“Of course,” Holly yelled back from her side of the path. “I grow deeply concerned when you only tell me about sane things.”
Aaron smiled, but Holly couldn’t see it because of his mask. She could probably tell, however, because his eyes got all squinty when he smiled.
“Someone told me I was socially awkward like it was an insult,” he informed her.
“Then this person clearly didn’t know you,” she replied without hesitation. “Obviously socially awkward is on brand for you.”
He nodded in agreement. “I thanked her emphatically for the compliment, asked her if she’d like to grab a socially distanced Snapple some time, and then got the hell out of there before she breathed on me any further, or embarrassed me with more kind words.”
Holly snorted. Then she pulled down her mask to take a sip of her coffee.
“Look at you making new friends. Should I be jealous that my lofty position as best friend might be in jeopardy?”
“I know you’re poking fun, but it does bother me that people find the need to point out that I’m socially awkward,” he grumbled and let out a deep sigh that filled his mask with his frustrated breath. “Do they think I’m not aware of it? And what do they get out of giving me an unsolicited diagnosis?”
Holly shrugged. She didn’t like seeing him upset like this, and she was well aware that his already shaky self-confidence took a hit anytime someone picked at this particular wound.
“Some people need the ego boost of kicking a guy below the belt,” she explained delicately. “It’s like the only way they can feel good about themselves is by making other people feel miserable.”
“I’d rather be socially awkward than socially demeaning,” Aaron growled and then washed the bad taste out of his mouth with a long sip of Snapple. “I’m not contagious, and it’s not like I’m going out of my way to interact and expose others to my horrible interpersonal skills. Losers like her, though, seek out innocent targets to assault with their words without wisdom.”
“The world can be a miserable place,” she did her best to console him from across the way in a world where personal contact was not only frowned upon, but could also be seen as an act of aggression. “I think you’re perfect just the way you are.”
“You only say that because I pay you extremely well to hang out with me and claim to be my best hand,” he waved off her kind words.
Holly shook her head and sipped her coffee.
“People told me I was stupid for signing such a long contract with you,” she played along because she was so good at it, “but not only have I made a ton of money off this arrangement, but I’ve also learned that socially awkward people deserve to be treated just like normal folk. You’ve opened my heart and mind to so much!”
Aaron flipped her the bird with his free hand, and Holly laughed hysterically. He really did adore her, and he sometimes wondered how she managed to put up with him when everyone else was so put off by him.
But he’d learned a long time ago not to waste precious brain cells trying to figure out the unpredictable behaviors of those with whom he was forced to share the world.
He was socially awkward and one of the coolest people he’d ever met chose to spend a good deal of time with him. Maybe more people needed to be like him…