Holly checked out Aaron in her peripheral vision as she sipped her coffee. He was acting stranger than usual, and she was simply working up the strength to address it.
She really didn’t want to ruin a perfectly gorgeous Summer day along the river, but if she didn’t tackle his weird behavior, who would?
“Why are you wedged against the very end of the bench?” she asked in her best interrogator’s voice. “And are you holding your breath???”
Aaron nodded and stared at her from the very corner of the bench until his face turned beet red, and he finally had to exhale. He quickly chugged half his Snapple.
“Explain your bizarre behavior please.”
It was a demand, not a request. Aaron could get away with a lot in Holly’s eyes, but acting like a total jackass during their special Sunday time together was not acceptable.
“I’m worried the Governor is going to make us go back to wearing masks and social distancing based on the recent input from the CDC and the rising number of Coronavirus cases,” he explained. “I don’t want to live my life that way, so I was just seeing how far I could get from you while still sitting on the same bench. And I want to practice holding my breath until I can do it for like ten minutes straight. That way, I can’t be forced to wear a mask.”
Holly had to laugh. It was crazy, even for Aaron, but down deep, he was just trying to do things that would allow them to still hang out together.
Sometimes, his awkward behavior was endearing.
“It looks like she is going to mandate wearing masks indoors again,” Holly admitted. “But as you can see, our bench is outdoors.”
Aaron rolled his eyes like his best friend had just said the stupidest thing ever.
“They start with indoors,” he explained. “That’s to ease us into it. They know it will piss us off a little, but we’ll comply because it’s only a minor inconvenience. Once they’ve lulled us into a false sense of complacency, they’ll hit us with outdoor mask mandates, social distancing, and sheltering in place again. I barely survived the first time, Holly. I can’t do it again. “
Holly could tell that this was actual panic, and not something done for dramatic effect. She needed to nip this in the bud before he went off the rails.
“It’s never going to get to that again,” she assured him. “The Orange Menace is no longer in charge. Uncle Joe won’t let things get out of control. I promise. Besides, you’re King of the Introverts, so avoiding people for months at a time should be a piece of cake.”
Aaron chuckled and sipped his Snapple. He did enjoy it when Holly bestowed such wonderful titles upon him.
“I just don’t want to have to freak out about being out of work again,” he confessed. “That was rough on my already challenging mental health, and I wouldn’t be up for another round. Plus, as much as I like avoiding people, I understand that interacting with them is an important part of being human. I’m afraid I’ll revert to feral human mode if I’m locked away from the rest of the world for another extended period.”
“I promise I won’t allow you to become feral,” she vowed with a big smile. “I will always be there to force human contact on you, whether you like it or not.”
Aaron smiled and gave her words some time to sink in.
“Thanks,” he finally said with a charming grin. “Right now, I’m definitely liking the human contact being forced upon me.”
Holly took a sip of coffee, and hoped that the cup blocked his view of how much his comment had made her blush.