by Michael Giddings

My bland bearded boyfriend takes me out to that new microbrewery that only serves IPAs.

If there’s one thing my boyfriend loves it’s IPAs.

Also videogames.

And the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

And taking selfies with me and posting them online.

He’s a bastion of good taste, this bland bearded boyfriend.

The new microbrewery that only serves IPAs is airy, and built with glass garage doors on the front so that sunny days can filter in as a person gets tight on Star Pepper Imperial Porter Gold IPAs or The Whale Is A Metaphor White IPAs or whatever other pretentiousness they have on tap that week.

“Are you happy?” asks bland bearded boyfriend.

I sip my Blueberry Batter Double IPA with real blueberries at the bottom of the glass. It’s strong so I have to go slow.

“I’m serious,” he says, sensing I’m not going to answer.

I ask him why he asks.

“You’re so quiet.”

We met on a dating website and have been together for a little over a month.

His profile included the following quote: very much in favor of conversation.

I liked that notion in concept.

I like it less in practice.

The conversation he is very much in favor of tends to center around IPAs.

As in the brewing of IPAs, the flavors found in specific IPAs, what constitutes an IPA, and the variety within the pale ale extended family.

Eventually, IPAs make my boyfriend sensitive and he starts asking about my feelings.

Bland bearded boyfriend is not a Brooklyn local. He moved here after graduating from Bard. I still don’t know what he studied at Bard, though he’s definitely told me several times.

I have lived in Brooklyn my whole life, so I know that this IPA thing is not a cornerstone of our culture. Brooklyn, in my mind, is bodegas and ice cream trucks. Brooklyn, to me, is not a bevy of craft breweries, but Brooklyn has changed and is changing still, so maybe I’m wrong.

The server comes by to ask if we want another round.

Bland bearded boyfriend and I are barely through half a glass.

The server catches my look.

“I’m legally required to ask,” she says and starts to walk away.

“Wait,” says bland bearded boyfriend. “I’ll have another.”

He takes down his IPA in three beats of a rabbit’s anxious heart.

“Seriously, though,” he watches the server cross back to the bar. “What’s wrong?”

I’m a horrible person when I really think about it. How am I able to sit across a cedar table from this man while thinking constantly about all the places I’d rather be? Bland bearded boyfriend is nice, he jogs, he reads a book a month, and he likes craft beer. Who could find fault in that?

And then I look at me.

I could find fault in that.

I barely even know his name.

Obviously, I know his name.

But I never think of him by his name, just bland bearded boyfriend.

So bland. So bearded.

The server puts down his fresh IPA and his eyes light up. She brings one for me even though I didn’t order it.

“I’ve been really looking forward to trying this one,” he says.

“It’s really good,” says the server. She has nice hair. “I love it,” she says.

I love her hair.

“Did you ever try,” bland bearded boyfriend asks her about a certain type of honeyed IPA from Wisconsin.

“No, but I want to,” she says. “Did you ever try,” she mentions a line of Edgar Allan Poe themed IPAs from Baltimore. One of them is whiskey flavored, she explains, because Edgar Allan Poe loved whiskey.

“Come to bed with me,” I say to the server, except I don’t actually say that.

The server and bland bearded boyfriend keep asking questions starting with “did you ever try?” and ending with an IPA.

I excuse myself to step into the inky lake in my head.

My body remains intact, sipping periodically.

I dogpaddle through stagnant yellow beer. The alcohol stings my nose. Clambering wet onto an island, I see blueberry bushes all around. Blueberries for Sophia: one in my bucket, three in my mouth. The blueberries are bland, but I’m thirsty so I keep eating. The sky in my brain is as black as the server’s top. I think about pulling that top over her head, the moony whiteness of her skin underneath.          

 One blueberry in my bucket, three in my mouth.

“God, Sophia, what is with you?” this is the hardest tone I’ve ever heard from bland bearded boyfriend. The server is gone. Bland bearded boyfriend is frowning, his arms crossed, his glass nearly empty. “You’re just sitting there. What’s up?”

But how am I going to answer that question? I look at my glass and see that it’s nearly empty, too.

I lie. Nothing is wrong.

But this time he won’t accept it.

“Do you know how to have fun?” asks bland bearded boyfriend.

It occurs to me that maybe I don’t and I start to return to the depths of my mind to try and remember when I enjoyed myself last, but he won’t let me go.

“You’re not into this, are you?”

I’m not sure what this is. I say so.

“Well, it would be helpful to know what you do enjoy. You could make it easier by telling me.”

The server is pretending not to be watching from behind the bar.

I wish I could do as he asks, just spit out a list of the things I love into the blueberry muck in the bottom of my glass, but already I’m dogpaddling back through the sulky lake, hand reaching out, groping for my stinking brain.

Michael Giddings is a writer, cartoonist, and musician from Brooklyn. He studied creative writing at Sarah Lawrence College and Northern Michigan University, and was a member of Grubstreet’s Novel Incubator Program. He is querying for his first novel while drafting a new book. Michael is a reader for the literary magazines The Masters Review and Fatal Flaw. He currently teaches the toddlers of New York about literacy and cartooning. Regrettably, he can sometimes be found on Twitter: @mikexgiddings.


Photography by: Thomas Thompson