They sat on his front porch and enjoyed the gorgeous Autumn weather in Maine. Aaron had his legs up on the front porch railing and sipped his Snapple. Holly wrapped her hands tightly around her coffee cup in hopes of getting warm.
Their chairs were ten feet apart, so neither wore a mask, but they were close at hand should an emergency arise. And with Aaron, who was paranoid about being infected, anything could be considered an emergency.
“You’re awfully quiet today,” Holly spoke up because the silence was driving her mad.
Aaron gave a weak shrug. “I’m just thinking.”
Holly raised an eyebrow. She wanted to be let in on whatever was banging around inside her best friend’s head. After all, his wild rants and crazy stories were the only thing keeping her sane during these challenging times.
“Care to share?”
He let out a deep sigh. “I think it’s time to start dating again, but just saying that out loud makes me anxious.”
Holly nodded in understanding. He certainly had a checkered past when it came to relationships. He always fell in love so hard, which meant that when things didn’t work out, it took Holly months to drag him out of the abyss of despair.
“They say the first step is admitting you have a problem,” she offered with a chuckle in hopes of keeping things light.
Romantic conversations, or to be more precise, conversations about romance, tended to get intense and heated, and then usually led to a very dark place. Holly needed to be the beacon that kept the discussion on a well lit path.
“I mean, I know I’m a card carrying introvert, and now isn’t exactly the time to be leaving my bubble of security,” he stated and motioned towards the house with his left arm, “but I’m lonely, I’m bored, and I think it would be easier to handle this pandemic if there was someone around to lighten the load of my anxiety.”
He saw the hurt look on his best friend’s face, so he quickly added, “Not that you don’t already do that, Holly, but you have your own life and relationships. I’m talking about someone who wants to be a true partner, not a best friend who I overwhelm with too much of my bullshit and unpredictable mood swings.”
“If I knew it wouldn’t certainly lead to your trying to punch me, and then subjecting yourself to a lengthy decontamination shower, I’d give you a big hug right now, you bonehead,” she admonished him with a warm smile. “You’re not a burden. I’m always here for you. And I never feel overwhelmed.”
“I know. You’re awesome, and I would be a mess without you, but I think all this isolation has left me missing the touch of another human, and various activities that work wonders for my anxiety, but can’t be done with one’s bestie.”
Holly blushed, and took a long sip of her coffee to try to hide how red her cheeks were becoming.
“Message received, Commander,” she announced with an odd salute, which only made the situation more awkward.
“The big problem here is, I’m not sure if I can handle a long distance relationship,” he admitted and simultaneously steered the conversation back to a less awkward topic.
“Then don’t start chatting up someone who lives far away,” she advised. “Remember that time you fell for the writer from Ireland? She was pretty cool, but I told you the distance was going to be a problem.”
Aaron grinned as his thoughts drifted back to the ex-girlfriend in question.
“Her accent, though…” he said dreamily. “I could have listened to her brogue for hours. It was like she had me under a spell, and I fell deeper until its power with every sentence out of her mouth.”
Holly snapped her fingers to break him out of his trance.
“I know you loved her voice, and you guys were a cute couple when she came to visit, but having an ocean between you was too much,” she reminded him.
Holly looked at him in confusion. After all these years, he could still catch her off guard with the way his mind worked.
“That’s not a long distance relationship,” she corrected.
He shook his head in vehement disagreement.
“Of course it is,” he insisted. “There’s no way I’m letting some stranger get within six feet of me, and certainly not without a mask, until she’s been fully vetted and I’ve had a chance to peruse her medical history and recent contact tracing.”
“You’re a lunatic who’s going to die alone,” she warned with a frustrated sigh.
“Think about it, Holly,” he pleaded. “You are my closest friend in the world, and the only person I’ve allowed inside my house since March. Even then, I won’t allow you within six feet of me, I throw cold water on you if you take off your mask when you’re too close, and I won’t let you hug me or even give me a comforting squeeze on the arm.”
“That being said, how the hell am I going to let someone new into my life, and engage in the intimate part of a relationship that I’m missing so badly? You’re right, I am a lunatic, and I am going to die alone.”
She felt completely helpless. She so badly wanted to say the right thing and make him feel better, but everything he’d said was the spot on truth. How do you let someone get close to you during a pandemic when proximity could lead to death?
“Well, the President did promise that the virus was going to just disappear, and he did emphasize the we shouldn’t let it dominate our lives,” she offered.
Aaron stared at her for a moment, and she feared that she’d said the wrong thing.
Then he burst out laughing.
“You always know how to crack me up,” he told her with a chuckle. “Thanks for letting me vent and feel sorry for myself. If Trump can make the virus disappear simply by wiling it to be gone, I can find a girlfriend.”
“Miracles do happen,” she added with a smile.
And with that, they went back to their drinks and enjoying the silence.