“Hey,” Avi greeted when Mitch opened up the passenger side door.
“Hi,” Mitch mumbled, then followed up with, “Thank you. Thanks for- fuck.” He collapsed into the passenger seat and ground the heel of his palm into his eyes, unable to get his brain together long enough to form a cohesive sentence
“It’s,” Avi paused. “It’s fine. Are you OK?”
“I don’t know,” Mitch answered honestly, then waited until they were on the road and about a mile away before blurting out, “Avi, I’m so sorry.”
Avi didn’t immediately respond, but his jaw was firm and his brow was furrowed in concentration, like something weighed heavy on his mind and he didn’t know how to unsaddle the burden. He cleared his throat before talking, then matter-of-factly stated, “Jodie told me that you were seeing someone named Toby. She didn’t seem thrilled about it.”
“How did she-” Mitch’s eyes went wide, and he scrambled to put the pieces together. Something clicked, and he pulled up Instagram; his suspicion was confirmed when he found a new update to Toby’s Stories that wasn’t there before Mitch arrived at the bar. He didn’t bother to look at it, and only sunk further into his seat. “Jesus Christ. Great,” he mumbled under his breath.
“You know-” Though Avi’s voice was soft, it lacked warmth and gentleness. “I made this whole plan, specifically for you. And you told me that the time and date were fine-“
“I know. I was so stupid, I’m sorry,” Mitch interrupted, then tugged his hair for being rude.
“I guess I’m just disappointed?” The moment that the words left Avi’s mouth, Mitch’s blood turned to ice. His bottom lip trembled, and pressure built up behind his eyes. A mantra of don’t cry don’t cry don’t cry rushed through his head at the pace of a bullet train, but it only made the tears well up even harder.
“I’m so sorry,” he uttered, trying -and failing- to hold back a sob. This was worse than anything he could have anticipated, despite being justly deserved. He kept his face covered as he crumbled, and considered opening the car door to jump out. Avi didn’t need to get tangled up in this mess.
As if his intrusive thoughts had been cracked open and put on display for public consumption, the car slowed down and pulled to the side of the road. Mitch reached for the door handle, assuming he’d been given the signal to go. But before he could open it, he found himself enveloped in a tight hug. And though he tensed and resisted at first, he surrendered in short order and buried his face into Avi’s shirt, openly wailing. His cries were so consuming, so loud that they drowned out the rain that pounded on the car’s roof.
It was easily one of the most humiliating moments of his life.
“Dude, I didn’t say I was mad at you,” Avi tried to soothe Mitch, rubbing circles on his back. “C’mon, it’s OK.”
“I didn’t know that I could even disappoint you!” Mitch barely got out, his breath wet and shuddering.
“Why? Because you have abysmal self esteem issues?” Avi asked, making Mitch cough.
“Don’t drag me like that if you’re just going to kill me! Let me die with dignity!”
“And definitely not dramatic at all,” Avi chuckled, patting Mitch’s hair. “Look, I’ve got news, man: you’re likable. People even say good things. And I’ve known you for what, just over a few months? You’re on the fast track to becoming one of my closest friends. That’s why I was upset, because my good friend didn’t communicate with me beforehand, and left me out to dry at the last second. That sucks”
“That does suck,” Mitch agreed. “I’m so fucking sorry. I just…I don’t want to make excuses, but I’m…” he sniffed. “My brain’s not doing so hot right now, and I thought that I could fix it by doing this very dumb thing.”
“By seeing your ex?”
“By seeing my ex, yes.” Mitch confirmed.
“You’re right.” Avi pushed away slowly, putting enough space between them so that he could place his hands on Mitch’s shoulders and hold him at arms length. Mitch refused to lift his head to make eye contact, he lacked the strength and energy to do anything other than fight off the urge to lean into the touch. “That is pretty dumb,” Avi teased, and Mitch’s heart caught in his throat when he felt a soft kiss planted on the top of his head. Time moved at a glacier’s pace as Avi sat back in his seat and buckled up, then shifted the car out of park and resumed driving. “Is that Denny’s near the mall 24 hours? Because now I’m up, and I think you owe me.”
“Uh huh,” Mitch responded dumbly, in desperate need of what he’d done to deserve a kiss of all things, but not able to formulate anything due to his brain short circuiting. Being the deviant gremlin he was, he only fixated on what it would take to get more.
“Cool,” Avi smiled, his expression tired but the lines on his face soft and fond. “And for whatever it’s worth, I disappoint Charlie like…all of the time. Every day. So it’s not the end of the world, we’ve all been there.”
“How?” Mitch asked, and Avi’s smile faded. “Sorry, I shouldn’t- Don’t answer that.”
“It’s alright,” Avi sighed, and allowed a few swipes of the wiper blades to pass before he spoke again. “I think she assumed that by now I’d ‘grow out’ of wrestling and go back to school, or something along those lines. And she tells me that she wants me to do what makes me happy, but then.” He went tight lipped, and the silence became more deafening than the cacophony outside. His head shook and he glanced from out of the corner of his eyes. Lips parted, but nothing fell from them.
“Relationships are fucking hard sometimes,” Mitch finished the thought for him. Avi’s mouth formed a line, his focus back on the road ahead.
“They really are.” His tone turned somber in resignation, and Mitch’s heart splintered apart on his behalf.