Chris and Savannah had taken her son Brady to the aquarium. They’d been there for a grand total of twenty minutes and already it was headed straight to shit. Chris blamed this on Brady, who surely blamed it on Chris. And Savannah was furious. Chris felt that most of the issues were derived from Brady’s general entitlement, but also the fact that he kept asking what would happen if the water in the tanks was replaced with fire. It was a troubling question for a child to ask. He was definitely a psychopath. Of course, Chris didn’t say that to Savannah because she probably wouldn’t have taken it well, not that he blamed her.
Brady always demanded things. First he wanted ice cream, then he wanted a stuffed whale, then he wanted ice cream again. When he didn’t get any of the things he wanted, he threw tantrums. Chris spent more time at the aquarium watching Brady wailing on the ground than he did looking at the goddamn fish. He wouldn’t have cared so much except that he hadn’t wanted to go to the aquarium in the first place and had only gone because Savannah said it would be a nice bonding experience. So far, that was yet to be the case. Brady still hated Chris, Chris still disliked him, and now he had spent a regrettably high amount of money to look at fish.
Needless to say, the day did not go well. By the afternoon, everybody’s patience was wearing thin. Chris had absolutely no patience left for Brady, who kept trying to steal stuffed animals from other kids. Savannah had no patience for Chris, but seemingly endless patience for her demonic child. Finally, Chris snapped. They were in the whale exhibit, looking at the underside of a beluga whale as it gently glided around the massive tank it was being kept in. Chris, who didn’t even want to be there, was dutifully reading the information placard mounted to the wall beside the tank. Brady wasn’t paying any attention. He was trying to take a stuffed seahorse from some poor girl, who was having a lovely time with her grandparents. Chris kept glancing at Savannah to see what she was going to do about her child’s rampant kleptomania, but she did nothing. Then Brady finally succeeding in taking the seahorse and Chris lost his shit.
“Give it back!” He ordered immediately. The little girl was in tears and her grandparents were eyeing Brady like he was the spawn of Satan, which he very well may have been.
“No!” Brady yelled back. He stuck his tongue out and began running away. What he failed to take into account, fast though he may have been, was that Chris’ legs were twice the length of his. Chris caught up to him almost instantly, at which point he tore the seahorse out Brady’s hands and gave it back to the little girl, whose grandparents carted her away with one more disappointed look at Chris, Savannah, and Brady. Brady began another tantrum and Chris promptly lost the will to live.
“I want a seahorse!” He wailed.
“We can get a seahorse after the whale exhibit,” Savannah told him soothingly. Chris was outraged.
“He’s going to get a seahorse after that?” He demanded, gesturing in the direction the little girl and her grandparents had gone. “He just tried to steal one from another kid!”
Savannah frowned at him.
“Sometimes you have to concede a battle,” she told him sagely. Chris snorted.
“Surely you have to win at least a few, though,” he countered. Savannah was very, very angry about that. Chris, having just attacked her parenting, could see why. At the same time, her son was a shithead.
“If that’s how you feel,” she told him in a dangerously quiet voice. “Then maybe you shouldn’t be a part of this family.”
Chris got the impression she was expecting him to back down at that.
“Probably not,” he agreed. Then he left her and her psychotic child at the aquarium.
Chris took the subway to Sybil and Suze’s apartment. When he got there, Suze answered the door in a pair of sweatpants and an oversized t-shirt that claimed she was “too tired for this shit”. It spoke to him on a very deep level. She let him inside and explained that Sybil was out with her boyfriend Wes for dinner.
“What’s up with you?” She asked him casually, leaning one hip against the kitchen counter.
“Love is really is a lie and we might as well all be dead,” he told her flatly, repeating what he’d said to her the first time he and Savannah had broken up. This was the second and he didn’t think there would be a third.
“Wine?” Suze asked in response.
“Yes please,” he answered without hesitation.
“Red or white?” She asked, moving further into the kitchen to get some glasses.
“All of it?” He replied.
Suze poured them each an enormous glass, grabbed some cheese and crackers, and led the way to her bedroom. Chris had only been in her room when she and Sybil had moved in and he was lugging around massive boxes of books. He normally spent time in Sybil’s room, although since they’d moved into a two-bedroom and Suze had her own bed, he’d been able to sleep on their couch when Gladys practiced the guitar late into the evening. Suze’s room was very nice, very tidy. It was exactly what he’d expected from her. She had two very orderly bookshelves, a crisp white chest of drawers, and a matching white headboard on her double bed. Her minimalist artwork was neatly lined up on several evenly hung picture shelves. Her bedspread was mostly white with a delicate pattern of small burgundy flowers.
“I hate to tell you this,” Suze said to him once they’d settled side by side on her bed, the plate of cheese and crackers set between them on her bed. “But it doesn’t get any better now. I dated a guy who may or may not be blind. I couldn’t tell because he only complimented me when I was ugly.”
It wasn’t super reassuring.
“Maybe he just couldn’t tell,” Chris offered.
“Couldn’t tell when I was ugly?” Suze returned skeptically.
“Yeah,” Chris answered. “So, sure, it’s still not great. Or maybe he just had poor eyesight so you were always a bit blurry.”
“He wore sunglasses literally all the time, even indoors,” Suze informed him, taking a sip of her wine.
“Alright, well then hopefully he was blind,” Chris said. “Otherwise that’s unacceptable.”
“I mean, I would date a blind person,” Suze replied thoughtfully.
“You may have already,” Chris pointed out, taking another slice of brie. He couldn’t believe Suze and Sybil just had brie in their fridge. He’d opened his fridge the other day to make lunch, but all he’d had inside was a container of expired chip dip, half an onion, and some beer.
“I think I’m going to give dying alone a shot,” Suze said. “It’ll be a long-game, but I think it might be nice. I don’t like spending money on other people.”
“Yeah, that’s the fucking worse,” Chris agreed. “Buy your own shit.”
“Exactly!” Suze crowed. “Hey! Maybe we can die alone together! Single buddies for life! I promise that I will always have wine.”
That sounded genuinely nice to Chris.
“Well then, in the illustrious words of Johnny Depp, back before he looked like the bloated corpse of someone who drowned in a river,” Chris said, raising his wine glass in a toast. “Wino forever.”