Chapter Fifty-Three: “Your chances are pretty good so long as you stop talking about work camps and dead children”

There were few things Oscar disliked more than clubs. One of those things was fruit flies. Another was drunk people, though. Therefore, finding himself in a club full of drunk people was like a special kind of hell. If the club had been full of fruit flies like his apartment was, he probably would’ve thought he had literally died and gone to hell. To make matters worse, Miles had very obviously taken it upon himself to find a new woman for Oscar. He wasn’t sure what the endgame was exactly, whether or not Miles was interested in finding him a girlfriend or a one night stand, but Oscar wasn’t in love with either idea. He didn’t think he was entirely ready to begin dating anybody new, largely because he was definitely still in love with Katy, even if she was no longer in love with him. It was sad, but he was ignoring it, much like every other uncomfortable aspect of his life. That was the same reason he hadn’t shown up to the past two Skankhole gigs. That and he figured a few no-shows would force the band to find another drummer and, consequently, another reputation to mutilate.

While the root of the issue was that Oscar simply was not ready to begin dating again, another fairly large issue was Miles’ completely abysmal taste in women. He was going to have to hold onto Iggy for the rest of his life because there was not a chance in hell that he would ever manage to find someone nearly as good to love him. And Iggy wasn’t even close to being the spokesperson for “functioning adult person”. She worked at a coffee shop, never got anybody’s order right, and Oscar had witnessed her eat eighteen meatballs in one ten-minute sitting. And clearly her taste in men was terrible because she was dating Miles.

Miles kept shoving Oscar, literally shoving him, into groups of overdressed, young women, most of whom wanted nothing to do with Oscar even a little bit. They’d all stop dancing immediately, glare at him for a bit, and then turn away, which left him with no other option but to leave and get pushed into someone else moments later by Miles. It was not enjoyable. It continued for quite a long time as well, until Miles finally succeeded at pushing him into a group of women who were at least over the age of nineteen. They weren’t any more interested in him, but they at least weren’t interested in him for reasons other than him being old. These women weren’t interested because they were mature and clearly much better than him in several different ways.

“Jesus, this is a sobering evening of humiliating rejection,” Oscar commented to Bear and Ramsay, wandering away from the latest group of women. Miles was still out on the dance floor with Iggy in Joey’s shirt, Joey in yet another white tank top, and Robin, who looked displeased and disdainful. Finch was nowhere in sight, which seemed like it might be mildly concerning, but Oscar merely added it to the ever-growing list of things he was ignoring.

“I think you might be choosing the wrong women,” Bear told him sagely.

“I’m not choosing any women,” Oscar retorted, snorting. “Miles keep shoving me into women he would choose, which is why it isn’t working. None of these women want me or Miles. That’s why he was so sad for so long before he accidentally persuaded Iggy to date him.”

“Just ask Miles to stop,” Bear suggested.

“Tell him to fuck off,” Ramsay amended.

“Thought about it,” Oscar said, pointing at Ramsay to make it clear which version he had considered. “But I don’t want to get close enough for him to be able to push me at another woman. It’s like Sophie’s Choice.”

“No,” the blonde woman to their left said, cutting in. “That’s not at all like Sophie’s Choice.”

“Is it a catch twenty-two then? I always get those two confused,” Oscar asked thoughtfully.

“Well, it’s certainly closer to being a catch twenty-two,” the woman replied. “But it definitely isn’t Sophie’s Choice.”

“Huh,” Oscar said. “You know, there’s a chance I’ve been using that in the wrong context for years now.”

“Do you even know what Sophie’s choice was?” The woman replied. “Because she chooses which kid to get gassed at a work camp during the Second World War.”

“Yeah, you’re right. It’s not anything like Sophie’s Choice,” Oscar agreed immediately as Ramsay laughed at him. “I’m Oscar, by the way.”

He held out his hand for the woman to shake. She frowned at him for a moment before taking it.

“I feel like you might be trying to use this opportunity to hit on me, which is really weird since we were just talking about Sophie’s Choice,” she replied. “But, uh, sadly this isn’t the weirdest way I’ve been hit on tonight, so I’m Erin.”

“Oh Christ,” Oscar muttered to himself as Ramsay laughed even louder. “I wasn’t – that’s not what I – fuck it, whatever. Sure. Did it work?”

“Not even a little,” Erin replied bluntly. “But I do feel kind of bad for you because you’re clearly a disaster. So I’m going to take pity on you and introduce you to my single friends. There are only three, but we’re here for a bachelorette party and there’s been a lot of drinking and even more desperation. Your chances are pretty good so long as you stop talking about work camps and dead children.”

“Christ,” Oscar muttered again, but he followed her over to the booth next to the dance floor where her friends were sitting anyway, leaving Bear and Ramsay behind. One of the women, clearly the bride, was wearing a pink sash declaring her a “Princess Bride” and a tiara that had pink feathers glued to the base. The majority of the party was exactly the kind of unattainable woman Miles had been pushing Oscar at all evening. Oscar was beginning to suspect that Erin had a very cruel sense of humour.

She introduced him to each of them, no one paid any attention, and then discreetly pointed out which of them were her single friends. The first was a woman that looked like she could crush Oscar physically and emotionally at a moment’s notice. She had an eyebrow piercing and the hardened glare of someone who had served decades in the military. The second was absolutely gorgeous. She very well could’ve been the most attractive woman he had ever seen in real life and there was not a single possibility in any universe that he was remotely close to being good enough for her. It was possible she was just an incredibly beautiful face and a really shitty personality, but his face was average and his personality was also shit.

The third was the most promising. She was pretty, but in a normal way. She had a nose ring and deep red wine coloured lipstick that matched her hair. She looked unbelievably bored. He sat down next to her, Erin dropping down to his other side, and introduced himself. Her response was bored, but he did learn that her name was Margot.

“Having fun?” He asked for lack of anything better to say. Beside him, Erin snorted, clear eavesdropping.

“No,” Margot answered bluntly. “I didn’t want to come out, but they made me. I said I would only come if they went to this bar because the DJ sometimes plays my favourite Abba song.”

It was probably the only time Gord’s random playing of disco music had been praised.

“‘Take A Chance on Me’?” Oscar guessed.

“Close second,” Margot replied. “‘Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!’”

Oscar didn’t really know what to say after that. He ran through what felt like every possible conversation topic he had on hand. A shocking number of them revolved around fruit flies. In an effort to hate them as much as he was capable, Oscar had done a lot of research on fruit flies. He could now hate them in the most accurate way. It really hadn’t helped any, but he now knew the scientific name was drosophila melanogaster.

“Dear God,” Erin commented, breaking up a very long, very awkward lull in his tentative conversation with Margot. “You are so bad at this.”

She wasn’t wrong. The last time he had tried to pick up a woman, it had been four years previously when he’d managed to successfully woo Katy with his Bill Clinton impression at a Halloween house party. And he hadn’t had to pick up anybody since. Thinking about that in the middle of a crowded bar as he very poorly attempted to hit on a stranger at a bachelorette party made him want to slip off the white pleather couch in the booth and lay down on the sticky floor, possibly for forever. He felt abruptly sick and very overwhelmingly sad. He wanted to go home and never leave again. Home was safe. Home was littered with fruit flies and all the shitty things he already knew about. This was something new and terrible. He needed to leave.

“Eh,” Margot made a soft sound in the back of her throat, interrupting his panicked spiralling. “You’re not so bad. I mean, like, this hasn’t been great. I don’t want you to go out into the world thinking one very short conversation, a single comment really, about Abba is going to get you laid. But, like, you seem pretty cool.”

“I wasn’t saying you’re not cool,” Erin stepped in, patting him on the shoulder and managing not to come off condescending. “You just seem a little rusty is all. On the plus side, Abba is a huge improvement on dead children. So good job!”

Margot raised an eyebrow at them.

“I don’t even want to know,” she said before he had the chance to explain.

“For the best,” he nodded, feeling marginally better about his life. “It was really nice meeting you both. I’ve got to go.”

He stood up before either of them could say anything else and took off in the direction of the bar where Ramsay and Bear were still standing, this time with Finch, who was glaring at the woman in the leopard print skirt who was still hitting on Robin.

“Let’s go home,” Oscar said and then turned to leave before any of them could protest. He got his coat from coat check and then beelined outside. He stood in the freezing winter air until his friends spilled out the door to join him. Iggy and Miles were laughing with Joey about something Oscar wasn’t interested in figuring out. He lead the way back home, people branching off along the way to go to their own homes.

By the time he and Ramsay had made it back to their apartment, he was cold and tired and devastated. He and Ramsay hadn’t said much to each other, which wasn’t exactly abnormal. Oscar said goodnight and crawled into his bed, hauling the comforter up just under his chin even though it was still insanely hot in their apartment. He laid in the darkness for about twenty minutes, the weight of his sadness feeling like it was moments away from suffocating him. He couldn’t tell if he was going to cry. It felt like he should be crying, but he wasn’t and he was having a hard time working out if that was a good or bad thing. There was a soft knock on his door and then Ramsay was beside his bed in the darkness before Oscar could even open his mouth to say anything. Without a word, Ramsay laid down on the bed next to Oscar. It was uncomfortably warm, but Oscar didn’t move.      

“This sucks,” Oscar mumbled into the darkness after a long moment.

“Yeah,” Ramsay simply agreed. There was another long silence.

“I’m really warm,” Oscar added, not making any effort to move despite his announcement.

“Yeah,” Ramsay said again. He didn’t move away. Instead, he patted Oscar on the top of the head with his closest arm.

“Now that Miles has managed to trick Iggy into dating him, I think I really am going to die alone,” Oscar admitted, only half-joking.

“I promise to be there when you die,” Ramsay said, still patting his head. “Even if I’m off in Hawaii with my swimsuit model wife, I will fly back to this shithole apartment and hold your hand as you pass over into the great beyond with your fruit fly brethren.”

It was the most words Ramsay had probably ever said to him at one time in the entire duration of their friendship. Overall, it wasn’t very uplifting.

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