a little decompression time. No problem, I just went to Gio’s. You went where? Gio’s, you know the place down the street there?
Laurie knew Gio’s but not from personal experience. The place had an unsavory reputation, and it intimidated her. Nah, it was fine—just me and my hombres. It forever became known as The Hombre Bar. Even now, long after it changed from being a Hispanic dive to something a bit more yuppy, we refer to it as The Hombre Bar.
Although the weekend got off to an odd, albeit humorous in retrospect, start, we had a good weekend. That night, we met about eight other friends for dinner at Mia Francesca. I had flowers but no other present for Laurie, because I already gave her her birthday present at New Year’s. (At the time, I didn’t think I would see her for her birthday.) It was a garnet ring, and she wore it proudly.
The next night was Geja’s, and I could see why Laurie said it was a date place only. I would bet that the décor hadn’t changed since the 1970s, maybe not since it opened in 1965. Geja’s had all this faux wood paneling and dark wood. It was lit dimly, and it reminded me of the long-gone Cork and Cleaver. A Flamenco guitar player strummed quietly in the background. It was very romantic, and the food was good. My favorite was the dessert fondue—cake and strawberries dunked in melted chocolate.
No surprise, it wasn’t cheap. I think the total bill was $250, and keep in mind that I had no income at the time. But I said I’d pay, and I was happy to do it. It had been a long time since I splurged, and it felt good to do it.
Laurie was very appreciative—about the birthday celebration and that I allowed her her eccentricities. Little did I know at the time, it wouldn’t be the last time Laurie would tell me to get lost … temporarily.