|“I don’t get why I have to go, he clearly doesn’t think much of me.” Josh said, turning the ignition.
“All I do is sit there, while you two yammer on about your residence days or some book you just read.” Chloe said.
“That’s not true,” Aaron began. “At the very least you’ll have Josh to talk to.”
“And at the very least, you’ll have Chloe to talk to,” Erin said.
The bar was dark, broken with sizzling neon florescent lights. Aaron and Chloe walked in unravelling their layers of scarves, unbuttoning their thick jackets. The winter wind followed them in with one last gust before the door behind them shut with a bang. Noticing that Erin and Josh had yet to arrive, they aimed for the booth at the back.
Sitting down, Aaron immediately noticed Chloe’s choice in seating.
“What?” Chloe said noticing his awkward focus.
“You’re going to sit across?”
“We always sit face to face.”
“Yeah but what if you’re next to Josh.”
“Are you worried about craning your neck towards Erin all night?”
“Dear god, could you be any less transparent?”
“It has nothing to do with that,” Aaron sighed exasperated. “I’m just wondering what you’re going to do beside Josh all night.”
“Would you rather I switch?” Chloe asked with growing annoyance.
“Too late,” Aaron said eyeing the entrance.
“You know, you’re the one who said ‘at least I’d have Josh to talk to-’”
“Can we not do this now?” Aaron whispered pointedly.
“Hey now!” Erin said, walking up to the table with arms open. “What are you whispering about?”
“Oh… just how we’re gonna stick you with the bill.” Aaron got up and hugged Erin as Josh and Chloe nodded uncomfortably.
As Erin sat down, Aaron offered his hand to Josh. Josh store at it for a second and snapping back to life, shook it with an assured grip. Aaron turned to sit and found Erin settled into his seat. Aaron took the aisle seat beside Erin.
They settled in, Erin immediately engaged Aaron in a discussion of Atwood’s cancellation of an event in Dubai as Josh and Chloe asked the complementary questions of their work lives.
Erin soon noticed Chloe’s barbed eyes darting towards Aaron. “Ok out with it Aar. What’d you say?” Erin asked, interjecting the conversation between Chloe and Josh.
“What?” Aaron replied, caught off guard.
“Well,” Chloe began, satisfied with the chance to air her grievance. “Aaron here made a big fuss about me sitting across from him.”
Josh shifted his position clearly uncomfortable, the undertone clear to him.
“And why would you have a problem with that?” Erin asked, turning her full face towards him inquisitively.
“I don’t know.” Aaron looked around for a server, looked for some distraction. “I just thought if she got too bored, she could talk to you.”
“About what?” Erin asked, seizing the words straight from Chloe’s lips.
“I don’t know… woman stuff?”
Chloe let out a bitter laugh, Josh sank deeper into his seat.
“Woman stuff?” Erin repeated with a widening smirk.
“You know, worst comes to worst you guys can always talk about your period or something.”
“Aaron!” Chloe protested.
Aaron could barely contain his laughter before Erin jumped in.
“Don’t worry,” Erin told Chloe. “He‘s just joking,” taking her hand for reassurance. “That’s his attempt at a deadpan face.”
“More like bedpan sometimes.”
The server arrived, Aaron thanked god in his head.
After giving their drink orders and receiving their menus, the inquisition of Aaron dissipated.
“Hey, they have Lobster Thermidor.” Aaron noticed.
“Where?” Erin asked.
“Oh but there’s Cream Cheese in it.” Chloe warned, turning her eyes to him to sell it.
“Well it doesn’t hurt once in a while.”
“It hurts all the time.” She shot back, hardening her stare.
“Well I’ll try that.” Erin said.
“But you hate seafood.” Josh added.
“Well it doesn’t hurt once in a while.” Erin said, turning her eyes from Josh to Aaron.
The meal came and went, and by their third round of drinks a hazy silence soon surrounded them.
Aaron looked around, full and slightly drunk. Josh was staring at something below him, Chloe picked at the olive in her martini glass, and Erin was attempting to make a shape out of her napkin.
“I need to pee,” Aaron announced. The weight of the meal stunted the reply from Josh and Chloe but Erin dropped her napkin suddenly and said, “me too.”
As they got up and walked away from the table, Erin playfully bumped into Aaron and asked, “so how are you doing?”
“It’s a little late in the evening to be asking that don’t you think?”
“If I was asking in general, yes. But I’m asking right now.”
“Well I need to pee for starters.”
They made a sharp turn by the entrance and made their way down the stairs.
“You know there’s another bar down here?” Aaron said, doing his best to steady himself slowly.
“No there isn’t.”
“Yeah there is.”
“If this is a joke, I don’t get it.”
“I’m not joking.”
As they descended down the last of the stairs, they made another turn and there before the two doors leading to the washroom laid the second bar. There was no door, merely a great hole in the wall leading to a bar with a layout remarkably similar to the one upstairs.
“And here we are,” Aaron announced.
“Wow, there really is a bar here.” Erin took a look but seemed uninterested. “Meet back here in five?”
Aaron nodded, the full brunt of the drinks having hit him during the walk down.
Aaron left the washroom and leaned on the wall bordering the bar from the stairs leading back up. After a minute Erin snuck up behind him and placed her chin onto his shoulder, as if to sneak a peak into whatever view Aaron was engrossed in.
“So how are you doing?”
“We back to this now?”
“Well are you ever going to answer?”
“I don’t know,” Aaron turned to face her. “And how is the married life?”
“Boring, yet not.” Erin moved in front of him as he wrapped his arms around her and rested his own head on her shoulder. “And how about you?” Erin asked, her eyes bright and her cheeks rosy.
“What about me?”
“Why don’t you get married?”
“Oh you know, the usual reasons.”
“You’re going to have to grow up eventually.”
“It’s not about that.”
“Well you’ve been with Chloe for three years now, I’d have thou-”
“I’m not in love with her,” Aaron quickly admitted. He said this never releasing his gaze from the room revealed before him.
“I know, I know,” He said then sighed. “I’m the first one to be screaming: well then why are you with her? It’s not that I don’t love her. It’s not that we don’t get along well enough but at the end of the day, she’s not the one who makes me… I don’t know… something.”
“Well what exactly are you even looking for? I mean growing up is learning to-”
“Settle?” He injected, twisting his eyes into her.
“I wasn’t going to say that.”
“But it’s going to happen eventually. The discussion at least.” Her voice trailed off at the end of the sentence, she store into the room one last time before curling her arm into his.
“I guess I’m still waiting.”
“For it to happen. That one moment when I’ll see in her something I can’t live without. Not just something I’ll miss when it’s gone. But something that I’ll need.”
“It’s not like you have to get married. Josh and I just realized tha-”
“It’s not that I’ve never been in love, it’s not that I’ve never loved and wanted to marry someone,” Aaron said staring back into the room. “It’s just that they married other people.”
They stood there staring at the room for another minute, the people inside absorbed in their own lives. Milling around the television, picking up their drinks at the bar, laughing at their own jokes within the booths.
Erin gave a little pull of her arm. “Come on, it’s time we went back.”
“I know… just give me another moment.”