It's your work Christmas party and you have to go. This year they've decided to have it at this bowling alley off of State Street so all your co-workers could bring their kids. You resolve to make the best of it even though you're coming alone. You team up with some of your work friends and you start to toss a greasy ball down the alley. You can smell those burgers frying and it's making you pseudo hungry because you're not really hungry. You purposely ate before you arrived so you wouldn't spend good money on not so good food.
Over at the bar, a group of outcast somebodies are sitting close together nursing a few beers. You pick him out amongst the gang and you feel a pang of longing or jealousy, you can't really tell which it is; maybe both. You toss your neon orange bowling ball into the gutter when it's your turn and casually wander over to the bar. Their beer is pungent and your mouth waters as you imagine how those golden Coronas with lime must taste. The gang greets you and the pretty girl sitting next to him cracks a joke about how you aren't old enough to sit with them and have a beer. Ha ha. You want to kick her stool out from underneath her. He catches your eye and motions for you to go outside with him. Your heart skips a beat and you follow him out the front doors.
You stand in the icy dark under the fluorescent lights of the bowling alley that illuminate you like spotlights on a stage. Cars fly by, their headlights blue against the crumbling road. You shove your hands into your coat pockets, wishing he'd sneak his arm around your waist in a simple affectionate manner. He lights a cigarette and the warm scent of the nicotine hits your freezing nostrils. When he tells you that you look beautiful, you quietly praise yourself for this small victory. You feel the urge to press your lips against his, warm with smoke and tasting like fresh nicotine. You want to wrap your arms around his lean frame while he rests his chin on the top of your head and tells you that he loves you with all his heart. Of course, this doesn't happen. What does happen is he finishes his cigarette and turns to go back inside. You're thinking about all the possible secret conversations the two of you could have had in that icy dark under those flickering fluorescent lights, while all he's thinking about is his unfinished Corona.
As the night progresses and your co-workers begin to herd their cranky, sleepy children into mini vans, he finally picks up a bowling ball. The employees have turned down the loud, overbearing music and the lights have been brightened, though the effect gives the opposite impression. You sit on one of the hard plastic chairs and you watch him throw strike after strike. He can probably see you watching him, but he doesn't say anything. You feel something harden in your throat and you beg yourself not to cry. Not here, not now.
When the scratchy intercom message is heard overhead about how the alley will be closing in five minutes, he simply disregards it and takes another swig from his beer. Later you'll walk out to the empty parking lot together and he'll give you a quick half hug as he climbs into his run-down jeep. You'll get into your freezing car, blast the heater, and drive home near blinded with snow, the color of falling pins.