There was a gin gimlet sweating on the kitchen table when I came home that evening. A little sprig of mint floated on the ice cubes, just the way I liked it. I walked over and took a sip.

“Perfect,” I said. “Just the way I like it, Diane.”

“I don’t see how you drink that stuff,” she said. “The aftertaste is like getting pine needles stuck in your nose.”

“I like it,” I repeated and had another long sip of the drink. I laid my jacket on the back of a chair and took a seat beside her. She looked up from her calculator and her stack of papers and smiled.

“I’m excited,” she said. I chuckled.

“That’s why I make you fill out the taxes. You’re the only person on the planet who gets excited for numbers.”

“It’s not that,” she explained. “I’m excited about dinner. I’ve wanted to meet Andy for a long time now. All the stories you’ve told me about your time in college…”

“Most of them exaggerated.”

“All the trouble you two got into…”

“Definitely exaggerated.”

“Well, he sounds really funny,” Diane said. “I can’t wait to meet him. And Emily? Emma? What’s his wife’s name?”

“Emma.” I sighed. “But don’t get excited. She’s not very nice.”

“She’s not?”

“Nah, she’s a total fucking bitch.” I snorted and took a long swallow of my cocktail. “She’s the reason I didn’t get invited to the wedding. Said I had a drinking problem. That I’d just ‘embarrass’ Andy. Can you believe that?”

Diane tossed her head. Her dark auburn curls swished from side to side. She fixed me with her pretty brown eyes—the sort of open, honest eyes that could never, ever lie—and she said:

“You don’t have a drinking problem.”

“Don’t I know it,” I said. “But I guess that’s why I’ve been so on edge lately. This will be the first time I’ve seen the two of them in almost a year. I just want things to be okay.”

“It’ll be fine,” Diane said. “I just hope they like me.”

“They’ll love you,” I said. “I love you, they’ll love you, everyone loves you. You’re perfect.”

She flashed her pretty white teeth at me in the most radiant smile I’d ever seen. Diane really was perfect. I mean it. She really was. Absolutely. Fucking perfect. Really. She really was. No shit. Seriously perfect.

There was a fresh gin gimlet on the table, sitting beside my empty glass. A sprig of mint floated lazily atop the ice cubes. Diane winked.

“I know it’s your favorite.”

“It is,” I agreed. “I like it.”

And then I drained the glass.

            I’ll admit, the next few hours passed by without me being there, like, one-hundred percent, cognizant, there. I was nervous, that was the thing. It had been a long time since Andy and I had seen each other. And there was always Emma.

Fucking bitch.

            Lucky for me, Diane was there to do most of the heavy lifting. She fixed me a drink and I sank into the living room’s easy chair, trying to calm my nerves. Diane put the pot roast in the oven, started cleaning the apartment. She didn’t mind. The dinner party was her idea anyway.

It had been an awkward phone call though, the first time Andy and I had spoken since his wedding. Emma had answered the phone.

“Hey,” I had said. “Is Andy there?”

“Oh,” she had replied. And then silence. Unbearable, tense silence.

“I’m… I’m still on the line,” I finally said.

“I know,” Emma had growled, and then, “Andy. Phone for you.”


“Hey. Andy,” I had said, as nonchalantly as I possibly could, which wasn’t much. “How’ve you been?”

He was great. Really, that’s what it all amounted to. He was doing great. Just great. New job, new house, new car. So fucking great.

“And what about you, man?” he had asked. “Are you doing okay?”

“Yeah. Fine. Listen, I was wondering if you wanted to have dinner at my place sometime. You know, catch up, shoot the shit, whatever…”

I left the offer hanging in the air and the whole time I was biting my lip. I felt so stupid, so awkward. The whole conversation was like something you’d hear in a sitcom, but it wasn’t like we didn’t know each other. We were best friends.

“Absolutely! Where are you living at these days?”

I told him. I heard him breathe in, just a little.


“What’s the matter?”

“Nothing, nothing. Just give me a day and a time and we’ll be there.”


“Groovy,” he said. I don’t know why he said that, but he did.

“He said ‘groovy,’” I told Diane that night, after we had settled into bed.


“I don’t know. But they’re coming next Saturday.”

“Well, groovy.”


            There was a knock on the door. Diane grinned.

“They’re here,” she said excitedly. “Help zip me up.”

I zipped her blue dress up to her shoulders, and I helped her with the clasp of her pearl necklace, and when she was dressed, I kissed the side of her neck.

“You look very nice,” I told her and I meant it.

“I love these pearls,” she said. Her voice became soft and dreamy with nostalgia. “That was a really wonderful night.”

“The very best,” I agreed. “We’ll make tonight even better.”

“I love you, Walter.”

“I love you too,” I said. “Now help me with my tie, they’re at the door.”

She draped her arms over my shoulders and tied my tie for me. I can’t tie a tie to save my life. Diane kissed my cheek.

“Very handsome. Now let’s meet them.”

I took a deep breath and fixed a smile on my face. My stomach was in a flux, but holding Diane’s hand made it a little better. She gave my palm a reassuring squeeze.

Andy will be jealous, I realized. For the first time ever he’ll be jealous of me. Now I’m the one with the perfect girlfriend and the perfect home.

            We opened the door and saw Andy and Emma standing in the hallway of our building, flowers and bottle of wine in hand. Andy stepped forward and pulled me into a hug.

“Oh my God, how long has it been?” he asked me.

“Like, a year, or something,” I said. “You grew a beard.”

“Yeah, man. What do you think?”

“It’s nice,” I lied.

“What’s going on with your tie there?” he asked.


“Oh, never mind,” Andy said and he stepped aside to make room for his wife. Emma walked in and we shook hands. Her palms were chilly, sweaty, just like I remembered her. Her face was creased—her mouth, her cheeks, her forehead. Like she had found some way of frowning that twisted her whole head to hell and back.

“Hello, Walter.”

“Hey Emma.”

“We brought a bottle of merlot.”

“I noticed that.”

“So,” Andy cut in, “where is Diane? We’ve been dying to meet her.”

“Are you kidding me? She’s right—Diane?”

“I’m over here,” she said. She was at the kitchen table, arranging the plates. “I had to take the roast out. Hello Andy! Hello Emma!”

I beamed at her. She caught my eye and beamed back.

“That’s Diane,” I said.

Andy and Emma were quiet. Andy scratched his new beard, his eyes darting back and forth. It reminded me so much of the time the campus police caught us getting high behind the parking garage that I had to laugh. I laughed like I was some kind of crazy person.

“Lost for words?” I asked him. And I thought that, finally, I had something so wonderful in my life that stupid, lucky Andy was envious of me.

“It really is nice to meet you two,” Diane added. She offered her hand to shake. But neither of them took it. She looked to me, her brown eyes full of worry, and I frowned.

“Andy,” I said quietly. “Aren’t you going to shake Diane’s hand?”

“Walter, man…”

“I’m clean. I bathe. I promise,” Diane said jokingly, but she was obviously hurt. The tips of her fingers began to tremble. I took her other hand in mine and stared daggers at our guests, until finally, fucking finally, Andy gave Diane’s hand a little shake.

Emma tapped her foot on the floor, tap tap tap on the kitchen tiles. She didn’t shake Diane’s hand.

“It’s very nice to meet you, Emma,” said Diane pointedly. Emma didn’t reply.

“Okay,” I said. “Who wants a tour of the old homestead?”

“Um, yeah. Sure,” said Andy.

“Andy,” Emma snapped. “What’s going on here?”

“Let me talk to him, Em.”

Emma threw up her hands and slumped into one of the chairs at my kitchen table. She uncorked the wine with a loud pop and poured herself a glass.

“That’s a good idea, I’ll make us all a drink and everyone will just calm down,” said Diane. “Walter, show Andy around, why don’t you?”

“Will do, sweetheart,” I said and I nabbed a glass of wine for myself.

I ushered Andy into the living room. He cleared his throat. Now that he was out from under Emma’s icy gaze I expected him to apologize for her rudeness. He did not—but he did the next best thing.

“Walter, you do realize that Diane is a doll, right?”

“I know,” I said proudly. “She’s the sweetest, kindest woman I’ve ever met. And gorgeous! Don’t you think so?”

“Walter. Diane is a doll.”

“Yes, she is. She’s as sweet as can be. Honestly, Andy, and I hope you don’t take this the wrong way or anything, I really don’t, but Emma is kind of being a mega-bitch to Diane, and if you could maybe say something…?”

“Jesus Christ, Walter, come on. If this is a joke, then it stopped being funny right there.”

I gritted my teeth. This was just like Andy: to joke around and make fun of me and say all sorts of shitty things, until I called him out on it, and then he got offended. I wondered how we had ever become friends to begin with.

“Andy! Get in here, now!”

Andy rushed into the kitchen. Emma was standing in her chair, literally standing, with a glass of wine in her hand and a scowl on her face. Diane sat across from her, arms crossed.

“She’s going to tell a lie, Walter,” Diane warned me.

“Andy, a cockroach just crawled across my foot. This place is full of fucking roaches,” shrilled Emma. Andy sighed.

“Walter, man, come on. I wasn’t going to say anything, but Jesus, this place is a fucking wreck.”

That was news to me. Diane had spent the whole evening cleaning the place up. It was a new apartment too: fresh wallpaper, new tiles and hardwood floors, the works. Very posh.

“I, I cleaned the kitchen, I swear,” Diane said. “She’s lying, there aren’t any cockroaches.”

“I’m not staying here, Andy. Let’s go. Now.”


“I know we got off on the wrong foot tonight, but let’s start over,” I said. “Plus, you haven’t lived until you’ve had Diane’s pot roast.”

Diane nodded happily and took the covering off the crockpot. Emma gasped, with disgust, if you could believe it. I squeezed my glass so hard I thought it would crack.

“Is that… are those turkey sandwiches?”

“They are not!” Diane yelled. She was about to lose her temper, I could tell. When she’s angry, her hair gets a little frizzy and wild, because she tosses her head.

“Diane,” I said evenly.

“Walter, I spent all day working my ass off to impress your friends, and—”

“I know,” I said. “And we won’t let it go to waste, I promise. It smells great.”

I took my seat and spooned a big portion of pot roast onto my plate. Diane offered me a fresh gimlet. I said a silent prayer, thanking whatever gods may be for that woman.

“What’s going on here? Seriously, Walter, this is insane,” Andy said. His beard looked patchy. He was yanking little clumps of hair from it. “Please tell me that this is all a joke.”

“Are you okay? You seem… stressed. Why don’t you two just sit down, and—”

“What the fuck is wrong with you?” Emma screeched. “You bring us into your filthy, roach motel of a home, and offer us fucking turkey sandwiches for dinner, and, and, you talk to a store mannequin like she’s your wife!”

“I’m not a mannequin,” groused Diane. “Walter, she’s been calling me a mannequin all night. As soon as you took Andy out of the room, she starts guzzling wine and calling me a mannequin.”

“Emma, Diane is not a mannequin,” I said. “She’s my girlfriend and I love her. She loves me. We’re… we’re thinking about getting married.”

“Oh God,” groaned Emma. “You fucking headcase.”

“I was hoping you guys might support us,” I said, angrily, sadly. “I thought Andy and I were still friends.”

“Yeah, but Walter, jeez.” Andy shook his head. “I love you, but why did you invite us over to show us your RealGirl? Couldn’t you have kept that shit private?”

“I am a real girl, thank you.”

“Why would I keep my relationship private?”

“You’re in a relationship with a store mannequin,” Emma said.

“I am not a mannequin!”

“She’s not a mannequin!”

“No, she isn’t a mannequin,” said Andy. “That’s the sad thing. She’s a RealGirl doll. Those things cost like, ten-thousand dollars. They’re all custom-made and ordered online. They’re insanely expensive. Walter, why would you spend all your money on a sex doll?”

“She isn’t a sex doll.”

“No, I’m not. I’m a tax consultant.”

“That’s a sex doll, Walter,” Andy said. “I don’t understand any of this. If you were having problems, you could have called me. You could have went to a therapist. You didn’t have to blow a small fortune on a custom-made, imported sex toy.”

“Andy,” Emma said coldly. “How do you know so much about sex dolls?”

“Oh, God, here we go again. Emma, I—”

“Have you been watching Internet pornography again?”

“Jesus, Emma! We’re not having this discussion now. Not here.”

“Oh, why not here?” she snapped. “You’ve already gotten caught at my parents’ house, in the bathroom, thumbing your—”

“God damn it, Emma!”

Diane raised her eyebrow at me. I shrugged.

“Your friends are embarrassing themselves, Walter.”

“I know,” I replied. I swirled the pot roast around on my plate. It was good food, excellent food—but I wasn’t very hungry anymore. I drained my cocktail, and my glass of wine, and raised my voice over the shouting couple at my table.

“It’s been wonderful having you, Andy, Emma,” I said. “But I think you two should go.”

“Goodbye Walter,” said Emma. “Goodbye, ‘Diane.’”

She added air-quotes when she said my girlfriend’s name. I’m not sure why. Diane was right there in front of her. Then Emma pushed away from the table and started to the door. Halfway across the kitchen, she stomped her foot petulantly.

“Fucking cockroaches! Ugh!”

She slammed the door on her way out. I can’t say I was sorry to see her go.

Andy laced his fingers together and cradled his head in his hands. He was quiet for a very long time. I wanted to feel sorry for him, I really did. We had been such good friends in the past. But then I thought of Diane and the awful things he had said about her, and I realized that I didn’t need to be his friend. I didn’t want to be his friend. I had all the friendship and love I needed, and all of it from one very special woman.

“It was good seeing you, man,” I said awkwardly.

“I know a good therapist. Me and Emma saw him a few times. I think he can help you.”

“Diane and I are very happy together. If you don’t understand that, maybe we shouldn’t be friends anymore.”

“Yeah,” Andy sighed. “Yeah. Take care, Walter.”

“Bye, Andy.”

“Goodbye, Andy.”

I missed him then, in that moment, and I felt a little twinge of regret and sadness. But then Diane took my hand in hers and it all felt better. She was worth it. She was worth everything.

“I can’t believe they thought I was some kind of mannequin,” she said. I stroked the back of her hand, felt her warm, silky smooth skin, and I looked into those sweet brown eyes, and watched her full pink lips tremble with sadness. How could anyone not see she was real?

“You’re the most wonderful, amazing woman I’ve ever met,” I told her. “I mean it, Diane. You’re obviously not a mannequin. There’s nothing wrong with you.”

“Thanks,” she said, and she perked up then. “They were crazy. Thinking our home was full of cockroaches. I’ve never seen a cockroach in the whole apartment complex!”

“And the food was great, really,” I said. “I don’t know why they acted the way they did. Maybe it’s just jealousy. That what we have is special and what they have is, well…”

“Whatever they have, it apparently involves a lot of Internet porn.”

“Ha, yeah. Poor, poor Andy.”

I finished my drink and started clearing the table. We like to keep a clean apartment, after all. Diane put the roast in the fridge, then poured me a nightcap.

“I know he was your friend though,” she said. “I’m sorry things went so poorly.”

“Don’t be,” I replied. “I told you, I think it was them that was the problem.”

“You think so?”

“I do,” I said. “And besides, this was only our first time hosting a dinner party. We’ll do better next time.”

“Yeah.” Diane brightened. “I can’t wait to meet your parents.”