It’s not that I’m afraid to drink, it just isn’t my style. I already do loads of stupid stuff when I’m sober, so why would I want to lose control like that? Plus, I mean, I’m only nineteen so it is illegal, technically. And besides that, I’ve heard that alcohol makes you sick the first few times you drink it.
Come over anyway, they said. You don’t have to drink, you can still play the games with just water, they said. That was at two-thirty.
Now it’s quarter till midnight and here I am, with my cup of water, sitting awkwardly in the corner of a room that has a collective blood-alcohol content of, like, .25. The girl next to me turns and asks if I’m having a good time. Her breath reeks of wine but I nod as I sip my water and stare across the room. She turns back to her friend and begins shouting something about the guy she hooked up with last week while her friend is shouting something back about how she has to get her car fixed the next day and neither one is listening to the other.
A chorus of cheers erupts from the far side of the room as somebody does something flashy in beer pong and distracts the people at the table from the card game they aren’t playing. A group near me does another round of Jell-O shots and somebody makes a crack about “tonguing” the Jell-O. I almost smirk.
I check my phone and it’s quarter till midnight still and I’m just wishing that it were fifteen minutes later so I could make up some bulls**t about having to work tomorrow morning when I don’t even have a job so I can go. I’m about to get up and leave when something catches my eye from across the room. In a chair in a corner that I somehow hadn’t noticed sat a girl, staring down into her cup. Her long brown hair hung around her face—pretty, but not so much so that she’d end up banging some hot athlete. Her modest blouse and jeans screamed “Come talk to me! I’m not a skank!” and I imagined walking over to her and pulling up a chair.
“Hey,” I’d say, the pinnacle of smoothness, “you sober too?” She’d smile and nod and I’d follow with “this may be a little forward, but we’re both sober—wanna get out of here and go play some video games?” Her eyes would light up as I asked this—none of her friends were into gaming—and she’d say yes, that would be nice. And we’d walk back to my place, laughing and talking about our shared love of space exploration simulations. We’d sit on my bed and be up all night playing through the co-op mode of Portal 2 which I had been saving for someone truly special. As it got later and later we’d bond over how overrated Super Mario Bros games were, or how Halo: Reach was actually the best in the series. At that point all I’d have to say is that I beat Fire Emblem: Awakening on “Lunatic mode” and she’d be naked and on top of me.
And we’d wake up the next day and not know how to be with each other when I saw her at dinner—after she’d gone back to her place and said she had to get homework done. And we’d date for a few months until she decided that it wasn’t working for her, and we’d try to be friends. We would graduate and she’d move to the city and start some career as a public relations consultant, and marry some d-bag named Trent or Cole. And we’d meet again in some café in the city and I’d admit that my career wasn’t panning out like I expected and I was probably a high-functioning alcoholic at this point and she’d tell me about how she was happy with Trent or Cole as long as she didn’t think about it too hard but something was really missing. And suddenly everything would align and we’d fall in love and marry in a tragically beautiful love story where we both found solace in our mutual brokenness.
Or, we would have. But she decided at that moment that eleven forty-five was enough and maybe she did have work that next morning, so she poured out the rest of her water, and hugged the hostess. Somebody did something else flashy in beer pong, and I couldn’t hear the door shut behind her.