We make our way to our dinner reservation on foot. The restaurant chosen by Aiden is just a hop, skip and a jump from his apartment. We have some time to spare. So, prior to heading to dinner, Aiden and I make our way to a tiny little bar, one of his favourites. It’s dark. It’s empty. This may work in my favour. This may add to the awkwardness. I don’t even know anymore. I request a glass of red, for something not different. Aiden orders something
a little a lot stronger – an Old Fashioned.
Between the time we depart for dinner and arrive at the bar, my sister has texted to confirm her, and her boyfriend’s, attendance to my last-minute dinner invite – an invite to join Aiden and I on, what you can only refer to as, a ‘double date’. Aiden and I each spoke about our families often. I knew all about his three siblings. He knew all about my three sisters. So, when I asked whether Shannon and her boyfriend could join us for dinner, he didn’t hesitate to say yes.
But now things have changed. Aiden said yes before I informed him we were in fact NOT boyfriend and girlfriend. I’m still confused about that by the way. Upon reading Shannon’s text, my heart rate increases. I take a gulp of red wine and turn to Aiden. “So, Shannon and her boyfriend are coming to dinner! They are literally… Oh, look here they are! Hello!” Ahhhh, shit. But, also, thank God you’re here.
So, this is what actually happened, okay? I knew what was going to go down at dinner. And so, I thought, let’s make it super casual by inviting other people, we’ll all drink up, have a fab time, and at the end of the night, when I inform Aiden of my pending departure, he won’t care, because he’ll be happy as Larry, drunk as a skunk. I’ll have my watch (and a lift home!) He’s a free man. Everyone wins. Yes, I know. It’s somewhat immature. But if there’s anyone who can make light of an unfortunate situation is Shannon.
We enter the restaurant and are seated at the bar. Aiden on one end, Shannon on the other. And, so it begins. Red wine for the girls. Old Fashioned cocktails for the boys. Two hours in, we are more than merry. You know how drunk you are when it’s time to go to the bathroom. So, basing my level of drunkenness on my bathroom visit, I’m pretty drunk right now. As is… “Shannon!”
“Shannon! Check out the Tim Robards and Anna Heinrich wannabes over there!” Shannon turns around and laughs, then does a double take. “Simone! That is Tim Robards and Anna Heinrich!” She’s right. It is, in fact, The Tim and Anna. The Bachelor lovebirds in the flesh. “They are actually really nice, you know?” The waiter behind the bar observes our blatant staring. I’m staring. I can’t help it. She looks different in real life. She catches me staring. This is awkward. I’m still staring. Right. Time for a bathroom break. I invite Shannon to come with me, because… girls. I check out Anna at close proximity on my way. Hello, Anna. Hello, Muscles.
The night is actually, surprisingly, really fun. Shannon is a hoot. Her boyfriend is somewhat affected by the strength of his Old Fashioned cocktails, so much so he has gone silent. Aiden is in a really good mood, and well, I am just having the time of my life. Red, red wine. It’ll do that to you. The point of this whole dinner thing is far from the forefront of my mind. Life is good. But then… Shannon.
Tispy, happy go lucky, Shannon. It was like slow motion. As I look up from my tenth share plate, I turn my attention towards Shannon. She turns her attention toward Aiden. “So, Aiden….” she begins. Instantly, my mind is yelling, Noooooooo, Shannonnnn. Staaarrrrppp. I know her well. I know what’s coming. But my mouth doesn’t move. “So, Aiden”, she continues, “let’s talk about the elephant in the room, shall we?” There. She said it. Aiden looks confused. “The elephant. Melbourne of course. How do you feel about Simone moving to Melbourne?”
I have three words for you: Deer. In. Headlights. Actually, make that four. Dead. Deer. In Headlights. My neck tenses up as I slightly tilt my head, my eyes opened as wide as dinner plates. I telepathically tell her to Shut. Up! “You know, how Simone is moving to Melbourne. She quit her job the other day. It’s happening!” Shannon takes a sip of her red, completely ignorant of the carnage she just caused. This would have been a great bathroom convo. Dammit. She and her boyfriend are now enthralled in some PDA action and I’m left not only to explain myself but also let Aiden down gently. It’s way too late for gently… clearly.
I turn to Aiden. “So, yeah, I’ve decided to move to Melbourne. It’s just… after I hadn’t really heard from you, I figured we weren’t really going anywhere… and, I just felt that the timing… well, I think I need to just…” I’m the worst human. Ever.
“Well, I’m not exactly in a position to ask you to stay. So, yeah, okay. I guess, great. I’m happy for you. I really am. I know that this is what you really want.” I’m a terrible person.
Shortly after, we request the bill. “I’ve got it.” Aiden insists he’ll pay my portion. “No, no, no, I can pay.” I insist on paying my portion. “No, no, no, I’ve got it.” Aiden firmly insists he’ll pay for my portion. “No, no, no…” Now this is just getting awkward. “Simone. I’ve got it. Take it as a way of me saying, congratulations.”
And so, on a balmy Saturday night, in a restaurant in Darlinghurst, I said goodbye to Aiden for the last time. The tables were filled with people sipping on cocktails, deep in conversation. And then there was Aiden and I. Sitting adjacent to one another. Two singles who came together as a result of our thumbs swiping right. Hands to ourselves. Soon to be strangers. He will be one to remember.
Thank you, Aiden. You are by far one of the best stepping stones to The One I’ve ever had.
P.S. I still love you red wine.