He arrived by charter bus with a backpack and two suitcases. As the bus swung into the station his final thoughts were of Linda's apartment. He had been in the hallway with all his belongings when he turned to look back one last time through the eyes of a stranger departing rather than a person heading out only to return again later. The place looked untouched. As if his departure meant nothing to it.
She was already at the station waiting. He watched her through the black glass window. She and what looked to him an Indian family of three were the only ones waiting. When he stepped outside she had a big smile and he knew he had to walk to her. When he got close enough she took a step towards him and they hugged. It was almost weird to hear her voice. After some hellos they turned and watched the bus driver unload all the luggage.
She offered to take one of his suitcases. Impulsively he stated it was alright and that he could do it himself. "Oh come one. Give it here," she said. "Thanks." He looked around. Nobody was watching. He saw a young Indian looking girl releasing from a hug with the woman who was probably her mother. Then she began chuckling as a hand held her belly and the father nodded attentively while having his hand on his daughter's suitcase handle.
When they were in the parking lot she took out her keys and pressed a button that made her car chirp twice. "What do you think?" "Wow. Nice." "Oh isn't it spectacular? This'll be your first ride in it!" "Yes." "Oh dearey it's been so long since I've last seen you."
She took him to a local sports bar. The lighting was orange-yellow. Relatively large TVs were mounted beside old fashioned American memorabilia. She had brought him here the first time they'd hung out. Back then he had made sure to express his disapproval, because back then it was important that others were aware of his refined taste. Now he found the place to be quaint in its own way. The lighting even had its own charm, and the waitress made him feel like a friend. The burger he ordered felt extremely satisfying. But this might've been because he'd eaten nothing but trail mix and greek yogurt all day.
It was dark by the time she was driving him to his parents' in her new car. After about 25 minutes of driving south they entered the countryside that looked so barren in the night to make him wonder what hope someone could feel living out here. The only lights were of houses out in the fields, the headlights on her new car, and a rare streetlight at the odd crossroad.
She dropped him off and left without coming inside. It was late but his parents asked if he was still hungry. He had to tell them that he had just come from having dinner with the friend who'd just dropped him off. "Oh okay so you don' want to eat?" his mom said. And then all the sudden he wanted to eat her food so he said that maybe he'd have just a taste. His dad excitedly got up and said he would join him in this late night meal. "You want a beer, son?"
The only beer available were high alcohol IPAs. He was drunk just on his second bottle. He felt an inescapable compulsion to explain himself. To explain why he was home and console them of how he'd just as soon be out of their hair, and finally to explain why he and Linda had broken up. He ate his mom's food and the three of them talked while he waited for the right moment to explain. But it never came. He imagined if it were hard to find the right moment to explain personal issues to judgemental parents, that it was even harder to find the right moment with ones who didn't seem to judge at all. Instead he found himself enjoying himself.
When he went to bed that night he had two good night texts from her. He knew she was already asleep by the time he read them but he sent a good night of his own anyway.
The next day he got around to bringing Linda up with his mom. "Yes I know. You told us. Are you okay?" "Yeah. I don't know. I just wanted to tell you I think it's for the better." "Yes. I believe you." They didn't talk much about it. He didn't know what to expect. For some reason he thought that his mom think less of him for now being single. But he could see that she still loved him the same. "I believe in you. You can do whatever you want. Maybe Linda is not a good match."
He had nobody in town he wanted to see. He just wanted to hang out with her again, but she worked a job with an odd schedule that made Wednesdays and Thursdays her free days. They wouldn't hang out until then, but in the meantime they texted each other in a continuous never ending discussion. He was telling her that he was feeling stir crazy being at home with nothing to do. She was telling him that she needed to move out of her house ASAP. She told him about all the different places she might move into. Occasionally when there was nothing in particular they were discussing she stated how excited she was for Wednesday.
His dad had the option to work from home occasionally so he asked ahead of time to borrow the car for Wednesday. They met at a large parking lot in the suburbs right outside of Westcity where you could literally park your car anywhere for days at a time for free. He got out of his parents' car and got into her blue Mazda. It was shiny. She kept it clean.
They headed to a coffee shop that they had gone to in the past. She pointed new things that had appeared and things that had disappeared as they drove through downtown. The place was getting much more boujee.
This coffee shop wasn't boujee. They ordered coffees and sat down but didn't stay long because everyone else was studying on their laptops and the two of them weren't having that much fun sitting in that atmosphere.
Instead they drove to the most commercial part of downtown and parked at a ramp and walked around. They found another coffee shop -- that was more boujee. He ordered another coffee and she got a fruit flavored iced tea. They sat on stools by the wall which was mostly glass and people watched. The other cafe didn't have as much walkers to people watch.
After some time the cafe was getting hit with the lunch rush. The two decided to give their seats to a guy and girl who looked like a couple instead of a nerdy friend duo. When they did this he felt good about the decision. But once he was outside on the sidewalk sipping the last of his coffee he thought bad about it. He told her how couples probably always got preferential treatment and how those nerdy guys probably always got screwed. She agreed. She said that next time they should always help the nerdy guys.
They walked and talked long enough to work up a huge appetite. Plus it was lunchtime. They had now reached a part of town with an indian restaurant that they could smell. So the decision was made.
They had come here before. After he had made a display of disapproval on the sports bar on their first hang out she told him that he could pick the next place they would go to. He picked the most exotic thing he could think of. She had never had Indian food until that point. Before going there she had been kind of scared and he had to act all calm reassuring her that it would be okay. It had made him feel good. She ended up loving it. "Oh my god. This is so good. I can't believe i haven't been eating this my whole life." He told her about how he hadn't had it until he was like 16 and thought the same thing. After that time she would text him pictures anytime she would go there.
This time the two of them looked at the buffet, which looked kind of old, and decided to order off the menu instead. They got butter chicken and some type of byriani and two samosas. After digging in while talking about how great the food was, they began talking about leases. She was looking to rent a house. She would rather buy one, but she wasn't confident that the market was good. She would rather save her cash until the right house became available. She didn't like how you had to share floors and walls in an apartment or a duplex. She said that nice houses were hard to find unless you were buying. And even then they were so expensive.
"Speaking of nice houses. I'm pet sitting this weekend. Why don't you come over and keep me company? I might invite some other people over too."