Chapter Seventy-Seven: “That man looks like the human equivalent of a staph infection”

By the time the ferry had docked back on the mainland, the members of The Wicked Nuns and Rattlesnake had decided to amalgamate into one supergroup called The Wicked Rattlesnakes. For a hot second, they had been referring to themselves as The Wicked Rattlenuns so Sybil figured this was an improvement, no matter how slight.

The group of them went to an underground bar that Rattlesnake’s bassist had heard of from a friend-of-a-friend. It was very exclusive. It was also sticky and hot. They had to walk down a flight of stairs that looked like they had been coated in asbestos. They were also cloaked in darkness, possibly in an effort to hide the asbestos. Or maybe it was to add an air of mystery to the club. In reality, all it did was increase the slipping hazard. Sybil almost tumbled to what she felt would be her certain death several times. After the second, she gripped onto Chris’ arm.

“All this is going to do is drag me down with you,” he pointed out dryly.

“Good,” was her succinct response.

Once they reached the club after a harrowing descent, it wasn’t much better. There was no light at the end of the tunnel. It was just as dark on the ground level as it had been on the stairs, if not more so. The floor was sticky, the glasses were sticky, and the people were sticky. The bartender that served them the vodka shots Noel demanded looked like he wanted to nothing more than to gas the lot of them and be done with it. She didn’t necessarily blame him; there was a couple on the dancefloor who had managed to link their lip rings together while making out and had been left with no other option but to ask one of the servers to help them disengage from one another.

The group of them went to an underground bar that Rattlesnake’s bassist had heard of from a friend-of-a-friend. It was very exclusive. It was also sticky and hot. They had to walk down a flight of stairs that looked like they had been coated in asbestos. They were also cloaked in darkness, possibly in an effort to hide the asbestos. Or maybe it was to add an air of mystery to the club. In reality, all it did was increase the slipping hazard. Sybil almost tumbled to what she felt would be her certain death several times. After the second, she gripped onto Chris’ arm.

“All this is going to do is drag me down with you,” he pointed out dryly.

“Good,” was her succinct response.

Once they reached the club after a harrowing descent, it wasn’t much better. There was no light at the end of the tunnel. It was just as dark on the ground level as it had been on the stairs, if not more so. The floor was sticky, the glasses were sticky, and the people were sticky. The bartender that served them the vodka shots Noel demanded looked like he wanted to nothing more than to gas the lot of them and be done with it. She didn’t necessarily blame him; there was a couple on the dancefloor who had managed to link their lip rings together while making out and had been left with no other option but to ask one of the servers to help them disengage from one another. They asked the bartender who had served them the vodka shots and he looked like he would’ve much rather been kicked in the nuts by a mule than get anywhere close to the interconnected mouths of strangers. The Wicked Rattlesnakes, utterly fascinated, followed the bartender to the couple to watch. Left not wanting to be standing by themselves next to the bar, Sybil and Chris trailed along.

“I feel like this is the kind of place where someone could get stabbed and everybody else would just continue to dance around their motionless corpse like nothing had happened,” Chris remarked, looking around.

“Absolutely,” Sybil agreed, gesturing as discreetly as possible to a man standing by himself and visibly checking out every single woman in the club. “That man looks like the human equivalent of a staph infection.”

It wasn’t until the bartender had led them all into the light of the men’s room that Sybil recognized him as Gavin, Jacklyn’s neighbour from across the hall. Even in the bathroom, the light was dim. All it really did was partially illuminate how terrible they all looked. Noel still had most of his eye makeup on his cheekbones. It occurred to Sybil, horrifically, that they very well might look like the human equivalents of staph infections to the rest of the patrons in the bar. Certainly Gavin was giving them some deeply questioning looks. Of course, that could also have been because the whole lot of them had followed him unnecessarily into a public washroom to watch him unhook two people from each other.

Gavin looked much different from the last and only time Sybil had seen him. At that point, they had both been taking Priscilla’s low-budget jazzercise class in the basement exercise room of the building where both Gavin and Jacklyn lived. He had been wearing spandex shorts and sweating his face off. Now he was wearing a black t-shirt, sleeves cuffed, that had a slice of pizza screen-printed onto the front pocket. He was wearing black jeans, burgundy Converse high tops, and he wasn’t covered in sweat. It looked like he’d brushed his hair. He looked good, but also unbelievably grumpy. Standing in a public washroom with his fingers in the mouth of a stranger, Sybil understood that.

“Do you have to do this a lot?” Desmond, The Wicked Nuns’ drummer, asked Gavin.

“No,” Gavin answered flatly, finally succeeding in unhooking the couple. They cheered, high-fived, and then stumbled out of the bathroom, probably to continue making out. They didn’t seem like they were going to be making a night’s worth of sound decisions. Chris hoisted himself up until he was sitting on the ledge of the sink.

“You’re not supposed to sit there,” Gavin informed him just as flatly as before. Noel was looking at himself in the cracked mirror, rubbing at his smudged eye makeup.

“Did you want me to get down then?” Chris asked instead of just doing it. Sybil rolled her eyes at him. Gavin shrugged.

“Do whatever you want, man,” he replied. “I’m just supposed to tell you.”

Then he left the bathroom, presumably to get back to work. Desmond followed after him, leading the rest of The Wicked Rattlesnakes to follow in his wake. Sybil and Chris once again trailed along, Chris hopping off the sink counter with a sigh. They badgered Gavin for another five rounds of shots and then some mixed drinks. Sybil could sense she would end up regretting the entire night even as it was happening. Gavin kept giving her looks like he could sense the same thing. Then the lot of them took to the dance floor and things got even worse.

She was the only woman there. As such, the rest of the group were all actively trying to dance with her, even within their circle. Chris seemed the least concerned about it, because he was always the least concerned about everything, but she kept turning to him for help. The Wicked Nuns’ bassist kept winking at her and the drummer from Rattlesnake danced like he was expecting tips. After a few more drinks and a couple more shots, Sybil thought she had found a safe place in the circle between Noel and Chris. She stopped even looking at The Wicked Nuns’ bassist.

And then Noel kissed her while they were in the middle of dancing to “Hypnotize”. It was startling to say the least. Sybil pulled away and danced over to Chris, hoping she looked natural, but most likely looking possessed. Chris, who had clearly seen, was staring at her with wide, terrified eyes.

“What do I do?” She asked him desperately. She hadn’t told Jemima about the groupies because Chris had told her not to. She was fairly certain she’d have to tell her about this. Chris merely shrugged, still looking petrified.

“That was very bold,” Chris informed her, as if she was somehow unaware. “Though I suppose you’d have to be bold if you’re the guy who frequently wears a coat made of feathers.”

“Fuck,” Sybil groaned. “I really do have to tell Jemima now, don’t I?”

Chris was silent for a long time. Around them, the rest of the club continued to dance. Now they were listening to Ice Cube’s “You Can Do It”. It all felt weirdly surreal, kind of like more people should’ve noticed Sybil’s crisis. Instead, they continued on with their lives because it really wasn’t a big deal, no matter how much it seemed like one to Sybil.

“I think you might,” Chris finally answered, having waited so long that Sybil nearly forgot she’d asked a question. She groaned again. Chris put a hand on her shoulder and told her that the best thing for them to do right then would be to get “mad drunk”. So they did.

In the morning, Sybil woke up feeling like something immense and heavy had stepped on her entire head, maybe an elephant or her grade nine gym teacher, Mrs. Burly, the most aptly named person she had ever encountered. When she first opened her eyes, she noticed three incredibly worrying things in rapid succession: there was a small black cat sitting on her chest, which neither she nor Chris owned, she was still wearing her clothes from the day before, the muddy ones she’d worn to the Homegrown music festival, and she had no idea where she was. It definitely wasn’t her apartment or Chris’. She was lying on an orange couch and she could see several bikes hanging in the front hall by the door. After one truly horrifying moment of panic, she looked over to find Chris sleeping on the floor in the space between the hideous couch and the coffee table so she was at least relieved to find she wasn’t alone. She tried to prod him awake with her foot.

“Chris!” She hissed at him. “Chris! Wake up!”

She didn’t know why she was whispering. She supposed she didn’t want to wake whoever actually owned the apartment because, as far as she could think, they either weren’t supposed to be there or they had been taken captive. Neither was a great situation. The cat, still sitting on her chest, started purring at an aggressively loud volume. Sybil shushed it to no avail.

“Don’t blow our cover!” She hissed to the cat. A face loomed into view over the back of the couch. Miraculously, Sybil managed not to start, which was just as well because she figured any movement, no matter how slight, would probably result in her vomiting copiously. She looked up at Gord, the neighbour that Jacklyn hated most. A feeling of solidarity blossomed in Sybil’s chest.

“Why are you whispering to a cat?” Gord asked, whispering himself. Sybil wasn’t quite sure how to answer without making herself seem insane. Or, at least, more insane than she already did.

“Is this your apartment?” She asked instead, clearing her throat and pushing herself to a sitting position with immense difficulty. Luckily Gord leaned back as she rose because she didn’t think she’d be able to stop her momentum when she really got going.

“Yes,” Gord answered her, then turned and asked more loudly, “Gavin, did you have a threesome last night?”

Sybil cringed at both the volume and the insinuation. On the floor, Chris finally woke, groaning and swearing under his breath. He tried to roll over, rolled into the coffee table, knocked his head, and swore some more. Gavin emerged from a closed door off the living room in a pair of slim, dark jeans and a t-shirt that was covered with enormous tropical leaves. He walked over to the couch, looking amused and unimpressed all at once. It was, once again, a lot less like jazzercise Gavin, who huffed and puffed and nearly passed out, and a lot more like work Gavin, who was too tired for everybody’s shit.

“You two got hella drunk last night and then couldn’t remember where you lived,” Gavin explained to Sybil and, less so, Chris. “You kept telling the bouncer that you lived in ‘the small apartment above the shithead with the guitar’. Obviously that wasn’t very helpful so I just brought you home with me. I know your friend lives across the hall. I’m not really supposed to bring drunk people home. It’s against bar protocol.”

“That’s definitely not specific to the bar,” Gord commented as Sybil swung her legs over the edge of the couch onto Chris. She jabbed him in the side until he groaned once more, louder this time, and struggled to sit up. Judging by the way he barely managed to stand up, she assumed he felt just as terrible as she did.

“Thanks for…everything,” Sybil said to Gavin, unsure exactly how to encapsulate what had happened and how he had helped them. “We should go.”

On the subway on the way home, as she struggled not to throw up with every jostle of the train car, Sybil remembered that Noel had kissed her the night before, the very thing that had ultimately led to her current state.

“Fuck,” she groaned. The lady sitting next to them moved three rows back.

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