Dear Pabst Blue Ribbon:
We’ve been together a long time. It’s been almost seven years since that first date but I remember it like it was lunch this afternoon—standing in a patch of sunlight in cut-offs and flip-flops, feeling so good, so right, and wondering why we’d never met before.
We’ve had some crazy times. Remember when we spent three hours in the ER last summer after falling off our bike on the way back from a birthday party? And how we gave the ambulance driver our ex’s name and address instead of our own and later called the nurse a cunt before stumbling out of the bright lights and into the heavy night air? And how we got lost on our way home in that vast medical complex? We tried to hitchhike home but no one would pick us up, maybe because it was three a.m. and there were leaves in our hair and our pants were ripped and we were wearing a neck brace. We cuddled on the sidewalk that night, sleeping soundly until a kindly bus driver picked us up drove us to our front door.
And remember a few months later when was climbed a tree and jumped over a barbed-wire fence and crossed a construction site the size of Ground Zero with a pretty girl to that most romantic of places: an 11-story crane? We climbed that crane, you and me and the pretty girl, ignoring the neurons firing in our brain, whispering, don’t do it, don’t do it, as cops circled the neighborhood below. Good thing you and me and the girl make a cute trio and they let us go with a lecture.
There have been many nights as special as those, my friend: averted disaster, near arrest, decisions regretted. Was it a mistake to quit our job from the bathroom of a bar four hours before our shift started? No, no it was not. You’ve been always there for me in a way a job can never be. Chilled, that is, and in a can.
I stuck by you while everyone else cut carbs or switched to micro-brews or joined AA. I sat beside you on bar stools and listened, really listened, to you bitch about your inevitable dethroning. What would be the next beer of food-stamping hipsters around the country? Would it be Hamm’s, you worried, or maybe High Life? And when you ruined my chances with the graphic designer from Philly, the one who didn’t think it was a good idea to ride a shopping cart home; I didn’t mention that you haven’t won a blue ribbon since 1893. Friends don’t do that, no matter how annoyed we are that our last girlfriend left us because we make more money from bottle-deposits than from a paycheck, which was definitely your fault.
The two of us have been through it all, can in hand.
We’ve only gotten closer with time. What started casually—on the weekends, maybe the occasional happy hour—has become a marriage of sorts. And, like all marriages, ours is not without its flaws. There was last New Year's, for instance, when you tripped me on the way home from the bar. I know it wasn’t your fault—you were just fooling around, being silly—and I forgave you just as soon as I spit out my front tooth. Yes, you’ve gotten me into a little trouble from time to time, but I know it’s not because you are devious, it’s because you love to have fun. And there was Christmas morning, when we woke up in our professor’s bed with her son knocking on the door to see what Santa brought. And there was that time we passed out in the neighbor’s yard and then told her that we were stargazing and that she really didn’t need to call the cops but we would really appreciate bus fare. And years ago, there was that red-headed guy whose name we can’t remember but who taught us that men, even attractive men, can grow hair on their butts. That was a good lesson, wasn’t it? One that changed our sexual orientation forever.
The thing is, Pabst, we are growing apart. Don’t tell me you haven’t noticed. You no longer take up space in the fridge. And I can barely afford you anymore. It’s the recession. And my liver.
It’s not that I don’t love you, it’s that I’m afraid of you. I know you didn’t mean to hurt me when you pushed me into the bushes after the Michael Jackson dance party and when you woke me up in the middle of the night and made me stick my finger down my own esophagus—but it’s not funny anymore.
And it’s not just me—my friends are concerned. They think we’re spending too much time together. They say they miss the old me. The me who answered text messages that weren’t about happy hour. The me who could be trusted with keys, who didn’t need to be walked home, who paid her phone bill, who didn’t hit on their exes, the me who didn’t call them crying in the middle of the night. They miss the me who didn’t embarrass them. I’m sorry, but they don’t want me to take you to brunch anymore.
I’ve changed as well. I’ve been spending more time in our favorite chair with Netflix and hot tea. I’m been thinking about getting a job some day. I bought running shoes. It’s not that I haven’t been thinking about you, because I have. But I need distance. We need a real break, not like when we have a fever or when our parents visit.
I will never forget you, PBR. I will think of you every time I look at the unfinished boat tattoo on my left arm and the heart-shaped scar on my right shoulder. I will think of you every time I see the women we have loved and left. I will think of you at kickball in the spring and at the pool in summer and on Halloween night and Christmas morning and hot days and rainy days and snow days and every afternoon that the sun shines or doesn’t shine.
I’m not saying it’s forever. I might come crawling back in a month or a year or the next time it seems easier to be with you than to go running. But until then, please, stop calling and stop texting and stop dropping by just because you were in the neighborhood.
Yours always, but not right now,