“I had a dream last night that none of this was real,” Aaron announced casually before taking a long sip of his Snapple.
It was Sunday morning, so the best friends were seated on their favorite bench overlooking the Penobscot River. Since it was January, it was absolutely frigid, and they were the only ones crazy enough to be outside in the cold.
“What do you mean?” Holly sought clarification as she clutched her cup of coffee tightly for warmth. “Do you mean that we’re really not here? Like this is a Matrix kind of situation?”
Aaron shook his head. “These Sunday chats aren’t real. At least you’re not real. You’re simply a figment of my imagination, and I’m out here in the cold talking to myself like the oddball everyone else already knows I am.”
Holly furrowed her brow in worry and took a long sip of her coffee. Her beautiful face was a mask of concern as she looked over at her favorite person in the world. The man who now believed that she did not exist.
“I’m real,” she promised and held up her right hand as if being sworn in at court. “I swear. You can reach out and pinch me if you’d like.”
She smiled. He did not.
“Makes sense, though,” he admitted with a shrug. “You’re too perfect. Stunningly gorgeous, incredibly smart, wildly funny, incredibly patient, and most importantly: you get me. Clearly, no one can be all those things. I’ve made you up in my mind to help me cope with my loneliness. Maybe I should have given you a few flaws to make it seem somewhat more believable…”
Holly didn’t know whether to blush from his kind words, or to hug him to comfort him.
“Sounds like some dream,” she decided to go the comforting route. “That’s to be expected with your amazing imagination…”
“Think about it,” he cut her off. “We’re always out here alone. We never interact with anyone else. If anyone were to walk by, they’d see me sitting here alone and talking to myself. That’s probably why there’s never anyone here. People know to steer clear of the nut job who’s engaged in a heated debate with himself on the bench every Sunday at this time.”
“Our conversations always focus on me, my life, my problems, and you just sit there and patiently listen. Then you always have these amazing words of wisdom to put everything in perspective for me. Or you say something hilarious to make me laugh and forget about what’s bothering me.”
Holly flashed a dazzling smile that made her somehow look even more attractive.
“I’m just a good listener,” she assured him. “I know you don’t get out much and interact with others, so you need this time to vent and tell me about your week. I’m happy to listen because I want to know what’s happening in your life. I offer advice because I care about you and want you to be happy.”
Aaron sipped his Snapple and gave her a long, hard look.
“But no one else in my life is even remotely as tolerant of my quirks, my mood swings, and my general crankiness as you are. Which seems to prove that you are this figment of my imagination that I created as a coping mechanism to force myself out of the house and to get things out of my system so they don’t stay all bottled up and eventually explode.”
“So does that make me the Haley Joel Osment of this duo?” she chuckled. “I see introverted people!”
Aaron rolled his eyes. “In The Sixth Sense, the kid is the one who is real. That would make you the Bruce Willis of this poorly chosen analogy.”
“Yippee ki yay, mother trucker!” she replied, intent on making him laugh.
“I’m glad you’re taking this so seriously,” he moped.
“Doesn’t the fact that I’m currently annoying you prove that I’m not the perfect product of your imagination created only to amuse you and make you feel better about yourself?” Holly decided to try another tack.
Aaron stared out at the river as he pondered this.
“You might say that in order to confuse me and prevent me from accepting that this is all in my head, thereby ruining the scenario, and plunging me deeper into my introvert’s shell,” he finally replied.
Holly stood up and walked over to him.
“I’m touched that you think I’m what your mind would create should it ever decide to come up with a perfect best friend to help you cope with all the stress life throws at you,” she confessed. “I can only hope that my subconscious will conjure up you if I ever needed the help, and the real Aaron wasn’t available for some reason.”
She then totally surprised him by leaning down and kissing him on the lips.
“I’m going to leave you alone with your thoughts, and whatever reactions your body produces in response to that kiss,” she explained. “Call me later when you’ve made up your mind if I’m real or just your dream girl.”
Aaron nodded in stunned silence.
“For the record,” she added with a sly grin, “there’s absolutely no reason why I can’t be both…”
She slowly walked away as the goosebumps rapidly covered his entire body.