Holly looked over at Aaron, and raised an eyebrow at the sight of the big, goofy grin on his face.
“What’s that for?” she asked suspiciously.
It was Sunday, the sun was shining, and it finally felt like Spring. The best friends were camped out on their favorite bench that overlooked the Penobscot River.
Aaron took a long sip of his Snapple to extend Holly’s suspense.
“Guess what I did Thursday night,” he challenged.
Holly liked games, so she turned on the bench to give Aaron and his game her full attention.
“Well, you are a creature of habit,” she pointed out the obvious. “If it was Thursday night, then you were grocery shopping. After that, you were home, watching TV, and enjoying whatever tasty meal you purchased at the hot wing bar for dinner.”
Aaron’s smile turned somewhat mischievous.
“You think you know me so well, but you’re never going to get this right, so I’m just going to tell you,” he teased. “True, I went grocery shopping, and bought some delicious General Tso’s Chicken for dinner, but I did this all without wearing a mask for the first time in two years!”
Holly’s jaw dropped and her beautiful face contorted into a mask of utter confusion.
“Get out!” she screamed and punched him in the arm.
Aaron rubbed his shoulder because there had been an unexpected amount of power behind the blow.
“I’m telling the truth,” he assured her. “I know the mask mandate was removed a few weeks ago, but I never felt comfortable shopping without wearing mine.”
Holly nodded like this made sense as she took a long sip of her coffee. She needed caffeine in her system to tackle this revelation.
“You’re totally freaked out by the pandemic, though,” she reminded him. “How in the world did you ever muster up the courage to enter that huge store, with all those people, and all those germs?”
Holly really wanted to know. If she were a betting woman, she would have wagered her life’s savings on the fact that Aaron would never again enter a packed, public setting without a mask. This was unbelievable and she couldn’t fathom that he’d waited three days to share this with her.
Aaron shrugged. “I usually go shopping after work, so I have my mask with me after wearing it all day at the office. I just put it back on once I get to the store, and then throw it out when I get home. There’s no way I’m ever wearing that mask again after having it around so many strangers.”
Holly nodded and chugged more coffee.
“That’s right,” he confirmed. “I went grocery shopping in the morning, leaving from the house where I never wear a mask…”
“But at some point, as you approached the store and saw all those strangers with their germs, you must have realized you weren’t wearing a mask,” Holly put out there.
“You are correct, but for some reason, I just didn’t care,” he confessed. “I know that doesn’t sound like me at all, but maybe I was temporarily possessed by the spirit of my younger, more carefree self?”
Holly raised another eyebrow to that comment. “But was there ever a carefree version of you?”
He shrugged and chuckled. “I guess we’ll never know until I finish my time machine and we travel back to research that one.”
“So how are you feeling?” she asked cautiously.
“Thus far, the vaccine seems to be doing its job,” he replied.
“Does this mean you’ll never wear a mask again?” she asked.
“Let’s not get crazy,” he chided her. “I’m not going to go full Republican on this pandemic only to regret it later. I’m going to play it by ear.”
Holly nodded and turned her attention back to the river. The water was really quite blue…