Chapter Forty-Four: “Stop trying to ruin cheese for me, man!”

Bernie’s friend Elliot was coming to visit. They had met in their second year 18th Century British poetry class during university and had become fast friends. That was the period of Elliot’s life that Priscilla liked to call his “jolly” phase. What she really meant by that, was that he was happy and fun and just a little bit chubby. Also during that time, he had been in love with Sybil. He had pined after her for two full years before finally doing something about it. He asked her out in the middle of a house party when Sybil was trying to braid Bernie’s hair back from her face because she was vomiting. It was the height of Bernie’s vodka phase as well as the height of Elliot’s jolly phase. It was also not a great time for him to ask Sybil on a romantic date. Her exact response was, “can we do this later? Bernie just puked on my foot”. What Elliot heard was, “I will never love you because you’re fat”. He spent the next year of his life dedicating himself to losing weight and becoming irresistible to women. Somewhat unfortunately, he was successful on both accounts.

In any case, Sybil was not looking forward to Elliot’s visit. Every time he came to stay, he made a big deal about being fit and also a womanizer in front of her to prove a point that hadn’t needed to be made in the first place. He always asked Bernie to organize a night out with Sybil and Priscilla so that he could hit on women in bodycon dresses in front of them. It was more annoying than anything else because Sybil certainly didn’t care that he slept with a lot of random women. She was not devastated by his reinvented persona the way he clearly hoped she was. She didn’t think of him as the one that got away because she had never wanted him in the first place, and not because he used to be fat, but because he was emotionally needy and apparently also an enormous tool.

This time it was going to be different, though. Sybil was determined. She had invited Chris to come along with them when they went out. Actually, she had demanded he come with them and then left no room for him to protest. That was usually how it went anyway. She met him at his apartment. Chris lived in a minuscule attic apartment by himself that he rented from an astoundingly elderly Italian woman that he called The Godfather. His bathroom was pentagonal and narrow. When he’d given Sybil the grand tour, he’d explained that, to close the bathroom door properly, she would have to get into the tub. It was a process.

Sybil dragged Chris over to Bernie and Priscilla’s half an hour before Elliot was set to arrive in the city. She hadn’t told him very much about Elliot, mostly because he definitely would’ve refused to come along if he knew anything about the kind of person Elliot professed to be. It was therefore a horrible shock to Chris when Priscilla began talking about him and all of his terrible character traits.

“I just wish he spent less time trying to show us how good he is at conning women into sleeping with him,” Priscilla said, waving around a handful of pretzels. Bernie had put out snacks, though Sybil didn’t know why she had bothered because Elliot hadn’t eaten a fun carb in roughly three years.

“You know he only does that to prove how great he is now,” Bernie replied, rolling her eyes. “To prove that he’s better off without Sybil. He’s still upset at her.”

“Still?” Priscilla repeated incredulously. “Because of that one time she turned him down and he thought it was because he was fat? That was like three years ago. He needs to let that go. If anything, he should be grateful because now there’s a lesser chance that he’ll die prematurely of heart disease.”

Sybil snorted. Priscilla made it sound like he had been morbidly obese when in reality he had been slightly pudgy.

“Just how fat was this guy?” Chris asked, grabbing some pretzels as well. He looked curious, which was never a good thing. Sybil was almost positive he was picturing a university student the size of a small killer whale baby.

“He wasn’t that fat,” Sybil answered.

“Okay, sure, but how fat is ‘wasn’t that fat’?” Chris pressed. “Did he, like, break chairs? Could he fit in roller coaster seats? Did people roll him to class?”

“Good Christ,” Sybil sighed, cutting him off.

“In comparison to Jabba the Hut, was he roughly the same size or bigger?” Chris continued. “If he sat on someone on the bus by accident, would he crush them?”

“To be perfectly honest, I liked him better when he was fat anyway,” Priscilla interjected, not answering any of Chris’ questions. “He was funner and he talked about the fat content of cheese way less frequently. Stop trying to ruin cheese for me, man! It’s the best thing in my life right now!”

“Cheese is the best thing in most people’s lives most of the time,” Chris said, nodding sagely. Sybil couldn’t help but feel that introducing the two of them had been a mistake.

When Elliot arrived at the apartment, the first thing he did was make a big deal of how heavy his suitcase was so he could show off, flexing his muscles. He talked about protein powder for a long time as he lifted his bag with each hand multiple times. He’d been in the same room as them for less than five minutes and Sybil could already tell that Chris wanted nothing to do with him. He wasn’t the only one either; Priscilla appeared to be holding back from rolling her eyes to such an extent that it looked painful. She was going to strain something soon. It was shame because Sybil could remember when Elliot had been fun to be around, back when he still enjoyed cheese as much as everybody else and didn’t consider dairy products the devil’s work.

“Yeah, he certainly isn’t great,” Sybil agreed.

“Then why are you friends with him?” Chris asked.

“Well, he has some good qualities,” Priscilla answered. “I can’t actually think of what they are at this precise moment, but I know they exist. Probably.”

“Oh good,” Chris replied. “I can’t wait to spend the rest of the evening with him.”

No one bothered to protest his point.

The five of them went for drinks at a pub nearby the apartment. Chris ordered a pint and Elliot told him all about how beer was full of unnecessary carbs. After a full seven minutes, which Sybil timed on her phone, Chris pointed out of that a lot of things were full of unnecessary carbs.

“You could just never eat again,” Chris told Elliot positively. “That’ll really cut down on your carb intake.”

“Just trying to be helpful, buddy,” Elliot scoffed at him. He was already offended. They’d only been there for twenty minutes.

Another twenty minutes later, Elliot had begun hitting on their waitress by talking about his weightlifting routine, making a big show of it in front of Sybil. He kept shooting her unsubtle looks. Every time, Chris rolled his eyes. By the end of the night, he was rolling his eyes roughly once every four minutes. Sybil counted that too. Elliot walked away with the waitresses number and spent the entire walk back to the apartment bragging about how easy it was for him to pick up women now.

“If only she could hear you now,” Chris said wistfully. “She would feel so special.”

Elliot shot him the dirtiest look Sybil had ever seen in her life.

She and Chris said good-bye to the others at the building door and then turned around to make their way back to Chris’ apartment. They trekked to the subway mostly in silence. It wasn’t until they were sitting on a train car that Sybil finally said something.

“I swear he used to be better when he was fat,” she assured him.

“Well, he sure as hell couldn’t have been worse,” was Chris’ response.


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