My friend Cassidy has a new boyfriend and I’m very happy for her, because I love to be happy for people. Except, of course, for my enemies, whom I love to hate. I don’t actively tend to these grudges all the time, just once or twice a week, like my houseplants. Just enough to keep them alive. Just enough to burn some calories. I’m not even jealous that she’s sharing her love with someone else because who would want to be the sole recipient of someone’s love anyway? It would be so much work.
Cassidy arranged a dinner for us to meet her new boyfriend because you socialize new boyfriends the same way you do new puppies: with a small group of friends at a time so they don’t get overwhelmed and piss the carpet. Cassidy invited me, Dan, and the two Corys to the dinner. We have two friends named Cory, and frankly, we all love that shit.
Dan, the Corys, and I decided to meet up before and go to the restaurant together because God forbid one of us get there early and then Cassidy goes to the bathroom or something and we’re stuck making uncomfortable conversation with the boyfriend and we accidentally ruin the whole relationship for Cassidy. It’s better to take that option off the table.
When we walked in, we saw Cassidy right away. She stood up and so did her new boyfriend who we all instantly recognized because he’s The Pink Panther. He’s 6 foot 7 and a famous pink cartoon, so he is really noticeable even if you aren’t a fan.
Cassidy never said anything about her new boyfriend being famous so we were all a little thrown, but all of us are smart enough to not say anything, except for Dan, who is a big fan and said so. But The Pink Panther was gracious, and he insisted we sit down because we’d been standing for an unusual amount of time at that point and other people at the restaurant were starting to notice. We all waited for The Pink Panther to sit first like he was a priest or the Queen.
The Pink Panther is obviously aware of who he is and what people want from him because he told us some great stories and we were all in stitches, except for me who was just trying to look normal in my face. I was getting a little bit pissed at Cassidy because she could have warned me that her new boyfriend is famous. Everyone in the group already knows I am not good around celebrities because of the time we saw Adam Driver at the French restaurant, and I had to go to the hospital. The events weren’t related but they did happen on the same night so now I’m a little bit scared of celebrities, especially the tall ones, and their power to induce allergic reactions.
My brain wanted me to think that Cassidy wanted to humiliate me but my brain also loves to play these tricks on me and try to convince me that my friends are my enemies; my brain is a Republican on cable news. But when I actually ran the thought to its full conclusion, if Cassidy had texted me, “My new boyfriend is The Pink Panther,” I would’ve immediately texted Dan and the Corys something like, “I’m worried about Cassidy.” Sometimes I have to play these scenarios out so that my brain can power back down for a little bit.
Someone asked about The Pink Panther movies, which seemed like a real faux pas, but The Pink Panther took it in stride and said, “I love Peter Sellers. What a talent!” We all agreed because who wouldn’t? “He could’ve seen the big board!” Dan yelled, which The Pink Panther graciously laughed at even though it’s not a Peter Sellers line, but from Dr. Strangelove.
The Pink Panther excused himself so he could wash his hands before dinner came because he took the subway to the restaurant, just like we did. As soon as he left, we all told Dan to cool it because he was acting a little wild.
Cassidy asked us what we thought and everyone responded in a chorus of “Oh my God, he’s perfect, etcetera,” except for me because I felt like if I opened my mouth right then, a slug would’ve tumbled out, which would’ve been disturbing to many people for many reasons. I curled my tongue up against my top front teeth to keep the slug in, though I know he is not real, but just in case. But really, I thought that Cassidy’s new boyfriend, The Pink Panther, was great and cool and that maybe I was even jealous, even though I was certain I would never be. I’m grateful to the slug for keeping me from admitting something like that.
The Pink Panther came back to the table and Dan shouted at him, “Did you wash your hands?” Something was up with Dan but I didn’t have the emotional or intellectual capacity to get to the bottom of it at that moment. Plus the slug was clogging up my mouth–brain connection.
The Pink Panther started asking us about ourselves because basically the entire conversation had been us sheepishly asking about Hollywood while Dan lobbed bombs of affection at The Pink Panther. Cassidy started into how we all met (at work, because that is how you make friends as an adult) and The Pink Panther wanted to know our individual hopes and dreams. He was going around the table in order so I started thinking about what my answer would be, like when the teacher had us read one sentence at a time and I would count to my sentence and read it over and over so that I wouldn’t mispronounce a word and die.
“Where did you grow up?” The Pink Panther asked me. The answer was Pennsylvania but the question was not the one I was primed to answer so something shorted in my brain and instead of saying the correct answer, I said the one I already had: “I want to breed husky dogs.” I screamed it, really, which shocked everyone at the table, including me. Fortunately the food arrived at exactly that moment and everybody got distracted cooing over their meals and complimenting The Pink Panther’s food ordering skills.
I ordered fettuccine alfredo which I didn’t want and have never wanted. It started congealing as I got stuck thinking about whether breeding husky dogs is something I actually wanted and my psyche just uncovered through some kind of Pink Panther exposure therapy, because my current job of being a low-level copy editor is definitely not one of the traditional stepping stones to hoisting a Best in Show ribbon at Westminster. I picked up my fork and stabbed the food so that nobody would know what was going on in my head. The most obvious way to portray mental stability is to absently stab food and just leave the utensils there.
I stood straight up and announced “I’m going to the bathroom!” with the same intensity that Michael Scott declares bankruptcy. I have always loved that joke and think about it all the time, including right then at that very moment. But then I realized everyone was just watching me stand still and smile to myself while I thought about The Office, again, so I kept low and ran to the bathroom.
Those bathrooms were great because they had the kind of doors that go all the way from the floor to the ceiling and feel like a panic room. It was great because I was panicking. I decided to give myself a pep talk from the safety of the panic room. I said, “You will go back out there and be happy for your friend, because it is nice to be happy for people, even if they are dating a seemingly rude celebrity.” I also said, “You will push enough of your fettucini alfredo around that plate that all of your friends believe you’ve had enough to eat and then you will go home and eat a Clif Bar and maybe even a clementine, if you have one.” That made me feel confident enough to go back to the table.
I got there and sat down and put my napkin back on my lap, but remembered that I hadn’t actually peed when I went to the bathroom before, and I still needed to go. So I stood up and went back to the bathroom, but didn’t say anything because explaining it would be worse. When I got to the bathroom, someone had taken my stall and even though there were many open stalls, I had to wait for mine to open back up.
Eventually, I returned to the table. When I did, The Pink Panther asked if I liked my food and I made a yummy sound to indicate yes, but I hadn’t actually gone near it. Plus, I was full from when I swallowed the slug earlier. Everyone, even Dan, could tell that I was now the one with something up but they were all polite enough to tend to their meals and not look me in the eyes. But this also meant that the conversation had ground to a halt and all I could focus on was the sound of chewing. Fortunately, all of my friends chew super cute and I felt proud of them for it. The Pink Panther does not and I felt infuriated. I decided at that moment I hated him and would forever. And no matter the good he does in the world, I will never forgive him for what he did at dinner and how he chews. I knew I made a promise to myself to be happy for my friend, but that was in the sanctity of the bathroom, where things were much easier. Plus, I do not think that being happy for your friend and hating her boyfriend are incompatible feelings. If they were, then I could have possibly been the first person in history feeling this feeling and that’s simply not possible, not when people like Joan of Arc, Art Garfunkel, and Taylor Swift have existed.
The waiter took our plates which traditionally signifies the end of the meal. He didn’t bother asking me if I was done eating but he also didn’t try to make funny small talk about what was left on my plate, which was everything. The waiter and I were equals in that moment and I respected him the most out of nearly everyone alive, except for perhaps Joan Didion to whom no one can hold a candle. But Joan wasn’t at the restaurant because she was probably at home and smoking a cigarette, so I’m sure she wouldn’t mind sharing my respect for a moment.
It was my great relief that this infinite meal was finally over. I started making extremely obvious movements around my bag as though I was searching for my wallet but there was absolutely no way I was paying for this meal. I made eye contact with The Pink Panther while I did it to let him know that I’m actually a pretty good actor, too, pretending I’m going to contribute one cent, let alone plop my credit card down for this stupid dinner.
He called the waiter back over and I felt excited to see my comrade again. I was also excited to run full speed out of this restaurant and down the street and into the first body of water I encountered.
Rather than asking for the check, this pink bastard ordered a dessert. He ordered a baked alaska, which was not on the menu because it is not 1983. Nobody wants their ice cream to be covered with hard eggs and lit on fire. So obviously it meant he was still thinking about the husky dogs comment and I had no choice but to interpret it as a personal attack. I was also sure he knows he can order something insane and off the menu because he is famous and they will bring it. He knows I hate him and I know he hates me.
The Pink Panther then stood up and announced that he had to go to the bathroom, which he had already done once. I knew that there was no way this guy had to pee again already because he had been drinking some fucking precious drink like a whiskey neat, which is very little liquid, in terms of volume. I don’t know why or when the public decided that whiskey just by itself was a good and cool thing to drink. Is it because of Hemingway? What is the actual ratio of people who read Hemingway to people who drink like him? I am more interested in someone who would order something with one entire fruit in it. But of course The Pink Panther ordered something brown and small to sip and sip, which meant there was no way he had to pee again.
I suddenly remembered that the bathroom is where Michael Corleone gets the gun in The Godfather, which is the first movie in the trilogy. I haven’t seen the third. So, for the safety of my friend group, I stood up and said, “What are you going to do in there? Be specific!”
And this guy, The Pink Panther, he looked at me and he smiled and he said, “No.” And he turned and started walking to the bathroom.
So that was when I sprinted at him at full speed and now I need you to come pick me up from the police station because it turns out you’re not allowed to tackle celebrities. In fact, you’re not really allowed to tackle anyone, even if you’re jealous of them or even if you hate them. But, of course, I am not jealous of my friend Cassidy’s new boyfriend, but I do hate him, which is something I am allowed to do.