This is the situation. It's a spring evening in April at the ballpark. The Astros are in town and they're hammering your team, the Pirates, 7-2. This is not unusual. Your team, the Pirates, they suck. They have for a long time. Most people accept this. Most people don't bother coming to the ballpark. Especially when it's 43 degrees with a light mist and a biting westerly wind.
But you're there, bundled in a fleece, and tight-jawed, teeth-chattering, back-scrunched shivering anyhow. You like the game, you have season tickets. But you're mostly there because your friend du-jour wanted to come. His name is Kevin, this friend du-jour. You've known Kevin since 10th grade. You've never not been friends, but you were efficiently eviscerated from his life when he got married. Now that he's separated, you're back in. You were invited back in not only by him, but also his wife. Because she trusts you. She knows if he's hanging out with you while they're separated, he's not screwing around. So you sit in the cold mist and watch the game because this is the way you maintain friendships. You are the beta dog. You have no choice but to accept it. So when Kevin finally shakes his head with disgust as the score ticks up to 9-2 after Bagwell crushes a homer in the top of 7th as the mist turns to drizzle and says, "Let's get out of here," you don't shout FINALLY. You just nod and rise, grateful to be heading inside. Go the bar, order some drinks. You pay. This is routine. You go there often. You tip well. Always. The bartender, he ignores you for a while as he serves up cocktails and shots to the group of nubile young chicks who walked up after you did. Be patient. Hold up the crisp twenty dollar bill. When he comes over, you order the Rolling Rock and an Absolut and cranberry juice, then watch helplessly as he pours a Grey Goose. Sweetness, deferral in your voice, you interrupt him, say you wanted Absolut. He puts the finished drink in front of you and says, "This'll be fine. It's better, you'll see. It's only a buck more." Grey Goose gives you a headache. It's too dry. He's waiting. You're driving anyhow. Nod and drop him the bill, say Thanks, smiling, then tip him three dollars and change. Sitting with Kevin, your pristine, pinkish Grey Goose perched on the edge of the table, you listen to him talk about Justine. You assume he does this with you because he can't with the guys. You assume after three Rolling Rocks and 58 minutes of hearing his grieves, he's going to wrap things up by sighing and saying it's all for the best that they're apart. You nod the whole time, now you prod. "She really can be…difficult." "Hey," he glares at you. "Watch it, that's my wife." "Yeah," you backtrack. "I just meant, she's put you through a lot. You must be glad to be through with all that." "Through with it? Have you been listening to me? I have to get her back!" "But, you just said, you said she's driving you insane. She cheated on you. She kicked you out. She told your mother to fuck off." "She's the hottest little cookie I've ever known!" Reach out, take a sip of your Grey Goose. These are your options. 1) Scream. 2) Punch him on principle alone. 3) Sigh 4) Suck it up. You choose option 4. Choke it down. Suck it up. Brush it off. Drink, swallow, repeat. Then move on. Because this game is over. Because that "she's so hot" phrase is the phrase that makes you cringe, even after hearing it hundreds of times. This is the phrase that makes you wish you'd caved and made the appointment five years ago. Ten years ago. Fifteen years ago. Because this is what you see when you look in the mirror: You're 37. You're single. You're 5'8", 141. You have brown hair, brown eyes. 34B. Size 8 Nikes on your feet. Size 8 Levi's on your ass. These are your stats. You're 37. You're single. You're not hot.
The next day, you get up, go to work. Park your Viper in your private spot. Welcome a new guy on the sales force to help your brother. His name is Nick. You'd already interviewed him twice. Each one ran over forty minutes as somehow your conversation meandered to the Van Gogh print on your wall, the shake-up at City Council, baseball, and finally, <i>Fear Factor</i>. You're pretty sure he'll be able to schmooze anyone. Shake his hand, give him a tour. He smiles at you, straightens his tie, and nods agreeably. Because here, you are the alpha dog. You lay out his responsibilities, tell him the perks. You tell him there are company box seats to the Pirate games. He's welcome to use them when you aren't.
He shakes your hand again, says, "Thank you, Mrs, uh, Ms…" You help him out. "It's Miss. But you can call me Marie." He nods and smiles wider. He looks confused. "Your name, I thought you were, uh…" "He's my brother." "That's good to know." This is what he does: He leans closer to you. He smiles, showing teeth. Contain your sigh. Look him in the eye, smile back, politely. Because this is what you see: A new employee. You know you are the alpha dog, and he's kissing your ass. Suck it up, brush it off, and move on. Dismiss him. When you leave to go to lunch, your asshole brother has you parked in. Go in, find him, tell him. He tosses you the keys to his week old, pimped-out Escalade, saying, "Move it." You give him some shit, because since you've hired Nick there aren't enough spots in the front lot. So you'll have to back up his Escalade, pull out your Viper, then pull his Escalade into your Viper's spot, and it's still cold and drizzling outside. He gives you a look and you quit bitching. You stop because it's not your nature to whine, only to bust his balls. But just a little. Because he's your brother, and you're neither alpha or beta. "Just take mine," he tells you. You're not used to the massive girth and towering height of this bigger ride, so you go slowly, checking every angle, leaving ample room as an interval, not gunning it and pulling out and zipping around corners. Nevertheless, you judge wrong at the bank drive-thru. Pulling up is ok, but you cut it too soon as you're pulling out and you hear the sickening <i>scriiiitttch</i> of metal and cement against virgin paint on the passenger side door. You stop, try to back up, hear the scratching yet again. So you stomp the brakes, throw it in park, and turn off the stereo. Take a deep breath. Now, put it in gear, ease off the brake, and grind your teeth at the clawing sound that grinds across the metal door. These are your options. 1) Lie & Deny. Go back and just make something up and deny it was your fault. 2) Drink. Avoid it, prolong the misery through procrastination – at a bar. 3) Deal. You choose option 3. Primarily because you're a lousy liar. So you suck it up, go back, tell him what you did, choke it down when he freaks out, arms flailing, face red, spit flying as he curses you out, and then move on once he's over it. In fact, when you're inspecting it with him, you can barely stifle a giggle when he gets mostly bent not over the fact that the passenger door is dented and scratched, paint peeled off in long, marring gashes, but because the paint from the pole you'd hit is also mixed in, and it's yellow. "How could you not see it?" he's screaming. "It's painted retard-alert safety yellow!" "I didn't see it," you tell him. "Chrissakes, Marie! Steve Wonder would've seen that!" You go to your office. At 4 PM, new employee Nick comes in. He asks, "So those Pirate tickets…" You decide not to make him squirm, "You want them for tonight?" "Uh. Yeah. Well. Are, are you going? I mean, would you like to go?" "Too cold for me," you explain and hand them over. "Feel free, have fun."
Later that night, you're tired. But when Kevin's wife Justine calls, you heed. You heed because you've been friends with her since before you were friends with Kevin. And even though she only calls when she's on the outs with him, it's all you have.
You go to the same bar as you went to with Kevin. Even though you're holding the money, the bartender comes to Justine. She orders, he does as she says. You pay. She flips her hair over her shoulder and smiles at him. He winks at her. She turns to you and says, "So is Kevin crying over me yet?" "A little," you say. She smirks. "Will you take him back?" She nods. "When I'm ready." "Why do you do this to him?" "Pfft." That's all she says. But you watch her eyes. They aren't looking at you. They're wandering around the room, searching to be sought out. You start telling her how you fucked up your brother's car. Now she looks at you. "How is Rocco?" "Married." "Pfft." That's what she says. Pfft. But she can't contain herself. Since giving Kevin the boot two months ago, she's been proving it to herself all over again. She's hot. "He's got a new Escalade, huh?" "There's a new guy at work. Nick." You try that as a diversionary ploy. She bites. "Yeah? What's he like? He cute?" Is he cute? It doesn't matter. You shrug. Order another drink. You're not driving. Order a Myers and Coke, but watch as he pours you a Bacardi dark instead. Bacardi gives you heartburn, so you ask him to change it. He hands you the drink, tells you it's on special. You could send it back. Hell, you could punch him on principle. Or you could suck it up, brush it off, and move on. So you do. You still tip him. Drink, swallow, repeat. But when a female bartender comes on at the other side, you decide to move. This would displease Justine, so you wait to make the move until she goes to the restroom. While you're shuffling things down the bar, a man approaches you. He says, "Hello." Nod and smile, wait for it. "Your friend, she's a knockout. Is she available?" There it is. Right on time. That's on time, and you're wishing once again you'd stop having principles, or is it just fear, and make a goddamn appointment. Drink, swallow, repeat. Gag on it. But say, "She's separated." Agree to introduce them. As she walks back over, you take a long hard look at her. What you see is this: She is a wet dream incarnate. Platinum blonde hair, poofed and shellacked, naturally thick lips outlined three shades darker than the frost that fills them in. Statuesque 5'10" atop her 4 inch transparent wedgie mules, her paltry clothes as snug as a skin on a sausage. The only thing she needs to complete the look is a pole. After they've been flirting for ten minutes, you dig into your shabby jeans for money and tug on your t-shirt to adjust its hem, then order another drink. Justine slides her empty glass onto the bar next to yours. The guy places his bottle there too. He reaches for his wallet, but Justine waves him off. "She'll get it," she tells him, nodding at you. "She's single. No kids. And she's rich." You think she's helping you out, tossing you a bone. His head swivels to you immediately, for the first time in ten minutes that he's had his eyes off Justine. "Rich and single? How'd that happen?" You shake your head, "I don't know." But you do know. You just don't say it. You watch as the female bartender not only gets your drink order right, she pours you a double. Say, "I’m not really rich." Now, tip the bartender very well. The bartender, she thanks you quietly. From the corner of your eye, you see his head swivel right back to Justine as she giggles. "She drives a Viper," she tells him. "Impressive," the guy says and nods, but you can hear by the tone of his voice that he's not impressed. "So what brings you in here?" "I come here a lot," you answer. "After baseball games, mostly." "You like baseball?" he asks you. Nod. "She has season tickets! And she's single!" Justine squeals it again. Now that's she said it again, you're not sure if she's trying to help you out, or if she's digging you. "Wowza." That's what he says, the guy of Justine's. Wowza. You think, Pfft. He asks again, "How are you single?" "Crazy, isn't it?" Justine's digging you. Because it's not enough for her to be hot, she has to prove it to herself, and you, all the time. You lock eyes with her, and what you see is a bitch in slut's clothing. But you just shrug again, drop your gaze, and take a drink. You're the beta. She pushes further. "I know. A guy's dream, isn't it? She's single, rich, got a cool car, and season tickets." Make a lame joke, "Well they are Pirate tickets, that sort of devalues the whole thing." "Still!" The guy says. "Really!" Justine agrees. Looking at the guy now. "What more could a guy want?" (dig!) "Tits!" It's loud. It's the female bartender. "Excuse me?" Justine asks, haughty. "I said, TITS," the bartender repeats, looking straight at Justine, but positioning her hands in front of you and leaning forward. "Guys want tits, that's all. She doesn't have any." You smirk. Justine gets offended for you. The guy, his head swivels again. This time, not looking at you. Oh no. He's looking at the bartender, precisely, at her ample cleavage. He grins. Justine defends you. "She looks fine!" "Yeah, she looks fine by us. Not to them. It's ok. It happens," she pats your arm. She goes, "I used to clear around a hundred bucks a night working here. Then I got these," she points to her chest. To her tits. "Now I clear two hundred, easy. They've paid for themselves already. She wants a man, she needs some tits." Justine is appalled, appalled for you. "Don't listen to her, Marie! You look FINE as you are!" "Fine doesn't cut it anymore," the bartender says. The guy, the guy of Justine's, he just looks down at the floor. "Screw that," Justine says. "You look fine just as you are. Don't go changing yourself." Drink, swallow, repeat. Think hard. Think very, very hard.
The next day at work, this is the situation. You're working through lunch. Nick has offered to bring something back to you, and Rocco. But he comes back into your office, saying he can't leave. Rocco's Escalade is parked behind his. It's parked behind your car too. This is because Rocco rolls in later than either of you. He's parked perpendicular to your cars, driver side to your rear ends, penning you in. You go to complain, but he's on the phone, he tosses Nick the keys. Nick wavers, but Rocco waves him off, so you watch from the window as he climbs into the beast.
Hanging up the phone, your brother asks you if you warned Nick about the dented side door. "What's to warn?" you ask. "It's already messed up." "Yeah, but he doesn't know that," Rocco answers. Watch as the devilish smile plays on his face. Feel it creep across yours. When he comes back, you watch Nick circle a few times, probably trying to find a better spot. But there is nothing, so he finally pulls behind your car again, this time facing the opposite direction, with the gash side facing the windows instead of the street. Rocco doesn't lose a step. Before Nick even has the thing in park, Rocco leaps out of his chair, races down the hall, and bolts outside. His arms are flailing, he's pointing to the gash. The gash and yellow paint that you put there yesterday. You follow behind him, more slowly. Calmly. As Nick takes a look, you see his face blanch. He looks at you, and it takes all your will to keep your comportment as Rocco says, no, shouts, "What the HELL DID YOU DO?" Nick, he looks as though he's going to swallow his own face. Rocco's going off now. This is what you see: Your brother fucking with the new guy for sport. His histrionics are even more exaggerated than yesterday when you showed him the damage for real. He's really enjoying this. Nick is squirming. Apologizing now. Looking back and forth between them, you see what Nick is probably seeing. Rocco, he's 6'5", 230, at least. He's puffed out, gesticulating wildly. Yelling. Yelling at a brand new employee about fucking up his brand new truck. You realize it must be horrifying for Nick. He's really squirming. Inside, he must be freaking out. But you know it's fake, and you get a pang of sympathy for him. But mostly, you have to choke back laughing. Later in the afternoon, Justine swings by the office. She's wearing the clothes she had on last night. She plops in a chair in your office and tells you how good it feels to be single and free. How she had a great time with that guy last night. How she tried to nudge him in your direction, but they just seemed to really hit it off. (DIG! DIG!) She wants to go out tonight. You're tired, and you'd rather not. But this is the reality. You spend months without friends. When everyone's happily married and having new babies, they don't call you. Right now, with Kevin and Justine on the outs, you have friends. But if you hang with Kevin too much, that won't look right. So nod your head and agree to go. On her way out, Justine stops by Rocco's office. Mercy falls, he's on the phone, he ignores her. But as Nick passes her, he takes a long look. When she's gone, Nick stops in your office. He still seems rattled, but cooled down. You figure he's been on the hook for the car long enough, and he took it like a man, so you decide to let him in on the joke, then prepare him to get used to it. Rocco has a deranged sense of humor. You suppose you do too. But before you speak, he does. He goes, "Your friend, she seemed…nice." Your eyes narrow. Nice. Pfft. You don't tell him about the car. Not quite yet. "So you two are going out tonight?" he prods. "Uh, yeah. Oh! You want the tickets for tonight, don't you?" "No, that's not…" "It's ok. You can have them. The Cubs are in town. I think Wood is pitching." "Yeah. I mean. I was thinking maybe I could meet you two out. After the game." Your eyes narrow. You listened to what he said. But what you heard was: "I could meet her out tonight." Choke it down, brush it off, move on. Still silent about the car, you reach across the desk and hand him the tickets. As he's reaching for them, his arm brushes the picture frame on the desk, knocking it over. Apologizing, he picks it up, then looks at it before setting it back down. His brows raise. He says, "Wowza." You say, "My mom and dad." He nods, looks at you, then back to the picture. "I see the resemblance. You look just like her." You nod. You have her hair. You have her eyes. "I got my father's nose," you say. Unfortunately, it's the truth. Nick smiles, looks at you again. He says, "You and Rocco both." You fry in that comment while he says, "They must be very proud of you." "My mom's dead." "Oh. I see. Sorry. Well, she was beautiful." He nods and sets the picture back down. "Have a good time at the game," you tell him, signaling that social hour is now over. As he's leaving, you call after him, "Drive carefully." He turns and smirks. It infuriates you that he takes it so well. Get up, to the bathroom, look in the mirror. See this: A single 37 year old with her mother's hair, her father's nose, a flat chest, and no one to go use her season tickets with. Go back to your desk, straighten the picture, and see this: Your mother. Your mother who had two kids and a loving husband. She wasn't pretty, she was radiant. Her tits, they were large. Turn the picture face down for the rest of the day. Then, pick up the phone, and make the appointment.
At the bar that night, after the male bartender serves Justine instead of you, after he cracks you a clear DNA instead of the blue one you'd asked for, say this out loud. "I'm having surgery next week. Will you drive me?"
"Can I drive your Viper?" That's what Justine's first question is. "No." That's your answer to her. Watch as she pouts. Wait it out. Finally, "What day?" "Thursday," you tell her. "What are you having surgery for?" Now it hits her. Human breaks through her veneer. "Oh! Are you ok?" "I'm getting tits," you tell her. "What?" "I'm fine. I'm getting a boob job. And a nose job." "Oh. My. God," she gasps. "You can't!" "Why not?" "You can't do that to yourself!" "I can't improve myself?" "You can't change yourself!" "Change is good. You said it was good to be taking a break from Kevin, that's a change." "You're fine! You're fine as you are! You shouldn't fuck around like that." "Answer me this, Justine. How's that Zoloft working out for you?" "That's different!" she huffs. "It is different. You're changing yourself with that. You're changing your mind, your emotions." "I have stress!" "You're baking your brain!" "Oh, you make me sound like a cake." Think: More like a tart. But say, "It is like a cake. And you're gonna bake the flavor right out of yours." "You don't understand what it's like. It's hard to be me." Choke back a scoff. It's not worth the time. Explain it this way: "So look at it this way. You change your insides for the better. I'm changing my outsides. I'll still be the same." Take a drink. A long hard drink of the one you didn't order but ended up with anyhow. Drink it up. Swallow it down. Pray you believe yourself. "I'm 37. I'm pretty well developed. My cake is baked, Justine. I'm just changing the frosting on the outside now." "You'll change," she hisses and takes a deep swallow of her drink, the exact one she ordered. "You don't need it. I don't understand why." Why? You're ready to scream, because all you want is a ride. You're ready to punch her out on principle alone. You think the following. Because you're lucky. You know you're one of the lucky ones, and you count your blessings. But you're weary. No you're not. You're bone-tired exhausted. You're sick of the waiting and the hoping and getting played as a gateway to your better looking friends. You're sick of sitting at home for months while everyone else has a family. You're sick of going to the movies by yourself, out to eat by yourself, to the ballpark by yourself. It makes you queasy. Because you want a friend. Not a beta, not an alpha. Because you don't want a wedding. You want a mate. Because you don't want someone around when they can use company and who knocks you down in sly little passive ways. You want someone who sticks up for you. Because you've waited 37 years and that someone is nowhere around. Because you have a Viper and you have season tickets and you have a corner office and you have a good time, but fuck-all, now you want this too. Because you can. Because this is the loneliest night of your life, same as it has been for the past ten years. But instead, you suck it up, choke it down, and all you say is: "Because it's time for a change."
This is what they do. They insert an IV, and tell you to count backwards from 100. Then you're out. While you're knocked out, this is what happens.
They make incisions inside and outside your nose. They insert a chisel and whack and whittle away at your cartilage and bone to cut it down to size. They slice open your nipples and stuff bags of saline inside your breast, then sew your nipples back together. When you wake up, this is what it feels like. It feels like someone has taken a chisel to your nose, cut off your nipples, inserted viscous bags into your breasts, and then sewn them back up, stretched to the point of exploding. This is what you think. Fucking – oh, shiiiit -- finally. What the…the fuck? Pain – your – stomach…legs. This is what they say: Hey! Welcome back! How do you feel? "Blrbl…gah…gah. BLRBL!" "Ha ha! Yes! Yes! I see you notice that. While you were under I tossed in a couple extras. Some liposuction on your thighs and tummy! Congratulations!" "Gah, Gah! BLRBL!" "Oh, no no! There's no extra charge! Enjoy! You did wonderfully! Welcome to a whole new you!"
It is four weeks later.
At work, the swelling and bruising was obscene. You ducked around corners and kept your face lowered, avoiding Nick. Or maybe he avoided you. Fuck him. You never told him about Rocco's car. Rocco, he strangely doted over you. Brought you lunch for the first week. The weather had warmed. He borrowed your Viper. It took him and hour and forty-five minutes to pick up McDonald's the one day. He did not smash it up. The second week he cracked jokes about your new tits. The third week, he looked at you and said, "You look like Mom." You turned the picture on your desk back up. You went to the gym and started to notice the change. Even with the stupid looking white tape over the bridge of your nose, the trainers who'd ignored you before started offering you advice and help changing the weights. For free. Now, with the last of the bandages off, and the swelling all gone, you go for your first public outing. Get dolled up. Stand in front of the mirror and put on plenty of makeup, fix up your hair, stand tall in heels. You meet Kevin at the baseball game. Instead of sliding into your seat, you stand there, wait for him to see you. He goes, "Jesus Christ, Marie! You're scorching!" When the game is over, you both meet Justine at the bar, because she and Kevin are getting back together. Apparently, with you staying in, de-swelling and watching The OC and games on the TV, they were bored. Lonely. Walk up to the bar, but before you can hold up your money, the bartender is on you. He pours what you order, except he gives you a double and a wink. He slides you a shot, free of charge. You could scream. You are not happy, you are pissed, because you knew you were right. You could scream. You could punch him. But you don't. You are still you. You take the shot. Suck it up, drink it down, and let it go. Tip him well. But move down the bar when the female bartender comes on. She nods in approval. Tip her triple. Get up, go to the restroom. When you push out the door, Kevin is there. He puts his hands on your body. Around the waistline of your now size 6 hip hugging Levi's. He says, "Marie," and lunges toward you. Push him away! "Kevin!" "Marie!" "Kevin, don't be an asshole!" "Marie, you're so fucking hot!" "Kevin! Justine!" "Justine?" "What about Justine?" "Screw Justine! I never realized it before! Not until she called me up, wanting to get back together. I was, I was enjoying it without her. She's such a bitch, Marie! Such a bitch! I've had the best time with you lately." "Kevin!" He moves in again, insistent. Takes hold of your waist, lunges at your face. You start pushing him off you. "Kevin! No!" "You're so fucking hot, Marie!" Push back, very hard. Run through your options. Do it. Finally, do it. Curl your fist, gather your strength, and now punch him in the nose! "Jesus!" he shouts as he recoils from the hit, doubles over, and clutches at his face. "Marie!" "Kevin!" You hold up your fist again as a warning. Him whimpering, "Marie!" as he holds his sore noggin. "Asshole!" Storm to the front of the bar, Kevin puppying and whining behind you, "Marie, Please!" Justine sees you marching toward her, Kevin close behind. "Marie? Kevin!" "Justine," you say. "Justine!" Kevin yells it, goes to her side, still holding his face. "Kevin! What happened?" "Marie!" That's all he tells her, his eyes imploring. Justine glares at you, suspicious. Kevin starts stammering and explanation, "She, she pushed open the door on my face." You go, "Pfft." "Oh, my poor Kevin!" she consoles him, pats his back, but still eyes you warily. "Marie?" It's another voice, from behind Justine, you hadn't even noticed him in your agitation. "Nick?" You're surprised. "Oh!" Justine says. "You <i>know</i> him! That explains it." Confused: "Huh?" "Nothing," she says. "You went to the ladies room and this guy started asking me about you. Ha! I thought he was interested in you or something. But it turns out you know him." (Dig!) She turns back to him now. "Nick? Oh, right, Nick! You work with her!" She's overjoyed. "Justine," Kevin pleads, "please, can we get going?" "Sure baby," she pats him and shuffles him along. "Goodnight Marie," she gives a dismissive wave to you. Then, even with one arm around Kevin, she lingers in front of your co-worker, looks him up and down. Simply says, "Nick," before passing along. "Hi Marie," Nick pulls out a couple of chairs, offers one to you. "Nick. What are you doing here?" "Rocco said you'd be here." "Well, you're a little late. Justine's back with her husband. I think." "Justine?" He looks around, sees her leaving, recognition dawns. "Right, her. No, I came to see you, Marie." "You did?" "Yeah. I did." "Mmm," you say. "Interesting." "How so?" "You never came to see me out of work before. Now I've got all this, and here you are, Nick." "Marie. Are you kidding me? I'd asked you out twice before and you shot me down." "What? No, no you didn't..." But then it creeps up on you as he's saying the words. "Yes I did. I'd asked you to come to a game with me, but you said it was too cold. And then I'd asked you to meet me out and you blew that off too." This is when you realize that sometimes what you hear isn't exactly how it really is. "Nick, I have to tell you something. Rocco's car? That wasn't you who scratched it up." "I know." That's what he says. Then he takes a swig of beer. "You know?" "Yeah, I know. I always knew. I knew I didn't hit anything, and I knew I parked driver door out on the street, so no one could've sideswiped me. I know." "It, it was me." "I figured." "Well. Why didn't you say anything? When Rocco was freaking out on you?" "Cause I didn't want him freaking out on you." See this: A decent guy. A guy who took a bullet for you. Look again, see this: A hardworking, decent guy who'd asked you out, even after you shot him down the first time. Even though you'd hoped for something like this, it's different. This is the most surprising night of your life in the last ten years. Get ready to enjoy it. "Nick," you say. "Rocco knew too. We were, we were just screwing around with you." It's his turn to look. He looks at you hard. He takes a swig of his beer. He drinks, swallows, repeats. You don't know if he's going to choke on it or not. He goes, "You were busting my balls. I like that." He smiles. "You do?" "Yeah. Sure. I can take it." As you start smile, he adds, "Payback's a bitch." "Oooh, Nick," you feel the need to warn him. "I can take it. Rocco can't." "Yeah? We'll see." That's what he says, this guy Nick. He says: We'll see. And he grins. "So, let me get this straight." You know you shouldn't. But you're 37. You're allowed to be bold. And, obviously, stupid. "You liked me even before I got all this done." He nods. "What's not to like?" Cut your eyes at him, lean back. Take a look around the room. With just a passing glance, you notice three guys trying to catch your eye. They are your options. But you like the option right in front of you. What you see is a guy you can hang out with. Take a long drink. Roll it around, savor it, drink it in. You ask, half-joking, "You weren't just sucking up, asking me out, trying to use me for my car?" "Well I certainly wasn't trying to get at those Pirate tickets." Push his shoulder, but not too hard. Laugh, sit up straight. Push him further, ask it now. "So, then. What do you think now? About...this. About...these." You gesture to your new body. "I don't dislike it." He shrugs. "You were great before though. But those," he nods to your chest, but then looks you in the eye. "They're like icing on the cake." Excuse yourself. Get up and go to the restroom. Look in the mirror. Be startled, because this is what you see: Wild hair and thick, fake eyelashes. All you need to complete the look is a pole. You root in your purse, grab your brush. Brush out your hair, pull it back in a ponytail. Peel off the false lashes, toss them in the trash. Dampen a paper towel, pull it across your lips. Stand up straight. These are you stats. You're 37. You're wearing size 6 hip-huggers, and size 8, four-inch wedge heels. Mercifully, they aren't transparent. You're not wearing a bra, but if you were, it'd be a 34D. You're single. But he liked you even when you had a longer, bigger nose. Laugh at how ridiculous you are, how stupid you were. The hair is now normal, the lashes are gone, the clothes will be tucked away tomorrow. Turn sideways, take one last look. But you're definitely keeping the tits. Go back out, meet Nick. Roll your eyes as you smooth your hair back one more time. Say, "More like me now." Listen as he says, "Good." "I've been kind of crazy lately. And the whole car thing, with Rocco, I'd like to make it up to you." Watch him as he nods, hear him as he says, "Wonderful." "I'll be more normal now. Less about me. More into you." "Outstanding." "I um, I am gonna keep the tits though." He smirks, clinks his bottle against yours. Just says, "Beautiful." Yes. You always were.