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Home: The Toast

Previously in this series: If Will Graham Were Your Boyfriend

If Ms. Pac-Man were your girlfriend, her kisses would taste like Sprite. Each kiss would remind you of summer nights in the 1980s, which is weird because you don’t really remember those, you were too young. But every time your lips touch hers, you would distinctly recall driving past your high school while Journey played on the radio, the wind blowing through your hair, and why are there palm trees, you grew up in Maryland.

If Ms. Pac-Man were your girlfriend, everything around you would be happy-cute, from popsicles and ladybugs to traffic jams and broken bottles.

If Ms. Pac-Man were your girlfriend, you would hold her, and she would seem so warm. Not too warm. Kind of like a TV that had been left on for a very long time.

If Ms. Pac-Man were your girlfriend, you would forever be ducking into corridors together to “escape.”

If Ms. Pac-Man were your girlfriend, you wouldn’t think it was so weird that her mouth opened and closed when she walked. Pretty soon you would start doing it, too. “Why are you doing that?” your friends would ask. “Doing what?” you would respond. But you would have to stop walking first.

If Ms. Pac-Man were your girlfriend, some mornings you would see her in front of the round mirror in her bedroom, fastening that red bow to her pixie cut with clocklike regularity, and you’d know that if she had to choose between the two of you, the red bow would win.

If Ms. Pac-Man were your girlfriend, you would believe in ghosts. Specifically, four of them.

If Ms. Pac-Man were your girlfriend, every time you put on music she would roll her eyes and say, “What do you call this again?” and you would start to explain that it was the new D’Angelo, and she would laugh because she thought you had made up some new kind of Star Trek word. “When I was growing up, it was all just beeps and boops,” she would tell you. One day at the gym, you would look at her iPod and see that it was almost all Cindi Lauper.

If Ms. Pac-Man were your girlfriend, she would not understand your job. “What do you do again?” she would ask for the hundredth time. “What is a PowerPoint? Is that like a game?”

If Ms. Pac-Man were your girlfriend, one night her phone would ring and she would tell you that she needed to go somewhere, and you would say “I want to go too,” and she would say “No! Just stay here,” and you would say that you were going and that’s it, and the two of you would drive for two hours and then see him, Pac Man Junior, more drunk than you have ever been in your life, in the back of a police car. He is more muscular than you remember—and that scowl—but he’s still wearing the propeller beanie. It clashes with his Ed Hardy t-shirt. “Things never work out for Junior,” are the only words she says on the way back home.

If Ms. Pac-Man were your girlfriend, the server would hand her the check — every time — even when you made it clear it was your turn to pay. She would always laugh it off, and then pay the whole bill in quarters. Always in quarters. For everything. Even your leather jacket. Even the mortgage.

If Ms. Pac-Man were your girlfriend, she could make you feel like the only person in the room, even at those fancy gatherings where there are photographers and lots of white tablecloths. But as soon as you left her side to go get another glass of champagne, you would hear her say to Donkey Kong, “So that’s the latest.”

If Ms. Pac-Man were your girlfriend, you would be startled by how much time she spent playing Bejeweled. She would not want to talk about it.

If Ms. Pac-man were your girlfriend, you would wonder about her ex. “Is he okay?” you would ask. “Not really. He never really left the Maze,” she whispers.

If Ms. Pac-Man were your girlfriend, you would go to her one-woman show, which even you would find a little too long — with maybe a few too many songs and character “voices” — but whatever, it would make her happy.

If Ms. Pac-Man were your girlfriend, people would ask why she never changed her name back, and she would start to explain that if she gave up the name she would have to give up everything: the t-shirts, the figurines, the playing cards, the gum that comes with the playing cards. “It’s just a name, honey,” she would say. “It’s just a name.”

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