It was Easter Sunday, so it was quieter than normal for their weekly gathering.
“Do you think your Easter gift to me could be to allow me to sit on the same bench as you just this one time?” she asked mischievously before taking a sip of coffee.
He shook his head in disappointment. “Dr. Fauci would not approve. As Moses once parted the Red Sea, this path shall part us until it is safe to be together again.”
“That was beyond cheesy,” Holly reprimanded him as she returned her mask to the ready position. “Don’t blame Dr. Fauci for your hang ups about catching the virus from me. I assure you I don’t have it.”
“Remind me again what kind of doctor you are, and where you earned your medical degree,” he countered with a sly smile as he pulled down his mask.
Holly responded by giving him the finger.
Aaron took a gulp of Snapple and put his mask on again.
“My favorite part of Easter was waking up that morning, and seeing my Easter basket waiting on my desk,” he launched into a story much to his best friend’s delight. “The Easter Bunny was cool in that he brought the basket right to my room, and I appreciated that he managed to do it without waking me.”
“He probably understood that I had a much shittier childhood than you did, so just for once, I got to feel special,” he explained without hesitation.
Holly shrugged. The logic checked out with her.
“I’d stare at it for the longest time,” he continued. “It was always wrapped in colorful cellophane, and if the sun hit it just right through the window, it made my entire bedroom glow in that same color. I thought that was the coolest thing.”
Holly smiled and hung on every word. Aaron rarely talked about his childhood, and when he did, it was never in a positive way, so this was a story she didn’t want to miss.
“You see, over the years, I learned my lesson. I used to tear that cellophane right off and dig into the candy immediately, but then I realized that the best part of Easter is an Easter basket in pristine condition. Once I opened it, the fairy tale was gone, and reality and disappointment set in.”
“Why were you disappointed?” Holly asked with concern. “Wasn’t it filled with candy?”
Aaron nodded and then stared off at the river for a moment before he answered.
“In that time before I opened it, I could allow my imagination to run wild,” he explained. “Maybe this was the year it was filled with a giant bunny made of solid chocolate. Perhaps there would be enough peanut butter eggs to keep my tummy filled for a month. And if I was really lucky, maybe there would be some gifts in there like a book, a movie, or tickets to a Yankees game…”
His voice trailed off, which made it clear to Holly that the basket never lived up to Aaron’s hopes and dreams.
“Once I removed the cellophane, and broke the spell, the chocolate bunny was always hollow, and seemed to get smaller every year. Even though I made it clear that peanut butter eggs were my absolute favorite, the Easter Bunny kept forgetting. I was told that they were very expensive, and the Easter Bunny was on a tight budget because he had to afford baskets for every kid in the world. I was also reminded that an ungrateful boy could be left off the Easter Bunny’s delivery list the following year.”
Holly lowered her mask to take another sip of coffee, but also to let her best friend see her frown. This story made her sad, and she really wished she could run across the path and hug Aaron. But she knew that Dr. Fauci would not approve of such behavior.
“There were never any books, movies, or tickets,” he clarified. “The basket was mostly grass, which I couldn’t eat, and jellybeans, which I refused to eat because they always got stuck in my teeth. But for that magic time after I first woke up, that Easter basket had the potential to be the most amazing gift I’d ever been given.”
“Which reminds me, the Easter Bunny accidentally left something for you at my place,” he announced and then took an item out of his jacket pocket, and tossed it across the chasm between them.
Holly was completely caught off guard, but still managed to catch the object. It was a bunny wrapped in gold foil. And it was damn heavy.
“That’s solid milk chocolate,” he informed her with a wink. “The Easter Bunny must really like you.”
“He must like you, too,” she responded, “because he left a giant bag of peanut butter eggs for you at my place. Don’t worry, they’ve been quarantining in my spare bedroom since Wednesday, and they are triple wrapped in plastic bags to keep out the germs.”
“They’re in my car. I’ll give them to you when we get back to the street,” she promised.
Aaron lowered his mask to reveal a glowing smile. “Happy Easter, Holly.”
“Happy Easter, Aaron,” she replied with an even brighter smile that he could probably see even though she was still wearing her mask…
Happy Easter, Modern Philosophers!