Bear had developed a crush on Sasha. It was a typical school boy crush too. He tried to find excuses to be near her, he memorized her favourite bands, and he had once caught himself imagining what their children would look like.
“Well, they’d be giants,” Oscar told him when he’d admitted his feelings. “You’re six foot a billion and she’s not far behind.”
“I’m six foot five,” Bear corrected amicably.
“That’s what I said,” Oscar returned. Bear hummed.
“Do you think she’s interested in me?” He asked casually. “Does she mention me when you spend time at their place?”
Oscar gave Bear an incredibly withering look, as if he couldn’t believe they were having this conversation. Bear ignored him. He had spent a great deal of his precious personal time hauling Oscar off various floors so he felt he was owed a bit of juvenile discussion. Oscar continued to glare at him, clearly under the impression that Bear would eventually cave. Unfortunately for him, Bear had spent large quantities of his life waiting out more irrational people. That was how he always got the upper hand with his older sister Amy. It was also the reason he was even friends with Oscar in the first place. Bear was a very patient man.
“Dude, I don’t know,” Oscar eventually relented, as Bear knew he would. “I don’t know if she’s interested in you. People don’t normally confide in me. I think it’s because they can sense that I don’t give a shit.”
He said this with a certain poignancy, as if to suggest that Bear should stop confiding in Oscar, but Bear still felt he was owed a little more from Oscar. He had bought Oscar several fruit fly traps out of the kindness of his own heart. He had even come by to check on Oscar several times during his lunch hour from work to check on him in the first few weeks after Katy had dumped him. Bear had been an excellent friend. Oscar could deal with being his emotional confidant for the course of one conversation.
“I guess I could ask?” Oscar suggested uncertainly, looking very much like he wanted to do no such thing. Bear smiled at him gently.
“That would be nice, thank you,” he returned. Oscar glared at him, but he said nothing else. Bear assumed this was mostly due to the fact that he could sense the conversation had come to an end. Oscar’s willingness to protest was outweighed by his desire to stop talking about Bear and his feelings. For a man so reticent and emotionally stunted, he spent a lot of time sulking on floors. Bear didn’t point that out in an act of kindness. He was a very kind man as well as a patient one.
Oscar kept his word and asked Sasha about Bear the next time he was at Erin’s. Sasha apparently gave a noncommittal shrug and said something about the alignment of Jupiter’s moons.
“So I have no fucking idea what that means,” Oscar informed Bear. They had gone out for drinks at a pub with a disinterested Ramsay, his friend Patrick Chan, and Joey. Bear wasn’t sure when they’d reached the point in friendship where they hung out with Joey without Robin present, but clearly it had happened. He wasn’t sure how he felt about it. On the other hand, Joey had once again managed to scam them a free pitcher of beer by calmly informing their waitress that they were with Patrick Chan, Olympic figure skating virtuoso. It had gone much better this time. For one thing, their much younger waitress had been perfectly willing to accept it point blank, on the condition that Patrick pose for a selfie with her. For another, Patrick wasn’t asked to prove his figure skating abilities on dry land to polka music.
“Were Jupiter’s moons aligned in favour of Bear or against him?” Patrick asked thoughtfully. Oscar gave him the most withering look Bear had ever seen him muster.
“I don’t know,” he answered flatly. “Because it makes no fucking sense and I’m not an astrologist. She didn’t say she hated you, so you may very well have a chance. Can we please, for the love of God, stop talking about this now?”
Bear raised his eyebrows at him.
“We’re bonding,” he replied in simple explanation. Ramsay snorted.
“We’ve bonded enough,” Oscar retorted grumpily. Bear opened his mouth to say something else, but Joey cut him off with a dismissive wave in Oscar’s direction.
“No, he’s right,” he said, still gesturing to Oscar as he stood up from his seat. “Let’s get fucking lit, bros!”
They were seated at a booth and Joey was one from the end. Instead of waiting for Patrick to get up and let him out, he pushed off the table top and vaulted over it to leave. Patrick looked more than a little stunned.
“Do you suppose Joey has a drinking problem?” Bear asked casually as they watched him saunter to the bar to order more drinks.
“If he does, I think it’s likely the least of his problems,” Oscar returned. It was a fair assessment. He had yet another black eye and what appeared to be the imprint of human teeth marks in his left forearm. He had played it off when asked, saying that a lady friend had gotten randy, but Bear knew very few women who got especially randy by biting people’s forearms. It was, after all, not a particularly alluring body part. It wasn’t even the most alluring part of an arm. Although, in deference to Joey, Bear imagined that if there happened to be a woman getting hot and bothered over someone’s forearm, Joey probably knew her.
The next day, Bear awoke to the shrill ringing of his phone. He hadn’t changed the ringtone to anything in particular when he’d purchased the phone and the factory default ringtone was abrasive. He didn’t get very many phone calls and his phone was almost always on silent so it really didn’t matter. The night before, however, he had apparently been too drunk to remember to silence his phone before falling asleep. He rolled over in his bed and groped for it along the top of his bedside table. He eventually found it, but on the carpeted floor between the wall and his bed. He raised it to his face to check who was calling, but also to check the time. He was surprised to find that it was eleven o’clock in the morning, much later than he’d normally sleep on any day, even a Saturday, and that it was not his sister or his mother calling as he’d previously assumed, as they were the only ones who ever phoned him, but Oscar.
“If Joey has a drinking problem, we have problems with peer pressure,” was the first thing Bear said into the phone, mildly of course. Joey’s influence was both immense and destructive.
“Oh fuck, I’m dying,” Oscar returned. “Listen, I’ve only called to tell you that we’ve been invited to a party at Erin and Sasha’s place tonight. And now I’m going to sleep for the next seven hours at least and I’ll see you here at eight.”
And then he hung up.
Bear turned up at Oscar and Ramsay’s apartment promptly at eight as instructed. Oscar let him into the sweltering heat where he found Ramsay standing at the kitchen island, glaring grimly at the full shot glass in his hand. He was standing with a concerned-looking Patrick and Joey, who was grinning sharply, like a really pleased shark. Not for the first time, Bear reflected on how terrifying Joey’s mere smile was. It boasted a kind of comradery, but not a pleasant kind. It was more knowing, as if he was saying he knew you were about fuck shit up together, but you didn’t yet and were in for a horrifying surprise.
“Tequila!” Was all the greeting he got from Joey, who raised both his arms, each of which was holding a shot. Then he shoved one in Bear’s direction as he followed Oscar into the kitchen. Ramsay gave Bear a surprisingly pleading look. Patrick appeared to be growing more and more apprehensive by the moment. Oscar sighed deeply and picked up the remaining shot glass on the countertop. Bear took the shot Joey was holding out to him.
“Can I at least have a lime?” Oscar asked Joey begrudgingly.
“The fuck you need a lime for?” Joey returned, which pretty effectively put off anybody else from asking for one. Instead, they choked back tequila like it was no big deal and then spluttered and pretended they were fine.
By the time they arrived at the raised bungalow in the old Italian neighbourhood where Erin and Sasha lived with their miniscule roommate Margot, Bear was feeling fairly loose. They took the subway and then traipsed into the neighbourhood on foot, Joey pointing out all the houses where he knew the owners. Apparently his nona lived two blocks over. When Erin answered the door and let them in, she handed each of them a bible and then led the way into the kitchen and living room. Patrick, who didn’t know that the women called every party they hosted “Bible study” in order to thwart their very religious landlord, was rather confused. Joey, who also didn’t know that, took the bible without question or thought and continued on his merry way to party harder than anybody present.
Bear immediately found Sasha. She was leaning against the kitchen counter, a bible in one hand and a glass of wine in the other. She was talking to her roommate Margot, who was sitting hunched over on one of the barstools behind the kitchen island, wearing a vest made of long, white faux-fur. She was also holding a glass of wine, but it was roughly twice the size. It seemed to Bear a dangerous decision given Margot’s miniscule body mass. She’d be drunk in an hour.
“The moons have aligned,” was how Sasha greeted him, holding out her arms. He still had no idea what that was supposed to mean. Was it a good thing? Was it a bad thing? She didn’t seem physically repulsed to see him. Still, it was unclear.
“Hi,” he replied gently, aiming for ambivalence, hoping to navigate the conversation through vagueness.
“Did you know Galileo discovered four of Jupiter’s moons all the way back in the 1600s?” Sasha asked Bear and Margot, jumping abruptly into something much more cold and factual. Bear blinked, stunned.
“I didn’t know that, no,” he replied pleasantly after a moment. He glanced at Margot for help, but she was looking down at her own hands, picking at her maroon-painted nails, apparently bored.
By the time he left the party with his friends, returning the bibles, Bear was pretty sure he was in with Sasha. He’d spent most of the evening teetering his way through conversation with her about planets and it had culminated with her giving him her number so that she could contact him about an upcoming astronomy lecture at the university.
On the way home, Joey made them stop by his nona’s house, even despite their many protestations that it was two in the morning and that his nona surely must’ve been asleep. She was, but she let them into the house anyway, wearing a fuzzy pink bathrobe over her nightgown. She served them homemade tiramisu and kissed each of them on both cheeks as she saw them out the door afterward.
“Man, your nona is a real fucking nice lady,” Oscar told Joey as they stumbled back down the quiet residential area on their way to the subway.
“She once drove her car into her brother Tony because he refused to help her move,” was Joey’s response. Nobody could think of anything to say to that.