Chapter Sixty-Nine: “I’m trying to be nice and you’re telling me about your uterus”

Priscilla went to visit her sister at work one day when she knew she would be working with Robin. Priscilla wanted to talk to him about his roommate Joey, but she didn’t know him well enough to message him or, God forbid, drop by to see him. Besides, she wanted to talk to him about Joey in a space where Joey would be nowhere near. Thus, she accosted him at work. She started the conversation while Robin and Tallulah were hanging out at the front counter one Saturday afternoon in the middle of April. The high school student they worked with was stocking records in the afro-jazz section and kept shooting them furtive glances. According to what Tallulah had told Priscilla before, this was because she was in love with Robin.

“Your roommate and I were in this yoga class together,” Priscilla began to Robin. “And now he keeps asking me out. And, like, I know he’s ridiculous, but how terrible would it actually be for me to date him?”

She hadn’t told Tallulah about Joey yet so she looked equally as stunned as Robin in the following moments directly after Priscilla had finished talking.

“Very bad,” Robin eventually replied. “So very, very bad.”

“Really?” Priscilla checked. She wasn’t sure she was fully convinced. Like she had said, she knew Joey was ridiculous, but he didn’t seem like a bad person. There were definitely worse people in the world. She had even dated some of those people.

“Priscilla, Dad thinks Chad is unclean,” Tallulah interjected, using the voice she used to explain what she considered purely rational situations. “How do you think he’s going to feel about Joey? I have literally never seen him without a black eye.”

“Well why does he always have a black eye?” Priscilla retorted, leaning forward onto the countertop on one elbow, putting her chin in her hand. “Maybe someone should be concerned about him.”

Robin snorted.

“To be fair, I’m not sure Joey is even concerned about his black eyes,” he said. “Or himself. If he was, he probably wouldn’t have nearly as many black eyes.”

Priscilla frowned at him, but didn’t say anything else. She hung around for a little bit longer, chatting with Tallulah about Chad’s undying love of Bruce Springsteen and ‘90s rap. Apparently his entire music catalogue on his iPod was a weird mix of Springsteen’s “Born in the USA” album and Kriss Kross. While they were talking, Oscar came into the store. As he explained, he was looking for a live Elvis record to give to his mother. Elvis was her favourite artist of all time. Elvis was Oscar’s middle name.

“Priscilla wants to know how bad it would be for her to date Joey,” Robin announced, informing Oscar of something Priscilla had actually been aiming to keep from him. She didn’t know why exactly, but she didn’t want him to know about it. It was stupid because if she did end up dating Joey, Oscar would eventually find out, especially if she and Joey stayed together for a long time.

“Joey,” Oscar repeated. Robin nodded. And then Oscar laughed so hard he cried. It was not an especially promising sign.

In the end, despite Robin’s assurances that dating Joey would be a bad idea, Priscilla decided to go for it and make up her own mind afterward. She was slightly thrown by what Robin had said though, so she suggested to Joey that they make it a double date. He could find a single woman to bring and she would drag Oscar along, most likely against his will. It was a perfect plan. Oscar was inclined to disagree.

“You want to make your first date with Joey a double date with me and some random woman that Joey knows,” Oscar reiterated flatly when Priscilla broke the news on the morning subway commute three days before the date. Bernie, who had had little interaction with Joey, didn’t fully understand the weight of Oscar’s words. Ramsay, on the other, snorted with laughter.

“Yeah,” Priscilla nodded, trying her best to ignore both Ramsay’s amusement and Oscar’s disbelief. “If we all go together, it won’t be awkward.”

“You imagine it’ll be less awkward if you add strangers to the mix?” Oscar returned incredulously.

“It’ll be great,” Priscilla said in response, mostly because she couldn’t think of anything else to say.

“That’s not what I asked,” Oscar frowned at her. Ramsay laughed again. It was a bizarre show of cheer from Ramsay. Although, since seeing him drunk and singing various parts of “The Sound of Music” soundtrack she found him significantly less imposing and intimidating.

Against all odds, Priscilla managed to convince Oscar to come with her on the double date. They met Joey and Oscar’s date at an Italian restaurant downtown on Saturday evening. Joey knew the owners and they had a lengthy, loud conversation in Italian before they were eventually led to their table. As the four of them took their seats, Joey explained that the owner was his Uncle Sal. Apparently Uncle Sal used to be the pickle ball partner of Sabrina, Joey’s cousin and Oscar’s date for the evening.

The first impression Priscilla had of Sabrina was that she had more hair than any other human being she’d ever met. That included Jemima, who had incredibly thick, waist-length hair most of the time because she simply forgot to get it cut. The subsequent impressions she got of Sabrina came at rapid speed and did not bode well for the remainder of the evening. She was an abrasive woman, to say the least. Some might have argued that she was terrifying. Oscar, in fact, whispered that very thing to Priscilla only a mere five minutes into their first course. Uncle Sal was pulling out all the stops for his favourite niece and nephew. Their cousin Vinny, who served the table dressed in an all-grey Adidas tracksuit, wasn’t particularly pleased by that comment.

“I come in to help you out on my one night off and this is how you treat me?” Vinny called to Uncle Sal. The whole family was very loud. Vinny and Uncle Sal were standing three feet apart, shouting at one another. No one else in the restaurant seemed to either notice or be bothered by it, which led Priscilla to the conclusion that they were all family members. That or deaf.

“Your night off,” Uncle Sal scoffed. “Your night off from what? Pushing stolen TVs on idiots?”

Vinny glowered as Uncle Sal walked away from the table.

“That man’s a dickhead,” he announced to the table.

“You’re a dickhead,” Sabrina retorted immediately.

“You’re all dickheads,” Joey cut in. “Let’s have dinner, yeah?”

He threw a shark-like smile to Priscilla and Oscar. Priscilla returned it with roughly half the enthusiasm as Oscar stared at Sabrina in mild horror.

Throughout dinner, Priscilla tried to get to know Joey better. She kept asking him increasingly direct questions about his job, all of which he responded to evasively, making it appear like he was reasonably financially stable, but without disclosing how he had gotten that way. Priscilla immediately assumed he was a gigolo. Then she worried that she was his next mark. After that, she managed to talk herself down, convincing herself that he was most likely just unemployed and embarrassed about it. And then she started thinking that maybe it was something else entirely.

If it had been any other person, Priscilla would’ve continued to assume he was unemployed and then moved on so she could fully enjoy her pasta. But Joey had turned up to dinner with the remnants of a black eye and his cousin Vinny, who he had casually referred to as his best friend, was wearing an Adidas tracksuit with a gold chain. And apparently he sold stolen televisions. Priscilla was fairly certain Joey did as well. That would explain a lot.

Just before dessert was served, Uncle Sal called Sabrina away to discuss something with her and Joey stepped outside to take an urgent phone call. He claimed it was for work. It was near eleven o’clock at night. Priscilla turned to Oscar, who was watching Sabrina walk away in blatant relief.

“Do you think Joey sells stolen TVs?” She asked hurriedly, trying to maximise the time before Joey or Sabrina returned.

“No, that’s Vinny,” Oscar answered absent-mindedly.

“Yeah, I know that, but do you think Joey also sells stolen TVs?” She clarified. “Like, is that how he makes money? He’s super cagey about it every time I try to ask. I think it might be a family business.”

Oscar finally looked at her fully with an incredulous expression on his face.

“Uh, Joey sells drugs out of his backpack in a Best Buy parking lot,” he told her, as if it was common knowledge. Priscilla’s mouth dropped open.

“He what?” She demanded.

“Did you not know that?” Oscar asked.

“No, of course I didn’t fucking know that!” She retorted. “If I had known that, do you think I still would’ve gone out with him?”

Oscar held his hands up in surrender.

“Oh my God,” she groaned. “Why would Robin not mention this?”

“Well, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but Robin’s kind of a dick,” Oscar replied. Priscilla had noticed.

“We have to leave,” she announced abruptly, already dropping her napkin and making to stand up.

“Oh thank God!” Oscar said, clearly pleased to be rid of Sabrina. Priscilla didn’t blame him; she had said some truly alarming things about her ex-boyfriend Todd over dinner. More specifically, she had talked at length about wanting him dead. It was startling and not at all enticing.

When Joey came back from outside, Priscilla calmly and politely informed him that she wasn’t feeling well and that Oscar was going to walk her home. Joey told her he would text her the next day, which she was fully prepared to ignore completely. Oscar said nothing about Sabrina at all, probably hoping that she wouldn’t find out where he lived. Then the two of them left Uncle Sal’s restaurant and walked briskly into the night.

“So that was a bust,” Priscilla commented when they were waiting for the subway.

“I still can’t believe you willingly dated Joey and expected good things,” Oscar replied, laughing to himself. He found the whole debacle vastly amusing. Priscilla shoved him.

“I didn’t know he was a drug dealer,” she hissed, aware of the few other people waiting on the platform as well.

“Sure, but still,” he returned, still laughing. “What about him suggests that he’s a well-adjusted, stand-up citizen? I think that was the second time I’ve seen him wear a shirt with sleeves.”

“Yeah, yeah, whatever,” Priscilla replied dismissively. She was trying to mentally prepare herself for the ridicule she’d endure at the hands of her sister. Once Tallulah found out that Joey sold drugs out a backpack for a living, she would never let it go. She’d probably still be talking about it when they were well into their old age.

“All I’m saying is that he’s riff raff,” Oscar continued. “Sure, he’s a lot of fun, but he also wears track pants ninety per cent of the time and his cousin is terrifying. You are better than that. You can do better than that. You deserve more than riff raff.”

“This has taken a weird turn,” Priscilla informed him bluntly. “This is by far the weirdest pep talk I’ve ever been given and, you know, my mum gave me a pep talk about menstruating when I got my first period in grade seven.”

Oscar raised an eyebrow at her.

“You think what I just said was a weird turn?” He questioned dubiously. “I’m trying to be nice and you’re telling me about your uterus.”

“First of all, I said nothing about my uterus. Technically I was talking about my mother’s tendency to give pep talks about bizarre things,” Priscilla began to reply. “Secondly, don’t get all butt-hurt because I mentioned my menstrual cycle. And thirdly, it’s weird when you’re nice. It’s unnatural and I hate it.”

Oscar sighed deeply.

“I wasn’t being butt-hurt about your uterus or your menstrual cycle,” he protested. “I was merely trying to point out that it wasn’t what we’d been talking about at all. I get it, you have a uterus and a period and, frankly, it seems horrible. All I was trying to say is that you’re a really great person and you’re very pretty. For fuck’s sake!”

“Well, you should’ve just said,” Priscilla retorted petulantly.

“I did just say,” Oscar fired back just as petulantly.

“Not the pretty part,” she pointed out.

“For fuck’s sake,” he said again.

“But, you know, I am very pretty,” she continued, undeterred by his sighing and head shaking. “You’re not wrong about that.”

“Glad we both agree,” Oscar said, rolling his eyes.

“You’re alright-looking,” she told him after a moment.

“Thanks, appreciate it,” he replied flatly, giving her a withering look.

“You can do better than Sabrina too,” she added as an afterthought. Oscar turned to her curiously.

“How much better?”

“Uhh…I don’t know…like, better in the sense that you could probably find someone who won’t threaten to rip off your leg,” Priscilla said, recalling an actual thing Sabrina had said over dinner.

“Someone prettier?” He asked, shifting toward her.

“I mean, she was pretty hot, just bonkers,” Priscilla shrugged, checking down the track to see if the train was coming.

“Yeah,” Oscar agreed. Priscilla looked over at him to discover that he was much closer than he was before. Neither of them said anything, but he gave her a half-smile before leaning in and kissing her.

It was possible her date hadn’t been as much of a bust as she’d initially thought.

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