He had seen another fish tank on Craigslist. It was curved around the edges and looked much sleeker than the one he already had sitting in his living room. At this point, the only fish that remained in the tank was an albino bristle nose (what she called a sucker fish, since it fed off the algae in the tank). “Babe we have to get this!” He exclaimed, essentially giving her no choice in the matter. The seller lived in his hometown, which meant there was an inevitable hour and a half long drive ahead of them. He helped coerce her by promising to take her out to dinner to a nice hibachi restaurant.
The drive seemed shorter than usual, even without music. Some delinquent in the night had broken off his truck’s antenna a month or so back, leaving them nothing but static buzzing on the radio. She sat next to him with her face buried in the screen of her laptop, typing a written assignment that was due that night for her novel-writing class. His mom called him, asking when they would be in town and if they would stop at their local bar and have a drink with her and his stepdad. He was reluctant at first but decided a free beer or two sounded nice.
When they got there, they moseyed in through the thick crowd that blocked most of the entrance. He clasped her hand in his and guided her to where his parents usually sat. He could tell his mom already had a few drinks before they had gotten there. He ordered a Guinness, not getting it until she had already taken several fizzy gulps of her Blue Moon. His older brother showed up with one of his friends, throwing back several drinks in the time it took for her to drink the one beer. She was seated next to his mom who leaned in to converse with he and she. “I don’t understand why you two just don’t get married.” He and she smiled, sharing a quick glance.
“Ma, we aren’t ready for that yet.” The look of disappointment melted over a once optimistic expression. His mom was really pushing for their union along with “gran-babies”. “Mom, we are way to young for that. I want to at least get out of grad school and find a job before any of that.” She put a hand on his knee, nodding her head in agreement. His mom eventually pulled herself away from the subject, realizing they were firm on their stance at this point in time.
He finished his first beer and half of his second before she could even take a sip of her second. His mother was worried about him driving after two beers; however, with his weight and the span of time in which it took them to finish, he pressed that he was still under the limit and perfectly okay to drive. When the time came for them to pick up the fish tank, he and she said a quick goodbye and headed out into the cold toward his truck. They conversed about the topics his mother had brought up, circling back to the same conclusion. Twenty-two was not the time for them to get married and start a family.
They waited patiently in the driveway of the man with the fish tank. The sun was beginning to bow its head for the day, sinking into the horizon. Several minutes after six o’clock, they agreed that each of them had to pee. They didn’t want to go at this strange man’s house, so they held it the entire 40 minutes it took to load it into his truck bed and secure it down.
They pulled down the street to the nearest gas station, learning from the cashier that they needed a key to get in. A man had both sets in the back while he cleaned them for the day. He walked right in while she recognized that someone occupied the woman’s. When the woman finally did emerge, she was on her hot pink cell phone, with a sickening stench that followed behind her, gabbing away like the repulsive scent had no effect on her. She wondered what conversation was happening there but digressed. She had to hold her breath the entire time, noticing remnants of what this woman had done in the toilet. She hurried out the door and back to the cashier where he stood buying gum, hoping to regain some fresh air. He said he even noticed the smell when he walked out. The man standing at the register was the same man who thought he had completed cleaning out the bathrooms.
“That lady that was in the bathroom before her took a huge dump.”
He explained to the man, who with an exasperated expression replied, “That figures, doesn’t it?”
As they walked out, she asked why he would tell the man. He responded bluntly, “I didn’t want him to think it was you.” She stared at him blankly for a moment, then burst into laughter. They walked to the car, his arm sweeping around her waist as they readied themselves for the dinner ahead.
There was a large crowd inside that had begun to swell outside. She wondered if they would get the chance to eat there. Hibachi was one of her favorite kinds of restaurants, loving to see the meal cooked on a flattop grill in front of them along with the delicious flavors. She had gone to a restaurant like this one on several birthdays back in her hometown. They were optimistic about getting in.
The hostess told them it would be about a 45 minute wait, so they decided to get a beer. She sat on a stool in a tucked away corner where he leaned against her. She nuzzled her face into the crook of his neck, occasionally breaking away to take a sip of beer. He looked around, listening in on other people’s conversations. It fascinated him to dive into someone else’s life for a single moment. They, at times, liked to build context around conversations they heard. The wait felt like no time at all as they followed the waitress and several other people that would also be sitting at the same grill.
They ordered sushi, shrimp, steak, and salmon; all of which were delicious. On the hour and a half long drive home, they rehashed the contents of the day. The aroma of hibachi leftovers swirled through the air promising lunch the next day.