Chapter Seventy-Four: “You’re like Frodo, but grumpy as hell”

It had been thirteen days since Oscar and Priscilla had kissed on the subway platform. Oscar knew this because he had been counting. He saw her every single weekday morning and neither of them had said or done anything about it. He felt like they were fast approaching the time when it would be too late for either of them to do something about it. Then it would be nothing but extremely awkward and yet another lost opportunity. It already was extremely awkward, to be perfectly honest. Oscar had been avoiding eye contact on the subway for days and he hadn’t been over to visit for longer. Instead, he’d been lying on his kitchen floor, partially because of the heat, but also because he felt constantly overwhelmed. Ramsay had obviously noticed something was going on, but he hadn’t said anything about it. Oscar assumed he didn’t care because Ramsay cared very little about most things and generally didn’t like to get involved.

It must’ve gotten too bad though because Ramsay brought it up on the thirteenth day since the kiss, a Friday evening at the end of April, when they’d gotten home from work. Ramsay was eating leftover Chinese takeout and drinking a beer on one of the bar stools at the kitchen island. Oscar was lying on the kitchen floor on the other side of the island. His head was sticking out just past the edge so he could see Ramsay’s feet resting on the rail near the base of the bar stool. His feet were exceptionally hairy. It was like he was part Hobbit.

“You’re like Frodo, but grumpy as hell,” Oscar remarked without any kind of context. Ramsay ignored the comment entirely.

“What’s going on with you and Priscilla?” He asked again. To his credit, he managed not to sound interested in the slightest. He made it sound like he was deeply unhappy about asking, as if Oscar had somehow forced him into it. But Oscar would’ve much rather never spoken about what was going with him and Priscilla so he lied.

“Nothing,” he answered. Ramsay snorted.

“That’s clearly untrue,” he returned bluntly.

“Sure, whatever, but I don’t want to talk about it,” Oscar replied dismissively.

“I don’t want to talk about it either,” Ramsay protested indignantly.

“Yes, but you’re the one who brought it up,” Oscar pointed out.

“I sure as hell don’t want to talk about it,” Sayid chimed in from his place on the couch. Ramsay ignored him. Ramsay had been mostly ignoring him since he’d vomited on the table at The Taste of Munich. Although, to be fair, Ramsay mostly ignored everybody at all times so it was hard to judge if he was ignoring Sayid now in a show of cold shoulder.

In the end, Oscar didn’t ever answer Ramsay’s question. Instead he avoided eye contact with Priscilla on the subway for another two mornings, generally ignored all of his feelings, and put it off until it could no longer be ignored by either of them. Then, and only then, he went over to Priscilla’s apartment to talk to her. It turned out to be relatively good timing because Bernie had moved out to live with her boyfriend and Tallulah was on vacation in Kelowna so it was only Oscar and Priscilla in the apartment. Of course, there was always the fear that Jemima would come over unannounced as she was prone to do. Oscar locked the front door when Priscilla let him in. She raised an eyebrow at him.

“Are you going to murder me?” She asked.

“If I was going to murder you, I wouldn’t do it in your apartment,” he rolled his eyes. “My fingerprints and DNA are all over this place.”

“Very reassuring,” she replied sarcastically. There was a long, tense silence. Oscar felt the need to say something, anything, to fill the void.

“So,” he began awkwardly. “We kissed.”

Priscilla snorted derisively.

“Is this really how you want to start this conversation?” She asked, one eyebrow raised. To be fair, he hadn’t even made it past the front hallway.

“Alright, would you like to start it then?” He retorted. That shut her up pretty succinctly. “That’s what I thought. I’ve been thinking that maybe it wasn’t such a great idea.”

“Because you’re sad, pathetic, and lonely?” She returned. He narrowed his eyes at her.

“Excuse you, I am not lonely,” Oscar defended himself.

“I’m, like, your only friend,” Priscilla argued.

“I have other friends!”

“Sorry,” Priscilla said, rolling her eyes and clearly not meaning it at all. “I’m your only cool friend.”

“My other friends are cool,” Oscar protested.

“Uh, David,” Priscilla began ticking people off on her fingers. “Miles. That jackass whose band you’re in.”

“Ramsay,” Oscar interjected.

“I’ll give you that one, but also he’s the surliest person I’ve ever met,” she conceded. Oscar didn’t even bother contesting her point, having just a few days earlier referred to him as Grumpy Frodo.

“Anyway,” she said after a long pause, wherein they both presumably contemplated Ramsay’s surliness. “It’s cool, bro. Let’s forget it.”

“Excellent,” he returned. Then they fist bumped and he went home to his bug-infested, boiling hot apartment to hang out listlessly with his grumpy roommate and his grumpy roommate’s obnoxious nephew.

The next day, Oscar went to the café where Iggy worked to grab a coffee and take advantage of the regulated and normal internal temperature of the building. He was also avoiding both Sayid and Ramsay, who, as it turned out, did not share small spaces well with one another. Given that their entire apartment was a small space, Oscar decided to remove himself from the situation entirely. He ordered a black coffee and a cookie. Iggy served him a Frappuccino and a slice of lemon loaf. He thought about complaining, but one look at Iggy’s dark expression made him think he wouldn’t actually get very far with it. At best, he’d get a new drink heavily featuring her spit.

So he took his drink and his lemon loaf to a small raised table in the corner of the café. He pulled out his laptop and pretended to do work. Mostly he watched YouTube videos of goats. After about twenty minutes, someone stopped next to his table. Their shadow fell across his now empty plate. He was fairly certain they were going to ask if they could share his table. The café was quite busy. He kept his headphones in, even though he wasn’t listening to anything and could hear perfectly fine, and pretended not to have noticed them because he wasn’t particularly interested in sharing his table with anyone.

“Hey, Sophie’s Choice,” the person said after a moment. Oscar looked up to find Jemima’s friend Erin smirking at him. She was holding a mason jar full of tea. Oscar groaned loudly.

“Oh God.”

“Erin actually,” she returned, smirking even wider.

“Holy shit, how old are you? Whose grandfather did you steal that joke from?” He asked.

“Fuck you, I’m hilarious,” she replied, pointing at him with her free hand. “Also, I don’t think I should need to remind you, because I already did, that the first time we met, you tried to pick me up by talking about dead children.”

“I was not trying to pick you up!” Oscar protested for what felt like an unnecessary time. Erin laughed in his face, clearly not believing him, and sat down in the other seat at his table. He closed his laptop and put it back in his bag as she set her tea down and began swishing about the tea bag.

“Is that what you ordered?” He asked out of curiosity.

“Yeah, earl grey vanilla,” Erin answered hotly, as if she thought he was judging her beverage choice. He said nothing, but watched her take her first sip. She winced involuntarily before setting down her mason jar and staring at it like it had offended her.

“Not earl grey vanilla is it?” He checked, folding his arms across his chest and leaning back in his seat. She glared at him, obviously very reluctant to confirm his suspicions. He laughed at her now.

They spent most of the afternoon together and, when it came time for her to finally leave, she gave him her number and invited him to a party she and her roommates were having the next weekend. Oscar raised his eyebrows at her and she got up to leave.

“So I have actually picked you up now,” he observed, mildly impressed with himself.

“Don’t be so cocky,” she told him, cuffing him on the head as she began to walk away. She grinned at him though, so he wasn’t sure it counted.

The following weekend, Oscar showed up to Erin’s place with Bear and a bottle of wine. She had told him to invite as many of his friends as he wanted, but he felt that Bear was the safest choice by far. He was the least offensive person Oscar had ever met. Oscar had also made him help pick out what to wear. According to Bear, he looked nicest in greens so Oscar was wearing a forest green t-shirt and his nicest jeans. Ramsay and Sayid had laughed at them the entire time Bear was offering advice. Oscar was pleased to have brought them together, if only for a moment.

Erin lived in a raised, three-bedroom bungalow in the old Italian neighbourhood of the city. Oscar briefly wondered if Joey’s nona lived anywhere nearby as he and Bear waited at the front door to be let in. Erin opened the door after a moment, wearing a denim skirt and a balck and white striped crop top, her shoulder-length blonde hair in a half-ponytail. She smiled at them, waved them inside somewhat breathlessly, suggesting that she had maybe rushed to the door, and then promptly handed both of them a bible.

“Uh…no thank you?” Oscar returned, aiming for politeness. He was slightly concerned that they had accidentally been invited to some kind of worship group that he was not interested in joining, but he also didn’t want to outright offend Erin. But she only laughed as she lead them further into the house. There were a lot of other people already gathered there, holding drinks and chatting to one another over the music playing in the background. Most of them were holding bibles, but there were other bibles sitting on tabletops and bookshelves.

“Our landlord is super religious,” Erin explained, leading them to the kitchen so that they could put their beers in the fridge and she could pick up her drink. “He doesn’t want us having parties so instead of parties, we host Bible study.”

Erin picked up her own bible, gave it a wave, and smiled at them.

“That’s ingenious,” Bear told her, looking pleasantly awed. Her smile widened.

Erin lived with two other women, Margot and Sasha. Oscar had met Margot once before at the bar when he hadn’t been trying to pick up Erin by talking about dead children. Margot had dark, auburn hair cut into straight across bangs. She was a tiny woman who took to wearing voluminous articles of clothing, kind of like an Olsen twin, a comparison Oscar’s mind supplied readily at what he assumed was the influence of Priscilla. Margot was wearing a fur coat, even though it was May and she was indoors. He assumed she was cold due to the fact that she had roughly the body mass of four sparrows.

Erin’s other roommate, Sasha, was quite frankly the most outrageous human being Oscar had ever met. She was a tall, willowy woman with platinum blonde hair and three nose rings; a ring in one nostril, a stud in the other, and a septum piercing to complete the look. She also had numerous earrings in both ears. Oscar assumed she had a hell of a time getting through airport security. Sasha wore clothes that were just a little too short for her. Her pants, pleated and black, were cropped. Her shirt was a burgundy crop top. She had a finger tattoo of a cactus. She talked a lot about astrology, but also asparagus. She was a fan of both. She was simultaneously spacy and unnervingly direct and she pounded back tequila shots with a proficiency unlike anything Oscar had ever known. Bear found her fascinating. By the time they left the party, Bear had spent a solid two and a half hours listening to Sasha explain her thoughts on root vegetables, tea, and civil engineering, totally mesmerized.

“This isn’t going to be good,” Oscar commented to himself as Bear turned back to wave at Sasha from the end of the front walk for the third time.

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