"Are you coming tonight, Sarah?", came the question from young Gerard, out of the blue.
He was already dressed to the nines, and his Axe body spray was wafting over and overpowering her Kung Pao Chicken. Plus it was distracting her from being inside the horror film she was watching, even if she had seen it a hundred times.
“Why on God’s green earth would I bother doing that?”, came her curt reply, between two large tablespoons of sweet and sour pork.
“Because it’s Friday, you ain’t got no job, and you ain’t got shit to do!”; He was paraphrasing the line from the popular “Friday” movie, and was trying to lighten the mood.
“Not having a job is precisely the main reason I’m not going anywhere. Between going out and Uber eats, my unemployment checks just aren’t cutting it anymore.” The pop culture reference had sailed directly over her head.
“I’ll pay. Come on, my treat.”, came the rather expected response.
“Look Gerry, I don’t want to fight about it. You always say that. I’m not a charity case. I’m trying to learn to be responsible. Besides I just don’t feel like it.”
Gerard got out of his own head a minute, and leaned over her. He picked up the TV remote and clicked it off. Her eyes mad-dogged right through him. “Did I not JUST say I don’t want to fight!”
They were at the volatile part of the late twenty-somethings relationship where their libidos and fantasies of Disney Cinderella weddings had made them move in together, but the consequences of cohabitating with an actual other human being were finally taking their toll. They certainly didn’t teach you this part in Home Economics, and it was precisely why, Sarah’s father had suggested they move in with each other, before ever discussing marriage. He had chose to leave his daughter’s preferred sex life out of the conversation, but was more than willing to teach her with the Disney metaphors she had loved as a little girl.
Gerard wasn’t going to be baited again by “one of her moods”. She always wore black and listened to goth music and stewed. It was what attracted him to her in the first place, and what he thought was hot, but nowadays it was beginning to grate on him. “Look Sar… I got no beef with you. But for good sakes we are not even 30 yet. You act as if we’re ready for our golden years. You used to like going out. There’s no guarantees for tomorrow. Besides it’s the holidays!”
She blinked at him, unmoved. Like some pale-faced vampire-anime character.
“Are you seriously pulling ‘YOLO’ on me right now? You have no idea what goes on inside this head of mine, do you? You have no idea what it’s like to be me.” Her shoulders slumped as she went into a full sulk.
“I know you have a tendency to feel sorry for yourself. I know you’ll take the most God-damned happiest occasions and find something wrong with them.” He was treading that fine line of ice above the deep cold waters of apathy that she found she could so easily fling herself down into. If he wasn’t careful she might have a hard time coming back, once submerged.
He brushed his hair to the side, and made some room for himself on the couch next to her. Another dose of his cologne, if you could even call it that, plugged up her nose. She crinkled the bridge of it, but made space for him to sit. It wasn’t much in the continual battle of wits between them, but he had gained a little ground. “You know I love you right?”, he said sincerely as he leaned into her. She believed him, she always had. “It’s just that… I’m doing this for your own good. I know you struggle with depression. I wouldn’t feel right about leaving you here alone, to… wallow.” The words hadn’t felt right leaving his mouth.
“Then don’t.”, she pouted.
Gerard made an audible sigh, but then he actually took a moment to think about it. He had been so conditioned in his late teens and all through college, to follow his dreams and chase the brass ring. This included “sniffin’ out pussy with the boys”, as they rudely put it, and climbing whatever social and financial ladders he could, like he was Leo DiCaprio or Jeremy Pivens in some shitty 80s Wall Street movie. But here he was with a woman, he was pretty damn sure, whom he wanted to spend the rest of his life with. And there she sat, at her most vulnerable. He shifted awkwardly to his other butt cheek. It was weird for him to admit, even in his body language, that perhaps he was wrong.
Then his ego came back. “But I promised the guys. Plus there’s a big UFC fight on tonight, and I’m Jimbo’s ride.” He emphasized Jimbo’s clownish nickname, and realized how stupid each turn of phrase sounded, than the one directly preceding it.
She rolled her eyes. “Yeah, exactly. All things I would be overjoyed about partaking of. I don’t know which would be worse, watching two grown club-eared men lock their sweaty crotches together until one passed out, or sitting in a cramped Nissan hatchback with ’Jimbo’ for the thirty minute ride each way.”
“See!” He stood up. “this is exactly the kind of shit I’m talking about. You knew my likes when you met me, and you damn well knew my friends.” He sounded a little wounded, but no doubt a craft beer and some waitress’ tight-assed mini-skirt would help him get over it.
“And you knew mine. I’m not like you. I don’t enjoy being in crowds, and honestly I never liked your friends. I just pretended, so I could get to know you.” This time it was her emphasizing words for effect.
He couldn’t tell if she was trying to hurt him, but it wasn’t working. His patience was starting to grow thin. He walked over to a mirror hung above the mantle and checked his polished locks, once again. She didn’t notice, but as he saw her reflection in the mirror, he could tell by the sullen expression on her face that she was starting to get crestfallen. He slowly turned and knelt beside her.
“So what do you want me to do? Just put my balls in a jar up on that mantel, and sit around and mope with you all night watching cheesy horror flicks?”
Her eyes blinked rapidly, as for a brief moment she considered that fantasy in her head. What if she had gotten a boyfriend more like her? Was this the reason nerds, and goths, and jocks and geeks all paired off into their own separate groups in school? Was it because humans simply could not just get along with others who weren’t like them? But why did goths like meaty jocks and they like her? Was she mysterious? She thought about this for a moment, quite deeply.
“I never asked you to do that. You’re free to go.” She had finally caved.
Oh shit; shot’s fired. Every man knew when a woman said something like that it was a clear signifier that she was done putting up with his shit. It went without saying that he had better enjoy all the floozies at the bar he would lie to, and probably even make out with, because he was certainly not getting laid from her tonight.
Sarah again started to get lost in her own head. Her eyes started to glaze over, as certain traumas from her past started to rear their ugly heads at her. Past boyfriends, abusive relationships, all the baggage that came with being a smoking-hot rebel girl, with no real parental authority in her life.
Then something happened. For the first time in his young life, the man-child that was Gerard Johnson, had an adult-sized realization. What was he chasing after, anyway? Even if he did find a girl out-of-his-league at the bar tonight, was he the kind of guy to cheat on his live-in girlfriend? The answer was decidedly “no”. What he wanted was deeper than “dippin’ his wick” or “hangin’ with the fellas”. What he wanted was a more meaningful relationship than he had ever had; and the person who could do that was seated right there, right now in front of him.
He took his blazer off and threw it over the armchair furthest from them. “Jesus, that shit stinks”. She nodded her head in agreement, but she couldn’t speak for fear of warm tears on the precipice of flooding down her cheeks.
Her eyes were as big as saucers, before she finally got up the strength to talk. She swallowed hard before asking, “What are you doing?”
He remained silent as he picked up the remote. The streaming service had set itself back to the homepage, in the horror movie section.
He noticed as a single tear crested her eyeliner, making a solitary dark streak down the cheek furthest from him. She expertly wiped it, hoping he wouldn’t notice, like she had tens of thousands of times before, in front of the men in her life. A smile of peaceful satisfaction curled his lip. At that moment, he didn’t have a self-serving bone in his body.
“What about the guys?”, she prodded again. “I mean you can’t just…”
“They’ll be fine. I’ll text them.”, he said with a smile. His cheeks flushed rose. Being nice was contagious.
“But Jimbo needs a ride!”, she pleaded in earnest. It was all she could think of.
They both held their breath, practically in sync, before letting out oversized guffaws, simultaneously, at the absurdity of the statement. They laughed; She cried; and they intertwined their bodies together like two snakes in a mating dance. All was finally right with the world.
“What’s this guys name, again?”, his questions were sincere for once. He really was planning on paying attention to her this time.
“That’s Freddy, that’s Jason, and that’s Michael Myers. And the clown puppet dude is Jigsaw.” Her eyes lit up. It was an actual sincere, and shared, moment between them.
“And this cute little sock puppet guy with the candy lollipop?”, he asked.
“It’s more like a burlap sack kind of vibe”, she said jocundly. It was the happiest she could remember being in a very long time. “That’s Sam, … short for Samhain… from ‘Trick ‘R Treat’.”
“Treat.” was all he said as he leaned it and laid a passionate kiss on her longing lips. She didn’t protest, in the least bit. The Kung Pao mixed with the Axe, forming an unexpected aphrodisiac. They would never get around to watching movies that night, and the following Halloween season they would welcome a little girl, “Sammy, …short for Samantha”, of their own.
They hadn’t realized it but this night, of all nights, had been one of the biggest steps in a lifetime of compromise, on both sides, that would eventually lead to the Happily-Ever-After Disney fairytale family, Sarah, and yes Gerry, had always dreamt of.