“Well, that fucking sucked,” I muttered.

I was supposed to be eating at a nice restaurant downtown, sitting across from my girlfriend of two years, both of us dressed to impress. We were supposed to be enjoying amazing but overpriced food, staring dreamily into each other’s eyes and engaging in witty conversation. We were also supposed to be looking forward to an evening of getting out of those nice clothes and into each other because my roommate, Frank, was out. Except that’s not what happened.

Instead I was walking home across campus, dressed in my nice suit, the only suit I had that lived in my closet three-hundred sixty-two days a year, getting the hem of my pants wet. My pants were wet because this is the Pacific Northwest and you don’t see sunlight for about three months straight in the winter so instead of enjoying good food and better eye candy I was enjoying forty-degree February air and a sky that was threatening a light drizzle. Instead of looking forward to an evening of debauchery with my long-term girlfriend, I now had no girlfriend and still had to make good on my deal with Frank to do all the vacuuming for a month. Who the fuck vacuums a dorm room? Frank. Now me.

Then I heard the wolf whistle.

“Looking good, Chucklebutt!”

I sighed and stopped. I recognized the voice, and besides only one person called me that. Monica Lott. Monica was a friend, but she was also really good at getting under my skin and the nickname was definitely part of that. I took a deep breath, then two, then three and prepared to be as polite as possible. Then I turned. “Hi, Monica.”

She was standing under a copse of trees on the quad with about four other people, giving me a lopsided grin and a thumbs up. I gave her a wave back and something that might have been a smile if you squinted at it through the fog. Then I spun back around and continued my walk of shame towards my ancient dorm building with its creaky walls, finicky radiators, and a room that did not contain a hot naked girlfriend.

I heard voices behind me, Monica saying something to her friends, then one of them shouting “bye, Mona.” A few seconds after that there was the slap of jogging footsteps behind me.

“Hey, wait up!”

Then Monica came up beside me, slowing her pace until she was walking almost shoulder to shoulder with me. “Hey, Steve.”


“What’s up?”

“Just going home.”

“What’s with the suit, then?”

I sighed, again. Holy crap when did I turn all emo. “I have… had a date.”

“Oh yeah,” she responded, “the anniversary thing with Emily. How’d that go?”

I kicked a rock. What am I, ten? “It didn’t, actually. And now we don’t.”

She looked at me with a confused expression. “You don’t what?” Then it clicked. “Oh. Shit, I’m sorry. On Valentine’s Day?”


“And did she text you, or… noooo did she do it when you got to her door?” Monica asked, looking both horrified and entertained.


“And isn’t this your anniversary?”

Frustration and anger started to boil in my gut. It wasn’t Monica’s fault, but shit learn some tact. “Yes, it’s our fucking anniversary.”

She held up her hands in surrender. “Sorry, just… getting all the facts. Who breaks up with you on Valentine’s Day?”

Emily, apparently. And on your anniversary. I didn’t respond, just walked in silence for a little bit while Monica fidgeted beside me. Then I started to feel bad about it. What a great day.

“You want to talk about it?” she finally asked.

“Not really.”

“Then how about we do something else?” she asked.

I glanced over at her, smiling at me from between the ridiculous wool hat and poofy orange parka she’d been wearing ever since the weather had turned slightly nippy in October. Californians. “Like what?”

She shrugged. “Something, I don’t know, not a Valentine’s thing. Not an anti-Valentine’s thing either it’s not like I’m getting all down on Valentine’s Day or anything, just a thing. A Not-Valentine’s Day thing. Go hang out. You’re all dressed up with nowhere to go, I’ve just got nowhere to go, and it’s Friday.”

I stared at her. She smiled at me.

The idea was beginning to grow on me. “Where?”

She shrugged again. “Uh… my floor’s got a communal kitchen and I’ve got chicken tenders?”

Fuck it, why not. “Sure.”

===== Not-Valentine’s Day, 2014 =====

Monica and I met back in September in Speech and Communication 110, and after getting stuck in a group together that first week we both realized we’d found a beach of sanity in a sea of freshmen. Seriously, the class was twenty-nine freshmen and us two sophomores and the difference in emotional age was jarring. We’d convinced the teacher to keep us together after that, and had started hanging outside of class too. Friend stuff, not dating stuff; I was in a relationship and she wasn’t really my type. She could keep up with me in a conversation, she was fun to be with, but she was confrontational, liked to tease me for little things, and didn’t know when to quit. Monica was good in short doses, but there was only so much of her I could take at a time.

Now I was spending Valentine’s Day with her, though, in the remarkably clean communal kitchen of Fenton third floor, dressed in my suit while she puttered around in sweats, about to enjoy a fancy dinner of chicken tenders, ginger ale, and garlic bread I picked up at the campus store.

“Out of the way, Chucklebutt,” she said, jabbing me with her toe, “I need in.”

I scooted out of the way of the oven and she pulled it open, shoving the foil-wrapped garlic bread in alongside the already baking chicken.

“Would you stop calling me that?” I asked.


“Why not?”

She grinned at me. “Because it annoys you.”

See what I mean? It had been the third week of class, our cringiest classmate had told a bad joke, and I’d done that thing you do where you can’t decide which thing to say so you just say them both. Or at least I do that, I can’t speak for anyone else. Anyway, instead of laughing out loud, or laughing my ass off, I sarcastically informed our group that I was “laughing out my ass.” Monica started actually laughing so hard she nearly fell out of her chair, and from then on, when she wanted to get under my skin, I was “Chucklebutt.”

This time, though, I had ammunition of my own.

“Soooo…” I began, dragging it out, “did I hear someone call you Mona?”

Monica, in the middle of adjusting the timer, froze for a second. “Yes?” she answered cautiously.

“So people call you Mona. Your nickname is Mona.”

She sighed.

“So your name is Mona Lott.”

“No, my ‘nickname’ is Mona Lott.”

“So did you earn that nickname, or…”

She jabbed me with her toe again, a lot less nicely. “Debra started calling me Mona about three days after meeting me, I thought she was just shortening things, and it was a few months before I realized she was messing with me but by then it had stuck and I was Mona to all my friends. Debra’s kind of a bitch sometimes.”

“Isn’t she your best friend?”

“She can be an amazing person and still a bitch.”

“The two of you have a lot in common, then.”

She gave me an insincere smile. “So I’m amazing? Thanks! And hey, if you don’t like Chucklebutt I can always call you your real name, Mr. Stephen Glascock.”

It was my turn to sigh. Yeah that wasn’t better.

Monica opened her mouth to speak and I could hear the “did you earn that one?” getting ready to roll off her tongue. It didn’t, though; instead she shut her mouth, stared at me for a second, then passed me a ginger ale from the counter before stepping away.

“Come on,” she said, “have a seat. The bread will be about ten minutes. You can tell me all about it.”

“I said I don’t want to tell you all about it.”

She pulled out two chairs and motioned me into one. “My therapist says it’s good for you, and by therapist I mean dad, so too bad, you have to. At least until the bread is done and we can eat, then you can stuff your mouth and pretend your mama taught you not to talk with your mouth full.”

“She did.”

“It hasn’t stopped you before.”

I thought about making a rude gesture but decided it was too much effort. I pulled up a chair instead and collapsed into it. “So, what?”

“Start at the beginning. Or wherever, doesn’t matter.” She popped the tab on her drink. “What the hell happened?”

I leaned back in the chair and it failed to creak ominously. The communal furniture in Fenton was way better. “Emily and I got together on Valentine’s Day, senior year. We’d been sort of hanging out, sort of dating, but that’s the day we decided it was actually a date and we were going steady.”

Monica snorted at “going steady” but didn’t say anything.

“Everyone said high school relationships never worked out, or that everything would change once we got to college, but just like I’m pretty sure everyone else before us we figured we’d be the exception. We were going to the same college, after all, it wasn’t like it was going to be a long distance relationship. It went pretty well, I guess, we saw each other a lot but we were pretty busy too. It was her idea to make Valentine’s Day a thing, it was our anniversary so why not do something big, like have a big date where we got dressed up and went somewhere fancy. We had a lot of fun last year.”

“Then this year I showed up at her door and she wasn’t even dressed, and she said she’s been thinking about it a lot, that she didn’t know what to wear, and she’d been fretting about it all week and then this afternoon she realized it wasn’t about what to wear, it was about not wanting to go.”

“So, what, stressing out over the date made her realize she didn’t want to date you anymore?”

“Pretty much.”

“What did you say?”

“Oh, okay.”

“That’s pretty dumb.”

You’re pretty dumb. Real mature, Steve. I pushed my ginger ale can around the table. “Yeah, well, I wasn’t at my best. I was still trying to figure out what she was saying. She said a few other things after that, about how she’s been feeling tied down like she couldn’t do anything, because she always had to think about me, and that wasn’t my fault but you know what I don’t want to talk about this anymore. Do you have anything else to drink?”

“Canada Dry isn’t good enough for you?” she asked, taking a dramatic swig from her drink.

“My mom always gave me ginger ale when I was sick, so it makes me think of barfing.”

Monica stared at me, then stared at her can. Then she pushed it away. “Thanks for that.”

“No problem.”

“So, were there warning signs, or something?” Monica asked. Which annoyed me, because I’d just said I didn’t want to talk about it. Then I answered her anyway.

“I guess so. I mean things changed a lot when we got to college. At first it was awesome, we saw each other a lot more than we could at home and sure we had roommates but they were out a lot sooo…” I let that one trail off. I wasn’t going into details. “We could go out whenever we wanted, too, which was great. Weekday? Weekend? Middle of the day? Didn’t matter. It was great. Then the novelty wore off I guess. Then I’d call and she’d say sure, but I have homework to do so you can come over but you’ll have to do your own thing. I can’t honestly remember the last real date we went on, I was looking forward to this because… I don’t know. Shit.”

Shit we had spring break plans. I’d need to see if I could get those tickets refunded. That wasn’t really all of it, either. I’d planned that trip, it had been Emily’s idea but I’d done all the work and I was beginning to realize that I’d been doing most of the work since we got back from summer and more of that time had been me trying to arrange things and her saying she was too busy. For months. I was having an epiphany and I didn’t like it.

“So, it doesn’t sound like it was going too well,” Monica said, voicing my thoughts.

“I guess not,” I snapped, a little too harshly; I wasn’t snapping at her, really, but she was downrange. I winced and pulled in my tone. “And I’m just starting to figure out how much.”

“So why’d you stick around if it wasn’t any fun?”

“Because I didn’t think about it, I don’t know,” I said, waving my hand in the air. The oven beeped, saved by the bell I figured but with a glance I saw the timer was just counting down from one minute, now.

“Sex must’ve been pretty good,” she said, a comment I was not in a million years expecting which is probably why I just blurted out the first thing that came to mind.

“When it happened, I guess, sure.” I’m not one to kiss and tell, I can count the number of people I’ve talked about my sex life with on one finger and she and I aren’t dating anymore, which is why this conversation was suddenly sailing into uncharted waters.

“You guess?”

“I don’t exactly have anything to compare it to.”


“And it didn’t happen a lot and it, well,”


“Didn’t tend to last long.”

Monica snorted but held her tongue again, which must have been a Herculean feat for her given the ammunition I’d just handed over. My social filter was starting to catch up with my mouth but I found I didn’t really care what I’d said, the relationship had been bugging me for months I just hadn’t realized it and no matter how embarrassing it just felt good to tell someone about it. Mona, strangely, felt like a safe someone. Or I didn’t care.

The oven beeped three times, though, insisting someone come check the food, and my unexpected burst of self-admission ended with the tone. Well, the tone and the sudden appearance of a couple of disheveled looking dorm dwellers.

“Is that food?” one of the girls asked.

“You can’t have any,” Monica responded.

The two girls grumbled and moved over to the fridge while Monica pulled our dinner from the oven with a towel. Then she grabbed the chicken off the pan with bare hands, hissing with each one but still going back for more, barely grabbing each piece before tossing it onto a plate. The garlic bread she just broke in half, then in quarters, because no one trusts college students with sharp objects.

The girls had finished staring at other people’s moldy takeout in the near empty fridge and turned their attention back to us, this time skipping over the grumpy brunette with the food and alighting on the spruced up depressant in a suit. The blonde one smiled at me hopefully.

“Fuck. Off.” Monica said, very clearly enunciating each word.

They smiled at me, then glared at her, then did as Monica suggested. They broke into rude muttering before leaving eyeshot and long before leaving earshot; I distinctly heard the word “bitch.”

Then Monica tapped me with her foot and I glanced up. She motioned with one paper plate and I cleared the space in front of me so she could set it down.

“I wouldn’t have anything to compare it to, either,” Monica said out of the blue, not looking at me.


“You said you didn’t have anything to compare it to. Your, Emily’s and your, um” she made thrusting motions with her hips.

I laughed. “You won’t say it but you’ll do that instead?”

She broke eye contact even further. “Shut up I’m trying to be nice.”


“You share, I share,” she responded, looking embarrassed. Then she took a bite of her too-hot chicken and pretended to be looking elsewhere.

“So you haven’t?”

“No,” she said, then swallowed. “Not that there’s anything wrong with it, I mean I want to I just haven’t dated the right guy, or really any guy actually. Never quite worked out. I’ve kind of got a lot of social anxiety, believe it or not, I get flustered and don’t know what to do and it’s a little like kindergartners hitting each other at recess because they don’t know how to say I like you. I tend to put people off.”

“Really?” I responded, sarcastically.

“Oh my god, fuck off and die!” she wailed, rolling her eyes and head up to the ceiling. I laughed, the first good feeling I’d had since about three seconds after I knocked on Emily’s door, and a grin pulled at my cheeks as I felt a kick under the table. I don’t know why getting kicked made me happy.

“Asshole,” she said, but the tone was affectionate, “I’m baring my soul here.”

“Can dish it out but you can’t take it, huh?”

“Maybe I’m just not used to people lasting this long.” She paused. “Not that you do, I mean, although I admire your bravery; not every guy would admit to being a two-pump chump.” She glanced over at me, and I couldn’t figure out if she was daring me to respond or horrified at what she’d said. Maybe both.

Either way it hurt, it did, and if she’d fired it off two minutes ago I might have snapped back but I was feeling pretty good now, for some reason. That laugh had done a lot. And I was thinking about what she said, about being awkward; so I took the hit instead.

“Yeah, well, when it only happens every month or two you get pretty worked up. Besides, my average was more like six pumps thank you very much.”

She snorted. I laughed. She laughed. We grinned at each other. I guess I said the right thing.

“I guess you lived up to your name, then, huh?”

Confusion. “Chucklebutt?”


I stared. She grinned at me and kicked me under the table again, gently. Well shit, now the ball’s in my court, except I didn’t have anything. Not a single witty retort. I’d probably have a bunch in about five minutes, of course, but five minutes was way too late and it’s not like-

“Stop, you’ll strain yourself.”


She leaned forward, putting her elbows on the table and winking at me. “How about I do it for you? When I finally do have something to compare it to, you hope you’re nowhere around so you don’t hear me moan a lot. Pretty good?” She stared at me with a triumphant grin.

“That was awful,” I retorted, although I was more upset she beat me to it.

“So do better. I’m waiting.”

===== Not-Valentine’s Day, 2015 =====

“Heyyyyy!” Mona called from the front hall of my tiny apartment, “what’s up, Chucklebutt, Party’s here!”

“Will you PLEASE stop calling me that?” I shouted from the kitchen.

“Sure, about three days after it stops bothering you,” she called back, lowering her volume as she came into the kitchen. She bumped me with her hip as she went past. “Hey, Steve.”

“Hey, Mona,” I said back as she set her box on the counter. I glanced over and did a double take.



“You’re wearing a dress.” I’d never seen Mona in a dress, or a skirt for that matter; she was pretty much jeans and t-shirt, or sweats, all the time. It was a light green casual dress, and while it wasn’t tight it did hug her curves and Mona had a lot of curves to hug. It also lacked sleeves, and for some reason Mona’s shoulders had me tongue-tied.

“You like it?” she asked, stepping back and doing a little twirl. “I figured you fancied up last year, I might as well this time.”

“It’s okay,” I lied.

“Okay? Hmmph,” she responded, eyeing my jeans and ratty sweatshirt. “Better than you. Something on my dress?”

I snapped my eyes back up to hers, actually to a spot about a foot to the right of her eyes; it’s kind of hard to make eye contact right after you’ve been caught ogling your best friend. “I’ve still got the suit. I could put it on.”

“I know. You’ve told me. Fifty years from now you’re going to be buried in that cheap piece of shit.”

“So I shouldn’t put it on?”

“No, fuck you, go get it,” she gave me a few gentle shoves towards my bedroom. “I put on fucking pantyhose, the least you can do is put on a cheap suit.”

The first Not-Valentine’s Day we’d stayed up until after midnight, in fact until the RA came out and told us to shut up and fuck off. We’d gone into the evening barely knowing each other, and come out friends. At first we just texted and met for a bite occasionally, but that turned into regular things too: weekly TV nights, improv shows, and for one semester we took Curling together (it’s amazing, don’t knock it until you’ve tried it). Now, a year later, I’d call her my best friend.