I Missed Again

It is 8pm on a Friday night, and as usual, Salvatore's Pizzeria is packed with patrons. There is always a lot of commotion at this time, as customers try to squeeze past each other to get their orders in and employees try to collect payment as they hand out food. Random combinations of pizza toppings are shouted out and the bell of the cash register constantly sounds off with each completed transaction. Even though it is Valentine's Day, in New York City on a Friday night, everyone wants to eat pizza.

Chandler Bing is pressed up against the counter as he waits for his order. He checks his watch, realizing that he is already a half-hour late. He briefly contemplates using the pay phone outside the restaurant, just to call ahead and let Monica know where he is. He knows how she can get when people are late and don't call; but he is afraid that if he gives up his spot at the counter now, he will never get back inside the store.

Monica was already in a terrible mood this morning. She was particularly upset about another Valentine's Day going by with no boyfriend. Chandler joined her in complaining, noting he also did not have a date and would be all alone tonight. That was when he had his brilliant idea. He suggested they have an "Anti-Valentine's Day". They would avoid being around happy, loving couples that would no doubt fill the city's bar scene. They could stay home, eat pizza, have a few beers, watch a movie and wallow in self-pity together. Monica approved of this plan almost immediately, sharing his nihilistic view of this particular holiday. Chandler offered to pick up their supplies and they agreed to meet at her apartment at 7:30pm. Monica's place made more sense since Kip was still moving in and had boxes all over Chandler's living room.

Under normal circumstances, if you told Chandler Bing that he was going to spend Valentine's Day with a beautiful woman, he would have laughed. He would say that there is no way an attractive, single woman would want to spend her Valentine's Day with him. He was Chandler Bing after all, the man with the world's worst luck when it came to women. Oddly enough, right now, if he were any other man and Monica were any other woman, he would realize that is exactly what he is planning on doing tonight.

Of course, he doesn't think of Monica as a beautiful woman. Sure, he finds her attractive, but this is Monica. His best friend's little sister. The chubby girl who would visit her brother at his school. His buddy across the hall who joins him for a beer at the bar while they shoot a game of pool. The neurotic, everything has to be perfect and clean, sometimes pain in the ass girl who was also his favorite neighbor. Most of all, Chandler doesn't think of Monica as a beautiful woman he is spending Valentine's Day with, because she is his friend, and he just doesn't think of her like that. It wouldn't feel right.

Yet, here he is; Valentine's Day, Friday night, picking up a pizza, a six pack of beer, a Blockbuster rental of "Silence of the Lambs", and meeting a beautiful woman at her apartment. If this were any other woman, Chandler would certainly consider this a date. It checks off all the boxes. If Monica was just some woman who lived in his building, he might be working out all the details of what could transpire tonight. They could share some comfort food, get drunk enough to lower their inhibitions, and just see what happens.

Maybe, if she were another woman, they would find themselves sitting on the couch towards the end of the night, huddled up closely in a darkened room, just the flickering of the TV lighting their faces. Monica might want to squeeze him close during the more intense scenes, and they would look at each other, feeling how well their bodies fit together, becoming intoxicated with each other's scent, succumbing to the romantic nature of the setting and start on a lifelong journey that leads to sex, love, commitment, and happiness.

But she isn't any other woman, and Chandler isn't any other man. If he allowed himself to think about what tonight could be if they were two totally different people, he would probably melt into a pool of guilt and embarrassment. No, this is Monica and Chandler. Two friends just lifting each other up and keeping each other company so that depression doesn't set in. Monica and Chandler do not have romantic feelings for each other. They make jokes, they playfully bicker, they share secrets with each other. They trust each other.

He waits for his pizza and his mind does not play through all of the possible outcomes when two lonely, attractive people, who enjoy each other's company and are incredibly comfortable around each other, get a little drunk and spend the night together. He doesn't think about how, maybe, if they were two different people at this point in time, that they may just end up happily ever after. He doesn't think these things because it's Monica. Ross' little sister. She isn't a beautiful woman, she is that bossy, know-it-all friend of his. When he thinks of Monica he thinks about borrowing milk or bread, sharing a cab, loaning money. He doesn't think about getting a little drunk and fooling around.

The man behind the counter finally calls Chandler's name and hands him the warm, cardboard box that contains his pizza. He pays and contorts himself out of the crowded restaurant lobby and into the street. He walks the two and a half blocks to his apartment building and breathes a sigh of relief that he is finally home.

As he makes his way up the stairs, a small smile absentmindedly spreads across his lips. A warm, welcoming feeling washes over him as he subconsciously realizes how happy he is to finally see his friend. He does not let himself outwardly experience how good it feels knowing that he will soon be with Monica. How her smile lightens the weight that he carries around with him. How she nudges him and touches him in just the right way to make him feel like he is home. How just being around her makes his life better. He buries all of that deep down into the depths of his soul, because this is Monica.

Even though Chandler does not allow himself to think about all the things that could happen tonight if he were another man, and Monica was another woman; he can't fight fate, all those things that he doesn't think about will happen. If he goes inside her apartment tonight, they will share a meal, and they will support each other emotionally like no one else could. Once he steps inside that door, he will be charming and sweet, like he can only be when he and Monica are alone. They will watch a movie and they will get a little drunk. After the movie ends, She won't want him to leave, she will hear noises coming from all over the apartment that causes her to jump. He will stay and they will allow their bodies to get close and the moment will overcome them and they will kiss. Then, they will make love, and they will discover everything that they can be once they are together. If he goes into her apartment right now, it will happen. Even if he doesn't know it yet.

Chandler works to balance the pizza, beer and the bag of VHS tapes, so he can reach one free hand down and open the door to Monica's apartment. After several seconds, and once he figures out how to do just that, the door swings open and Kip steps outside. He nods at Chandler and quickly closes the door behind him.

"Hey, Chan! You won't believe what happened to me tonight. Monica came over to our place like 25 minutes ago and we just started talking and had a few drinks. She is so hot man."

Chandler, still holding everything, opens his mouth as if to say something, but nothing comes out.

"Anyway, she started helping me unpack some boxes and we ran out of beer so we came over here. I was just going to get some take-out menus. She wants to hang out with me tonight. Man, I am glad you worked late. Who knows what would have happened if you were here."

Chandler looks at his new roommate, "Oh, I wasn't late, I was just picking up some..."

Kip cuts him off before he can finish his sentence. "Hey, you think I could take that pizza? I'll pay you for it. I figure the sooner we eat the sooner maybe, well, I think I have a shot here with her. She's being all flirty and stuff. You know how it is." He reaches out to take the pizza box from Chandler.

"What? Oh, yeah, sure. I, uh, yeah, you can have the pizza. You and Mon, huh? That's good." Chandler works on maneuvering the pizza box out of his hands and lets Kip take it.

"Well, let's not get ahead of ourselves. I'm just hoping to get to second base or something right now. Hey, can I have that beer too?" Kip reaches out a free hand for the six pack and Chandler hands it over.

"You're hoping…what?" Chandler can't explain why, but the hairs on the back of his neck feel as if they are standing straight up.

"Yeah, she's really hot and I think with it being Valentine's Day. I mean, why not, right?" Kip gives Chandler a smile and a wink.

Chandler looks down at the VHS tape. "Do you want this too?"

Kip looks down for a moment. "Nah, I don't want to waste time watching a movie. Thanks for this pal. I'll pay you later." With that, Kip returns back to Monica's apartment and closes the door behind him.

Chandler stands in the hallway for a few minutes. "Well, Kip is a good guy. I think. Anyway, Monica can handle herself around guys. This is probably better, at least one of us should have a date tonight." He has trouble shaking this feeling of disappointment, that he almost does not even know is there, out of his body. He shrugs his shoulders and looks down at the video tape in his hands. He nods, turns around, and walks into his apartment. Closing the door behind him.