“Dude, where’s the Cheerwine?”
Mike looked around in the grocery bags that he just placed at his feet, as if he could suddenly make the soft drink appear by looking for it harder. He shrugged.
“I dunno, man. I guess I forgot it.”
“I specifically told you to get Cheerwine. Seriously. One freaking job. Get Cheerwine.”
He nodded, nonchalantly.
“I got Coke, Sprite, Lemonade, Coors, PBR, and Stella. What’s the deal?”
I’d already told him the deal. The deal was that he had one job, and that was to get Cheerwine. A six pack of Cheerwine. But he didn’t, and it was a little too late to be thinking about that.
The hordes of enthusiastic fans slowly migrated across the tailgated parking lot, dotted with tents. Stragglers continued to play country music from boom boxes or car speakers and tossed beanbags, playing corn hole. Fifteen minutes until kickoff, and we didn’t have Cheerwine.
“Nothing. Forget about it.”
He turned and saw the rest of the group packing up and collecting their belongings, preparing to leave the tailgating and move toward the stadium entrance.
“You ready to go?”
I turned and scanned the crowd.
“No… Not yet. You guys go ahead.”
“What are you waiting for?”
I didn’t answer.
“You’re not going to have a Cheerwine car show up. We’ll miss the kickoff if you stay out here any longer.”
“There are more important things than the kickoff…” I muttered under my breath. In the south, especially in college football country, that phrase was equivalent to heresy.
He scurried to catch up to the group of inebriated college kids, and melded into the raucous sea of team spirit, team colors, and mob rule.
I watched as the flow of zealous fans slowly flooded through the gates and the parking lot emptied, becoming a desert of empty celebration, like a political rally for a defeated politician. I scanned the remaining stragglers once more, and finally, I saw her.
“Sorry I’m late,” She said, running her hands through her hair and catching her breath.
There was a stunted pause. Neither of us knew what to say next. I almost offered her a drink, and then remembered: No Cheerwine. I stumbled around for words like a fumbled football.
“I don’t even really like football” I blurted out, finally. Definitely heresy. A passing straggler glanced over upon hearing my words.
“Why did you want to go to the game together, then?
“I… I thought it’d be fun. Or something.”
She smiled and eyed the cooler.
“Can I have something to drink?”
We hadn’t made very many plans leading up to the game. We’d decided on a time, a place, and what we’d have to drink. 5:45, West End of the stadium parking space 445, and Cheerwine. Her work had run late, our parking space got moved, and Mike hadn’t brought the Cheerwine.
“Uh. Yeah. Sure.” I opened the cooler with dread.
She looked around, digging through the ice.
“Sorry.” I started, confessing my shortcomings. “I told Mike to get some freaking Cheerwine, but he didn’t, and now we’re here drinking this ditchwater.” I raised my non-Cheerwine beverage.
She sat down, and we heard the stadium roar with the kickoff.
“It’s okay.” She said.
“I don’t even really like Cheerwine.”