Eric took a long drag of his cigarette and sighed. Damn.
“Something the matter?”
Eric continued driving as he turned to see his friend Josh sitting in the passenger seat. “Nothing.”
“C’mon,” Josh said nudging him with his elbow, “I know when something’s bothering you. What’s the matter?”
“‘It’s just’ what?”
“I don’t know, I’ve never met Sarah.”
“What are you talking about?” Josh asked confused. “You’ve been talking to her for over a year now!”
“Yeah, but that’s just through Facebook.”
“What, you’re scared you’re being cat-fished?” Josh asked jokingly.
“Afraid she’ll think you’re a catfish?”
“Then what is it?”
Eric took another puff of his cigarette and tapped the ashes into an old can of coke in the drink holder. “That’s the thing, we’ve only ever talked through Facebook.”
Josh was still puzzled, “That didn’t seem to bother you before.”
“It’s different talking to someone face to face.”
“Why do you think that?”
“Online there’s no pressure. I can take my time to think of the right thing to say, someone isn’t staring at me, I’m just more relaxed sitting at my computer and sending messages.”
“You make it sound like your relationship is a video game.”
Eric thought about it. “I mean…”
Josh laughed, “You based your entire relationship as if you were in a video game?”
“No, no, not like that. I mean, kind of, but that’s not the actual thing.”
“I’m just messing with you; I think I know where you’re coming from.” Josh adjusted himself in his seat, “Besides, why do you think you have me with you?”
“Because we were both supposed to bring a friend just to be safe?”
“No, you numb-nut. To break the tension in case it becomes awkward!”
“I’m serious.” Josh said, “How long have we known each other?”
Eric took a moment. “Wow, has it already been over nine years?”
“Exactly, over nine years. How many situations have I gotten you out of over the years?”
“If I remember right you seem to have gotten me into more situations than gotten me out of.” Eric said in a lighthearted tone.
“C’mon, how many?”
“Quite a bit.”
“You see?” Josh said hitting the dashboard in triumph, “I know you better than almost anyone, so trust me when I say I got you covered.”
Eric smiled. “Thanks.”
“What else are best friends for?”
Best friends indeed.
“Not going to lie though, I’m hoping your girl’s friend is a looker.”
“I thought you said you were here for me?” Eric responded jokingly.
“Don’t get me wrong, I definitely am, but that doesn’t mean there can’t be any extra free benefits, right?”
“Yeah, here’s to hoping.” Eric finished his cigarette and snuffed it out in the can. The two sat in silence and continued driving. Eric could feel a pressure on his chest as he thought about the different outcomes. What if I don’t know the answer to a question? What if I spill something on myself? What if her friend doesn’t like me and destroys everything? What if-
Eric took a deep breath. “Yeah, just my anxiety acting up again.”
“If you’re that anxious, we can turn around and go home.”
“Yeah, why not? I would prefer we go, but hey, I’m not going to force you to go through with something you’re not ready for.”
“Do you think I’m ready?”
“Do you like this girl?”
“Then does it matter if you’re ready?”
The GPS on Eric’s phone went off, “Take exit 309 in two miles.”
Eric read the upcoming sign, Bozeman, two miles. “I guess not.”
“That’s what I’m talking about!” Josh said excitedly. “After driving for two days it would have been really disheartening to turn back empty handed.” Eric had a stern expression on his face. “What is it?”
“We might still return empty handed.”
“Yeah, but you know what they say, ‘Better to have loved and lost than never to have loved’.”
Eric drove down the exit to enter the town. “I never understood that phrase.”
“What’s so hard to understand?”
“I mean, I get what it’s saying, but I don’t agree with it at all.”
“I would have been perfectly fine without Katelyn in my life.”
“Dude, you right. Your ex was a psychopath.”
“Yeah, but you see? I would have preferred never to have loved in that case.”
“You gotta get over that, man. That was over three years ago.”
“Yeah.” The two pulled into the driveway of a small diner and parked. Eric turned off the engine and sat back in his seat.
“Ready as I’ll ever be.”
“That’s the spirit!” The two exited the car and walked into the diner. A small bell rang as they entered and they sat facing each other in a booth by the window. Thoughts of Katelyn ran through Eric’s head. “You’re not still thinking about Katelyn, are you?”
“And why not?”
“Why are you thinking about her?”
“I mean, we were just talking about her, weren’t we?”
The two stared at each other. “Wait, you don’t think that’s going to happen again, do you?”
Eric reached to the end of the table to grab a menu that sat in the small metal stand. “I wonder what’s good here.” Eric asked glancing at the menu.
“I don’t know.” Eric said exasperated as he laid down the menu.
“Why do you say that?”
“What if she does turn out like Katelyn?”
“Dude, you’ve been talking to Sarah for over a year, you probably would have seen it by now.”
“Katelyn was able to hide it for a long time.”
“So, you don’t want to meet her anymore cause she might be crazy?”
“If we turn back around right now, I’ll never meet her, but my image of her will never be tarnished.”
“Yeah, that’s true.”
Eric turned to his friend, “Aren’t you going to argue against me?”
Josh smiled, “Look, you’re right. She may end up psycho, and your image of this girl may never be the same again.”
“You’re not making this any better.”
“I’m getting there. What’s to say that your image of her is the best possible result?”
“What do you mean?”
“What if she turns out even better than you could have ever imagined?”
“I mean, I suppose, but it’s hard to beat a thought.”
“You’ve been ‘beating’ to a thought of her for a year now, haven’t you?” Josh said chuckling to himself.
“That’s not funny.” Eric responded indignantly.
Josh’s expression became serious. “That aside, no matter how great your imagination is, there are always going to be limits, and hey, this girl just might break them. So, do you want to stay?”
Eric took a deep breath. “Yeah, let’s stay.”
The small bell rang and Josh looked towards the door. “Looks like they’re here, and her friend is a looker.”
Eric could feel his anxiety building up inside of him again. Damn.
“You ready?” Josh asked.
“Yeah, let’s do this.”