Ramsay had two older sisters, Adhira and Uma. Both of them were significantly older than he was. He had been, as his mother said, a bonus baby. As Adhira had so helpfully pointed out many times during his formative years, what that really meant was accident. In any case, Uma was twelve years older than him and Adhira, at forty-four, was seventeen years his senior, a fact he liked to remind her of whenever possible. Adhira had gotten married while she was in medical school and, having decided that it would easiest to start her family before she began her residency, had given birth to her one and only child Sayid when she was twenty-five. At that point, Ramsay had only been eight years old. When Sayid had begun junior kindergarten, he and Ramsay had been at the same elementary school.
Sayid was in his second year at the University of Roehampton. He was supposed to be living in a townhouse with five other students, but he had been evicted. He and his roommates had thrown one too many keggers apparently. Adhira was furious, Sayid wasn’t even appropriately shamed, and Ramsay somehow ended up with another roommate. Sayid was looking for another place to rent with his buddies , but was staying with Ramsay in the meantime. Most of this had been decided without Ramsay’s consent. Adhira had simply shown up at his apartment with her son in hand and announced the plan she had come up with. Admittedly, it solved a lot of her problems. It was less convenient for Ramsay.
Sayid slept on the couch in the living room, which he complained about for long stretches of time. Oscar ignored him completely, choosing instead to lay on the kitchen tile and swat at fruit flies. Sayid complained about those as well.
“It’s hot as balls in this apartment,” Sayid told them over dinner one night, as if they might’ve somehow missed that fact. As if Oscar wasn’t lying on the kitchen floor, trying to eat his grilled cheese sandwich off the plate he had balanced on his sternum, as if Ramsay hadn’t opened all the windows despite the fact that it was mid-March.
“Really?” Oscar returned, barely lifting his head from the floor. “I hadn’t noticed. I guess I thought it was normal to sweat literally all the time in the dead of winter.”
“He’s an ass, you know that?” Sayid said to Ramsay, pointing to Oscar.
“Yeah, I know that,” was Ramsay’s response.
With Sayid sleeping on the couch, it meant that he was pretty much involved in everything that happened in the apartment. It wasn’t a very large place. There was nowhere else for him to be except for the hexagonal bathroom or the minuscule balcony. Even though the apartment was hotter than the sun, it was still rather cold outside and sitting on the balcony for long stretches of time was unappealing. Beyond that, icicles had been forming on the overhang from the roof all winter and they were beginning to melt and drop off as the weather warmed gradually. Being on the balcony was now hazardous, the potential of being speared significantly increased.
What it all meant was that Sayid was around every time someone came over to visit. He was there every time Miles came home from work with them to avoid going home to his mopey roommate. He was there when Miles and Iggy both came over to avoid their respective roommates. And he was there when they hosted a birthday party for Ramsay despite Ramsay’s many, many wishes to the contrary. Ramsay hated birthday parties. He hated his own almost as much as he hated going to other people’s. He hadn’t liked them from a very young age. His mother had thrown him one when he was five that had been Lego-themed and he’d been given seven sets of the same Batman Lego. Batman had terrified him as a child. It was traumatizing.
“A couple of my buddies are coming for the party,” Ramsay announced one night over dinner. Miles was also there because Iggy apparently had other plans and he was trying to avoid his mopey roommate Liam. Liam had been freshly dumped, though Ramsay wasn’t sure how fresh it could really have been; it seemed like he was always freshly dumped.
“Oh yeah, who?” Oscar asked curiously. Miles was also staring at him in intrigue. Ramsay got the impression that they might’ve thought, previous to them, he didn’t have any friends. To be fair, it wasn’t an unreasonable assumption. He was not friendly at all. That having been said, he had always had a lot of friends. Maybe people were drawn to him out of a need to make him like them, like it was a challenge. Either that or they had no self-preservation instincts. That, he assumed, was why Miles had wanted to be his friend. Well, that and he made terrible social decisions most of the time. That was what had lead him to Marly and her horde of clone-like, small, blonde friends and their slip dress uniform.
“Patrick and Santhir,” Ramsay answered simply.
“Patrick and Santhir who?” Miles pressed. Both he and Oscar had stopped eating and were staring at Ramsay, waiting for his response. Sayid, on the other hand, had continued to eat his stir fry, shoveling rice into his mouth without a care in the world.
“Patrick Chan and Santhir Sood,” Ramsay returned. Oscar dropped his fork, instantly delighted.
“Patrick Chan, Olympic figure skating silver medalist and Canadian national treasure?!” He asked enthusiastically. Ramsay hadn’t seen him this happy in literal months. The last time, in fact, he had seen Oscar this happy had been when he won a day-long Scrabble tournament seven months ago against David. He hadn’t even been that happy when he bought the engagement ring to give to Katy.
“No,” Ramsay retorted flatly. “Patrick Chan, accounts manager and amateur tennis player.”
“Oh,” Oscar said, evidently dejected. “Disappointing.”
Fortunately Oscar and Miles, who organized the party, had the foresight not to invite legions of thousands. They didn’t even invite David or technically Sayid. He was just there. Joey still managed to swing an invite, though. Ramsay wasn’t actually sure that had been intentional. He asked Oscar about it when Joey showed up toting a whole crate of his nona’s homemade wine. Iggy had assumed it was a gift for Ramsay, a lifetime’s supply of wine, but it was far more likely that Joey intended for them to drink it all that night. They’d probably end up doing it too. He was incredibly persuasive.
“Did you invite Joey on purpose?” Ramsay asked Oscar while they were standing in the kitchen together, sweltering.
“I don’t think he’s ever been invited anywhere on purpose in his life,” Oscar answered. “I think he could just sense that Robin was going to a party. Like a bloodhound, but for debauchery instead of deer.”
The entire guest list was Oscar and Miles, Bear, Robin, Joey, because he had the party sense of a bloodhound, Sayid because he was there, and Priscilla and Bernie. And the only people Ramsay himself invited with Santhir and Patrick. Bernie clearly hadn’t gotten the memo about significant others and had brought her boyfriend with her. She also clearly hadn’t been told about the warmth of the apartment because she was wearing a long-sleeved, velvet dress. He was sure they had mentioned the heat on one of their many shared morning commutes, but she had either forgotten or assumed he and Oscar were exaggerating for dramatic effect. They were not.
“It’s like the tropics in here,” Bernie complained well into the evening, fanning at herself with her free hand. There was a red solo cup full of wine in the other. She had pushed her sleeves up as far as they would go, just past her elbows, and she had hiked up the skirt to a scandalous height. Priscilla had already taken off her tights in the middle of the living room. She had first attempted to do it in the bathroom, but it was so small that she didn’t have enough room to bend the way she needed to. Joey had hollered the entire time she was removing her tights until Robin finally threw something at his head.
Joey was really appealing to a nineteen year old. He was cool to nineteen year olds in a way that he was most definitely not to people in their mid-twenties and on. Sayid thought Joey had awesome taste in music and clothes and hobbies. Older adults thought Joey was a hot mess or, alternatively, a criminal. Sayid really took to Joey, following him around as he doled out enormous quantities of wine to the guests. Ramsay was a little concerned that he would have to return his impressionable nephew to his sister with an explanation about why he wanted to drop out of school and start selling drugs on the street.
Patrick and Santhir showed up about an hour into the party. They had come from out of town and apparently Patrick had gotten lost at some point. Santhir had a lot to say about that.
“It’s the fucking highway, though,” he said as Patrick was explaining their lateness to Ramsay and Bear. “How do you get lost on the highway? It goes in two directions. You had a fifty per cent chance.”
“If it’s so easy, how come you let me go the wrong way?” Patrick rounded on him.
“How else would you have learned?” Santhir returned. Patrick rolled his eyes and then shoved him so he stumbled away.
“Holy tits, it’s hot in here,” Patrick proclaimed after Santhir had managed to right himself. “I feel like maybe you could’ve warned us.”
“It isn’t even this hot in India,” Santhir interjected. “I’m going to lose so much water weight. I’m going to lose all my water weight. I’m going to look like the baby version of Benjamin Button by the time we leave here.”
“I’m sweating my balls off!” Sayid called from a few feet away, where he was standing with Joey. Last Ramsay had heard, they’d been discussing Skrillex. Ramsay had no interest in Skrillex so he had left them to it at the risk that his nephew would get eventually get swept up into the dangerous world of illegal narcotics. It was a boring topic of conversation so he was willing to take that chance.
“Seriously, I’m so goddamn hot,” Priscilla chimed in. Beside her, Bernie looked incredibly displeased. Her boyfriend was a little dewy, but had still managed to remain calm and collected in his long-sleeve shirt and jeans. He was a better man than Ramsay; he probably would’ve murdered someone by this point, forced to wear long-sleeves in the suffocating heat.
“Our radiators are busted,” Oscar explained.
“No shit,” was Santhir’s response.
“Are you sure your landlord isn’t trying to force you out or something?” Bernie asked.
“Or, alternatively, maybe your landlord is trying to slow-cook you so you stay moist, like a rotisserie chicken,” Priscilla offered.
“Alright, maybe we should go out then,” Miles suggested, which was how they ended up at the German tavern three blocks over, eating soft pretzel sausage sandwiches and drinking excessive quantities of beer in borrowed lederhosen from the lost and found.
To be continued…