"There's that time in a kid's life when you actually can hold hands with a friend of the same sex and nobody looks askance at you and none of the other kids make fun of you or call you names. That's what kids do; you see little girls holding hands with each other and little boys holding hands with each other. There's something kind of sweet and funny about it, and we always thought of SpongeBob and Patrick as being very unselfconscious about that too." - Tom Kenny
Deep in the Pacific Ocean, the day was coming to an end. A fiery underwater sun hung low over the horizon, casting the aquatic landscape in a million soft shades of red and orange. The lush, green kelp of Jellyfish Fields was rippled gently by the warm summer current, which flowed organically between the grass-covered dunes. On one such dune, situated at the very edge of the fields, sat a rectangular yellow poriferan and his pink sea star friend. Two bamboo nets peaked out of a blue material backpack that lay tossed behind them, obscured partly by their lengthening shadows.
The sponge was happily stirring a plastic bubble wand in a small bottle of soap.
"Well, we couldn't have asked for a more perfect day of jellyfishing, Patrick!" He smiled placidly as the soap began to froth, then withdrew the wand and held it at eye-level to admire; a perfect, even coating, glinting enticingly even in the weak, end-of-day light. "I still can't believe you took on all those Golden-Throated Stingers."
"Yeah," Patrick grinned dopily, raising his right arm to stare almost fondly at the hundreds of welts that now plastered it.
"Wanna bubble?" said SpongeBob, offering the prepared wand to his playmate. Patrick shook his head and flopped onto his back, spread-eagled,sighing dramatically. SpongeBob was quite content to sit there blowing bubbles, admiring the way they trembled delicately in front of him, all colours and no colours at the same time, before bursting with the tiniest pop that still made him giggle every time. Patrick, on the other hand, quickly grew tired of this game. He sighed again.
"What's wrong, Pat?" SpongeBob temporarily abandoned his bubble soap to lean over his best friend, brow furrowed with concern.
"This is boring!" exclaimed Patrick, sitting up so suddenly that he sent a squealing SpongeBob toppling off the dune. "These are the best years of our life, SpongeBob, and you want to spend them blowing bubbles?" He got to his feet, suddenly full of energy, a wild look in his eyes. "We're always getting ready to live, but never living! Regret for the things we did can be tempered by time; it is regret for the things we did not do that is inconsolable. CARPE DIEM, SpongeBob!"
By now, SpongeBob had clambered his way back onto the dune and was sat on his haunches, distractedly brushing the dirt from his usually pristine shorts. "You want to get some ice cream?" he suggested.
"Oh boy, ice cream!" Patrick's bear-like rage was instantly replaced by whimsical excitement. He grabbed SpongeBob by the wrist, yanking him to his feet. "Come on, SpongeBob, the ice cream won't eat itself!"
"Wait, Patrick, my bag!" SpongeBob just had time to reach out and snatch up the backpack before Patrick began to run, forcing SpongeBob, who was still firmly in his grasp, to stagger along behind him.
By the time they reached the outskirts of Bikini Bottom, Patrick had returned to his usual passive self, for which SpongeBob was thankful. For one thing, he'd had time to stop and pull the backpack over his shoulders, so it was no longer dragging along behind him. For another, Patrick was no longer trying to tear his hand off; he was simply holding it, which was much less painful. Although not entirely pain free, as the sea star was oblivious to his own strength and, therefore, his bone-crunching grip. SpongeBob didn't mind; the joy he felt walking with his best friend from one of his favourite places to another of his favourite places far outweighed the pain.
Sponge and sea star stopped in their tracks. The shout had come from a small group of children up ahead, and was followed by a chorus of raucous laughter. Even SpongeBob, who was infamously naïve, knew that the laughter was directed at him and his friend. He immediately became paranoid, checking his clothes with his free hand, worrying that they were still scuffed and stained from his tumble back in Jellyfish Fields. Did he really look that bad?
"Boys don't hold hands with each other!"
This comment came as a surprise. "Why not?" replied SpongeBob.
More laughter. Cruel, malicious laughter, punctuated by wolf-whistling and exaggerated kissy noises. The penny finally dropped; SpongeBob and Patrick glanced at each other, SpongeBob blushing furiously, Patrick none the wiser. His mind was still on ice cream. SpongeBob dropped his friend's hand like a hot potato.
"Patrick!" he whispered, "They think – they think we're -" He paused, searching for the right word.
SpongeBob sighed, linking his arm through Patrick's as they began to walk away. "I guess we can't hold hands anymore," he lamented, "I mean, we wouldn't want people to get the wrong impression."