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The What If Drink
by Celena Cipriaso

You have an Awesome Boyfriend. It's a good love story, a story of how you fell in love in Italy, the country of all countries to fall in love in. And you like telling the story because it reminds you of how lucky you are.
    You tell your friends of the flowers he picked for you while walking in a field in Italy, how gentle he was when you first made love, how often he tells you he loves you. After a while, the Awesome Boyfriend bas become a mythical figure of Awesomeness. The friends won't tell you this directly, but there's that spark of skepticism in their eyes due to the fact your friends have not exactly met the Awesome Boyfriend.
    But it's in the months after you returned to America, after that giddy, floating feeling that carried you for that first few months disappears, things have become less awesome. You realize that the Awesome Boyfriend drinks as much as you do, sometimes more. And sometimes you have to end your evening early to take care of him as he passes out at a bar, and sometimes you have to smack him in the head to wake him up in the cab so the cab driver doesn't call the cops. But you keep these things to yourself because frankly, you don't want to influence your friends against the Awesome Boyfriend.
    You're at your Best Friend's party alone. She was hoping to finally meet the myth that is the Awesome Boyfriend, but he has called you, saying, "I already agreed to go to Great Adventure with my friends before you told me about this party." And you try to tell him to give up this damn amusement park trip, just once, just for you, because the Best Friend wants to meet him, but he only tells you, "I can't. But there's the animal safari you get to drive the car through. I've never been to the animal safari before." And you don't know what to say because basically, the Awesome Boyfriend is choosing giraffes and monkeys over you. Then the Awesome Boyfriend says, "I love you. Next time, I'll be there at Best Friend's party." You have a nice fantasy of a huge giraffe snacking on your Awesome Boyfriend's head.
    You're sitting in the corner, not really speaking to anyone at Best Friend's party and you hate it. You resolve that you are not a Baby that sits in the corner and stews about her Awesome Giraffe Loving Fucking Boyfriend. Come on, you tell yourself, you're a Drinking Queen Party Supreme, and if the Awesome Monkey Sucking Boyfriend can't see that, then screw him. He's not at the damn party, but you're determined to give yourself a damn good time. You get up, get a beer, and find the person you can be social with.
    You find yourself smiling at a Quirky Nice Dude staked out on thecouch watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer. He raises his beer, a Pabst Blue Ribbon and you raise yours, a Heineken. The Quirky Nice Dude points to the television. On it, the latest Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode is showing. You sit down on the couch next to the Quirky Nice Dude.
    Quirky Nice Dude says, "Shhh. Don't tell Best Friend. She hates Buffy."
    "Buffy is God," You admit. Quirky Nice Dude nods in agreement, "If I could have sex with God, then Buffy is indeed God."
    You down your drink fast, not taking a breath. You burp. The Quirky Nice Dude laughs. "Why are you drinking that crap?"
    "I don't know. It's all I could find." The Quirky Nice Dude hands you a Pabst Blue Ribbon.
    You pop it open and drink. The bubbles pop on your tongue. "This is pretty good."
    "The cheap beer of champions."
    You've never met a guy that's liked Buffy the Vampire Slayer before, but before long, the two of you are talking about the best seasons and best villains. You prefer Season Two and Angel. He tells you he loves Season Three and The Mayor. But you keep talking because you don't have anyone to talk about Buffy the Vampire Slayer with. The Awesome Boyfriend only makes fun of you for watching what he calls "a teeny bopper show." But this Quirky Nice Dude seems to understand why you worship Buffy and he doesn't judge you for it. The two of you just sit side by side for the rest of the night, drinking Pabst. You realize you haven't talked to another member of the opposite sex this much since you've met the Awesome Boyfriend. Then you realize you haven't mentioned the Awesome Boyfriend.
    You don't want to talk about him, and Quirky Nice Dude might just care about talking about Buffy and Beer. And besides, all you're doing is having a good time, drinking good beer. But you're getting drunker, the words are slipping out of your mouth with ease. You find yourself saying, "Look at Buffy. She doesn't take shit. She rules her world. I wanna be her. Don't you ever just find someone else you just wanna be?" You find yourself saying. "Sometimes I don't want to be me, you know? I wish I was like Buffy - this person that just doesn't take any shit. Then I could rule the world. Or my corner of the world anyway." You're running off at the mouth and you know it. You're running off at the mouth and unfortunately, you're too drunk to stop it.
    But the Quirky Nice Dude just says thoughtfully, "But Buffy doesn't rule the world. She's fighting to save the world cause the world is fucked up."
    "The world is fucked up."
    "What's fucked up with your world?"
    "Shit...I have this...dude. He's awesome and all. He just doesn't do the things he says he'll do and that pisses me off and I hate him. But I love him even when I hate him, you know? And that sucks."
    "So you wanna kick his ass?"
    "Yeah, something like that."
    "Well, Buffy has love trouble too, you know. I mean, how fucked up is her relationship with Angel?"
    "But he's hot."
    "But he tried to kill her."
    "Aw, he didn't mean it. He lost his soul. He just got it back."
    "Hey, man, I love Angel too, but people got flaws. Love is tough. It gets fucked up."
    "Like the world." You raise your Pabst Blue Ribbon and Quirky Nice Dude raises his. "Like the world," He agrees.
    The party is winding down, the Best Friend is drunk and plops on the bed, already asleep. It seems like it's now time for goodbye.
    You know that the Awesome Boyfriend is probably calling your phone right now, leaving you a message, but in this moment, you don't care. You just want to keep talking, keeping drinking, and sharing a good time with a Dude that wants to share a good time with you.
    "You wanna see if there's any more beer?" You find yourself asking. The Quirky Nice Dude agrees. When you open the fridge, you see that there's only one last Pabst Blue Ribbon left. You smile, "The cheap beer of champions."
    "Indeed it is," Quirky Nice Dude agrees.
    The two of you sit down in the quiet kitchen and share the beer, the night seeming endless as the two of you make the beer last, talking, just talking into the night.

#####

Your Best Friend tells you, "I think this guy is only awesome in your head." And you don't want to hear this, not from your Best Friend whose opinion you trust more than anything. But all she has to go on are stories of you crying over how insecure you are because the Awesome Boyfriend's Ex is always around, how your he's never around to meet your friends.
    It's on the night of your Best Friend's birthday at Lower Eastside Hipster Bar. You promised your Best Friend that the Awesome Boyfriend would finally make an appearance, that it would be a birthday gift to her. This is a last test of sorts and you hope that he passes.
    You're sitting nervously by the bar, another drink down your throat, another drink on the way. You're painting on a smile for your Best Friend because it's her birthday and you have to be happy for Best Friend and not let her know that you're upset, that the party began about an hour ago, and that yes, the Awesome Boyfriend is an hour late and counting. You're trying not to cry, the tears are maybe only one drink away, but you hold off because it's not the night for crying, it's not the night for Best Friend to comfort you.
    Quirky Nice Dude makes his way over to you. You've held Quirky Nice Dude at a distance because there was that night not long ago that Quirky Nice Dude made you forget you had a boyfriend. On that night, you talked until there was one last Pabst that you shared, and you're not the type of gal that shares any drink, especially out of a can. Quirky Nice Dude knew you had an Awesome Boyfriend so he didn't push you, he didn't ask for anything in return just a beer and conversation. But you knew through your Best Friend that Quirky Nice Dude liked you and you knew that if Awesome Boyfriend didn't exist, you would like Quirky Nice Dude as well.
    But the Awesome Boyfriend is absent once again. You have tears that you're covering. Best Friend is looking over at you with concern and this time it's the Quirky Nice Dude that's approaching you.
    "Hi." Quirky Nice Dude buys you another beer. You accept the beer because it's the polite thing to do.
    "Hey." You drink the beer and you try not to drink it fast. But your hand is shaking and you don't want the Quirky Nice Dude to see it, because the Quirky Nice Dude thinks you're cool and you want to stay cool and in charge and unrattled by the now Not So Awesome Boyfriend's un-appearance.
    "I thought I was finally going to meet him tonight." You place the money down, trying to buy Quirky Nice Dude a drink, but he waves the money away, buying you another drink. "You look like you need it." He slides a Pabst Blue Ribbon your way and you almost weep as you sip it because it's a nice drink, a comforting drink, a drink that a friend would buy you to make you feel better.
    "Yeah. He's..." You shrug. There's nothing to say. You have finally run out of excuses for the Not So Awesome Boyfriend.
    "Stuff happens. Maybe he'll still show up." Quirky Nice Guy offers, still being nice even to the Not So Awesome Boyfriend. Quirky Nice Guy sees you're upset so he just begins talking. Just talking to take your mind off of the Boyfriend. He turns the talk to The Top Five Worse Dates ever. You smile and weakly joke, "Well, tonight might be one of them." Quirky Nice Guy buys you another Pabst. Your phone rings. It's the Boyfriend. You pick it up. He's drunk. He got drunk before he was supposed to meet you, drunk with his friends, too drunk to remember he was supposed to meet your friends.
    "I'm trying to find you. I don't know where you are." The Boyfriend tells you. You try to guide him. Over the course of several phone calls. He keeps calling, and you keep trying to guide him. But no matter how hard you try, the Boyfriend can't understand you. "I'm trying to get to you," He tells you over and over, but no matter how hard you tried to guide him, he can't find you. His calls begin to overtake your night. In between the Boyfriend's calls, you try to remember to have a good time.
    By this time, Best Friend and Quirky Nice Dude are at your side. You feel horrible because your tears have overtaken Best Friend's birthday. But they're buying you drinks, trying to make you feel better, telling you that you deserve better.
    And then you're alone with the Quirky Nice Dude and you're on your fifteenth drink of the evening. The Quirky Nice Dude begins to tell you a story, and you listen.
    "I used to drink more than I drink now. I used to drink like an animal. I still do. But after a point, you try not to drink as much." You realize that this Quirky Nice Guy is not just quirky and nice, he's reformed. And he's drunk enough at this point to tell you, "You know...if things were different...if things change with you and..." And you know he's waiting for your answer. Because it's not his move, Quirky Nice Dudes won't make moves on girls that have boyfriends, they'll just wait. With the silence between you, Quirky Nice Dude simply asks, "Do you want another drink?"
    You don't say anything. Because you want to give the Quirky Nice Dude the answer he wants. Because he's reaching out to you, and you want to tell him, Yes, I do like you. I like you a lot. And it's a moment when you think this could be more, but it's your move and your move alone. And you wonder what your life might be like with a guy like this. A guy that seems to think of you before he thinks of drinking. A guy that you could appreciate Buffy and Beer with. And if you have one more Pabst, you know the decision will be made.
    The Boyfriend calls once more. The two of you look down at the phone. Quirky Nice Dude looks away and whispers, "You know you could stop...you could stop answering his calls." As the phone keeps ringing, you think that it's maybe time to stop answering the call, but your hand picks up the phone, the reflex already in motion.
    The Boyfriend tells you that he tried to take a cab, but then he forgot that he didn't have any money so he ran, he ran from the cab, and he was so drunk that he fell and fell bad, and now has blood all down his knees. You hang up the phone. You slide the next Pabst away, telling the Quirky Nice Dude, "I think I had enough to drink tonight." The Quirky Nice Dude nods, he understands. As he walks away, you're left wondering what would happen if you just had that last drink. But you know that you can't have another drink, not now, not even when the Boyfriend has become not so Awesome. You know you couldn't have that drink because once you made that decision, that drink would have made you forget who you are.



About the author:
Celena Cipriaso is currently a Writer's Assistant at All My Children. As a former member of the performance troupe Peeling, her spoken word and plays have been performed throughout New York and in various colleges in the Northeast. She's been published in the Vassar literary magazine Asian Quilt, AsianAvenue.com, and in the Harper Collins Anthology Yell-Oh Girls! She was also a finalist for the MyTravelBug Travel Writing Fellowship in 2005.



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