“I don’t think this is a good idea,” Sam said, concern etched on his face as he huddled his large frame under an umbrella, scanning the street for their Uber.
Unaffected by the chilly spring rain, Jason was frantically pacing back and forth on the sidewalk like a feral cat that hadn’t eaten in days. His bony frame poked out from under his soaked Led Zeppelin t-shirt. “You don’t have to come, man,” Jason said anxiously, “but I just have to tell her. I mean, if I don’t tell her, then she’ll leave and then I’ll regret it forever!” He nervously raked his hand through his thick blond hair, starting to curl from the rain.
Sam rolled his eyes, unmoved. “Didn’t you only go out, like, three times?”
“That’s not the point!” Jason nearly shouted, gesticulating wildly. “When you know, you know!”
“To be fair,” Sam knew he needed to tread carefully here. “You knew this about Mel, right? And before that, what’s her face? The chick with the hair?” He made a swirling motion above his head.
“Her name was Jill, but it doesn’t matter. I did have feelings for them, but the difference is that I never said anything! I’m going to tell Celeste. Today. Right now! Being honest about my feelings is going to make a difference. She feels the same way, I just know it!”
Sam sighed and took a deep breath. He knew that there was no reasoning with Jason when he was wound this tight. He was just going to suck it up and play the role he was so good at; supportive best friend. A red Nissan pulled up to the curb. “OK, man,” Sam said with a resigned sigh. “Let’s go tell her then.”
Sam and Jason had been close friends ever since 8th grade. Jason had always been a string bean, sporting ripped jeans, a faded red beanie, and old rock band tees, even in the winter. A hipster before his time, but without pretense. He had been an incredibly high strung kid as long as Sam had known him. Add in a huge dose of nerd and it’s no wonder that he was often the target of the school bullies.
Being the mild mannered and genuinely likable person that he was, Sam was able to straddle most groups in school and fit in with just about anyone. So, when Jason was cornered by a group of douchey high school jocks after school one day, Sam was able to use his charm and connections to rescue him. He was good friends with all of their younger siblings and was on a first name basis with one of their mother’s after spending spring break watching their Golden Retriever.
On their walk home together, Jason schooled Sam on the merits of every Springsteen album, ranked them in order and presented a compelling case for why Born to Run is, by far, the best rock album out there. Not that Sam was arguing. He hadn’t even asked, let alone said a word at all. While most people found Jason’s nervous energy and wild obsessions to be irritating and exhausting, Sam was enthralled by his limitless knowledge of music and how he could talk endlessly about whatever was on his mind. Jason was probably the most interesting person he had ever met. And twelve years later, they were still best friends.
Jason barrelled out of the car 20 minutes later, full of determination. “Wait!” Sam yelled. “Jason, I don’t think you thought this through, how are you going to get to the gate? I mean, what time is her flight, anyway?”
Jason ignored him, scanning around and finally jogging toward the Southwest Airlines ticket counter. “Wait, you’re actually going to buy a ticket? Dude, you can barely pay your rent, how are you going to afford that?” Sam tried to reason with him.
“I’m not buying a ticket, “ Jason said matter-of-factly, as he plopped down in a seat across from the ticket counter.
“Uh, OK.” Sam stared at Jason for a minute. “What are you doing? Aren’t you going to find Celeste before she boards her plane? That’s what we’re here for, right?”
“Yes, but she’s not here yet,” Jason said.
“What do you mean she’s not here yet?” Sam asked in confusion.
“Her flight leaves in 3 hours. She just posted on Insta, she’ll be here soon.” Jason, looking much more calm now, pulled up a photo of a pile of suitcases lined up on a bed, posted 5 minutes ago by Celeste5658. The caption read, Leaving now for new adventures! Goodbye Wisconsin, Hello California!
“Jesus Christ.” Sam plopped down beside Jason. “You’re telling me that we sat in traffic in that $50 Uber when you could have JUST WALKED TO HER HOUSE?” Sam ran his hands down his face in frustration. “This is so incredibly you,” he mumbled to himself. “I just can’t believe I didn’t see this coming.” Sam pinched the bridge of his nose and made a sound between a shout and a groan. “Why am I here!?”
They were both quiet for a beat. After a few moments, Sam collected himself and finally spoke. “You know you’re the most aggravating person I know, right?”
“You may have mentioned that once or twice, yes,” Jason replied without emotion. “But this is a grand gesture. In the movies, they happen at the airport, not at someone’s house.”
Sam took a deep breath. “OK. Well. Since we have the time, what do you plan on saying?”
Jason looks up, his brows creasing. For the first time all night, he looked unsure. “I mean, I think that I’ll just know what to say when I see her. Right?”
“Jesus Christ, Jason! Have you met yourself? You barely have a coherent thought when you’re not…” Sam waved his hands widely toward him, “you know, spiraling or whatever is happening here! You need a plan. “
Sam sat as calmly as he could while Jason proposed a number of scenarios. He vehemently discouraged him from serenading her with a love song because, “this isn’t a teenage rom-com and you are certainly not Heath Ledger, man.” Jason finally landed on a simple bouquet of flowers and wrote down the points he wanted to make in case his nerves left him rambling.
Sam looked on nervously as Jason declared his love to a lanky white woman with short auburn hair falling over her dark green glasses. The pair were out of ear shot, but Sam could tell by the look on Celeste’s face that this was not at all what she was expecting. The corners of her mouth tilted into a sad smile and her eyes filled with pity as she lightly touched Sam’s arm, shook her head and then turned around, and walked away with her bag rolling behind her.
Jason’s skinny shoulders sagged as he turned and walked back to where Sam was sitting, his face full of dejection. Sam waited until his friend was ready to talk.
“She doesn’t feel the same way. She acted like I was crazy. I just don’t understand,” Jason said. “What is wrong with me?”
“There’s nothing wrong with you, man.” Sam slung an arm over Jason’s shoulders and brought him in for a squeeze. “You just love so easily. And someday you’ll find someone worthy of all that love you so freely give.”
“But this…,” Jason stumbled over his words. “This was a romantic gesture, you know, like the ones in the movies. It should have worked.”
“Your life is not a movie, man,” Sam said. “And in a lot of those movies, the main character often figures out that their true love was actually their best friend the entire time”
Jason’s brows furrowed and then his eyes widened in surprise. Sam laughed. “No, man. Don’t look at me like that! This isn’t one of those stories,” he said, gesturing between the two of them.
“I love you, I do, but you are just too intense for me.” Sam patted his back and chuckled. “In fact, I’m going to need a huge vacation from you after today. This was just too fucking much.”
Two weeks later, Sam was busy making fancy coffee drinks for the bureaucrats working at the Capitol, when Jason burst through the doors of Cuppa Love, a huge shit-eating grin on his face.
“Hey, man,” Sam said. “What’s going on?”
“Sam, I’d like you to meet Caroline,” Jason said. And that’s when Sam realized Jason had his arm around the waist of a small Asian woman. He groaned internally, Here we go again. But then he saw that Caroline was gazing up at Jason with big, gooey eyes as if he were the most beautiful creature she had ever seen. Her smile was so full of admiration, and she leaned into Jason as if she couldn’t possibly stand on her own two feet without his support. Sam couldn’t believe it. It looked like Jason had finally done it.
Sam let out a breath and gave her a genuine smile, “Caroline, it’s nice to finally meet you!”