When I was a young girl, my grandfather gave me a piece of advice I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since. “Kissy,” he said, using the horrid endearment I would only accept from him, “Some days you’re NC State; some days you’re Florida State.” At the time, I’m sure I smiled and nodded, the way I often did when a parent or grandparent said something I knew was profound but I didn’t quite understand, but as the years and the football seasons went on, it took on almost a mythic quality, as if they were his dying words instead of an angry reaction to a football game. I even suggested to my father that the quote be used in his eulogy, which elicited nothing but a blank stare, a preferable reaction to Uncle Jack, who laughed and thanked me for lightening the mood. I wasn’t joking.
Some days you’re Virginia, some days you’re Georgia Tech.
The new bartender’s name was Eddie—not that he deigned to introduce himself to the girl sitting at the bar in the middle of the afternoon with no makeup and her hair in a ponytail. It must’ve been his first shift ever, because he had a small group gathered around him, sucking down free shots of Jäger like leeches draining a cow in the Amazon. If I’m being honest, I wasn’t in the friendliest of moods myself, a few days removed from the funeral, and I’m sure Eddie would have been plenty nice had I taken the time to introduce myself, but I wasn’t in the mood to make friends, just to coast on my regular status and drink until I couldn’t feel my face. Eddie’s look of hesitation when I ordered Buffalo Trace neat instead of one of the cutesy fruity drinks I’m sure a girl was supposed to order in his mind didn’t help my seething hatred. They were out of Buffalo Trace. He offered Jack Daniels instead.
Some days are a half-empty championship game that ends 9-6.
Panama City gets its share of spring breakers, but it doesn’t tend to attract the crowds in the middle of January like Miami or the Keys or even Tampa, so I was wholly unprepared for the group that entered the bar next. Three girls, of varying shades of blonde, in oversized sunglasses and bags carrying a rainbow of designer names, who had very likely woken up, spent three hours getting ready, and then wandered into the first bar that was open. The apparent leader of the group settled them in at the corner of the bar opposite from Eddie’s friends, just close enough to be that I could hear every insipid word out of their mouths. I ordered a double, and a Yuengling for good measure. Eddie rolled his eyes.
Some days you’re Miami, some days you’re Boston College.
My ball of misery was pierced by the Regina George’s high-pitched twang as she ordered her first round. “Hi!” (The exclamation point after every spoken sentence was clearly implied.) “I’m Katie, and this is Tricia and Aimee! We’re on winter break from Baylor!” Like the implied exclamation points, you could clearly hear the italics on the final word of the sentence, as if the word were some kind of invocation that would cause us all to fall in love with her. “Can we get three [something]-tini’s?!” This particular drink was lost on me, and apparently on Eddie as well, because he looked completely lost as he stared at the not-particularly-large selection of alcohol behind the bar. He stuttered uncomfortably before Katie came to his rescue. “Oh, if you don’t have cotton candy vodka then we’ll just take cosmos!” (Of course you will.) “That’s just the drink we always order back at our bar in Waco! Where Baylor is!” That word again, that inflection again. I downed my bourbon in a single, soon-to-be-regretted gulp, and met eyes with Eddie, giving him the best smile I could muster in order to get another drink. He looked at me, and went back to talking to the girls from Baylor(!).
Some days you’re Maryland, some days you’re Virginia Tech.
There’s that moment when you realize your physical ability to ingest liquor works at a much faster pace than your body’s reaction to said liquor. I’m used to a slow, progressive drunkenness, but this one just hit me out of nowhere, like a North Carolina State moment of competence. I sipped at my beer, trying to tune out the memories. The crippling sadness that was supposed to be cured by alcohol was being magnified.
I didn’t even hear the context, just the word. The rest of her sentences dissolved into a much of sounds, but one word kept cutting through, like a jackhammer.
One of the major myths of the movies is that a beer bottle breaks cleanly in your hand. I learned this by watching the blood spill onto the sleeve of my sweatshirt.
Some days you just flat-out lose to fucking Duke.
Unperturbed by my possible cut artery, I launched myself across the bar at Katie, spilling the unnaturally red “drinks” everywhere. I landed the first slap before she even knew what had happened, with a gladiatorial shout of “SAY BAYLOR AGAIN, BITCH!” I grabbed her by the hair and yanked as hard as I could, revealing dark roots where a fistful pulled out of her skull. “SAY BAYLOR AGAIN!”
Some days you’re Florida State; some days you’re NC State.
The details are lost to the bourbon and beer, but suffice it to say this wasn’t Katie’s first skankfight. She was kind enough to call off her friends when they tried to enter the fray, I remember that. In a flash of slaps and squeals, she was standing over me, a fistful of my unwashed hair in her hand.
“You say Baylor!” I struggled. She put her foot into the small of my back and pushed, threatening to pull out my entire ponytail in one swift move. “SAY IT.”
“Baylor,” I whimpered.
Some days you’re Georgia Tech, some days you’re Clemson.