Things in Oscar’s life were going pretty well. Trent had found a new, permanent drummer for Skankhole, some gullible idiot named Brett who had believed Trent when he’d told him the band was “really going places”. Oscar, who had been present for that particular band meeting as it happened to be his last, had contemplated telling Brett that the only place Skankhole was going was straight to shit, but he refrained lest he drive Brett away and be forced to remain an interim member of the worst band of all time. He walked out of that rehearsal space/elderly, deaf person’s garage with a light heart and an almost palpable giddiness.
On top of that, he was effectively moving on with his life. He was over Katy. He had Erin and things were progressing swimmingly. He had managed to get her to stop mentioning Sophie’s Choice in his presence. He suspected that she was still laughing about it with her friends, but he was prepared to ignore that in the interest of progress. Sayid had finally moved out after some very long weeks. He and his stupid friends had duped someone else into letting them rent a home and Oscar was back to living with just one surly roommate and eight trillion fruit flies. Obviously that still wasn’t great. Besides, as they rapidly approached the truly summer months, the heat only worsened inside the apartment until it was nearly unbearable to wear any clothes at all. But Oscar merely resigned himself to either sweating constantly or spending a lot of time wandering intensely air conditioned shopping malls. It would be fine.
And then he ran into Katy at the mall nearest his apartment while he was attempting to evade the heat. He’d already changed his shirt three times in one day and he’d built up an excessive amount of laundry for a relatively short period of time. He had thought he would escape the sweltering heat for a bit, maybe do a bit of casual window shopping. What he had not anticipated doing was seeing Katy for the first time in several months. And not only did he see Katy for the first time in quite a while, but he saw her in a jewelry store with her new boyfriend Ezra trying on engagement rings. It was the same store where Oscar had gotten the ring he’d bought for her. In fact, they were looking at engagement rings with the very saleswoman to whom Oscar had returned his. Brenda looked delighted, the grin on her face matching the smiley face drawn on her nametag. The last time Oscar had seen Brenda, she had looked at him with such pity and sadness, as if he had just told her that he’d just recovered from a life-threatening bout of Tuberculosis only to discover he had a brain tumour. Bizarrely, it was Brenda’s pure, unbridled happiness that made him feel the worst. He had let Brenda down. Ezra would never do that to Brenda.
Oscar fled immediately. Katy hadn’t noticed him as he had stopped short when he’d seen her and then ducked behind a pillar. He bolted to the bank of elevators nearby. He was going to flee to an entirely different floor and then leave from there so that there would be no chance of Katy seeing him at any point. One of the elevators was already open and waiting. Oscar sprinted for it, dodging other shoppers. He nearly leapt over a stroller. He careened into the elevator just as the doors were sliding shut. Someone on the inside sighed deeply and jammed the “close door” button again. And then several things happened in quick succession.
To start, Oscar realized that the person who had hit the button was an irritated looking Danielle and he was standing across from Melly and Iggy. Melly looked slightly less annoyed than Danielle, but still irritated nonetheless and Iggy looked shocked and faintly horrified, like she knew something terrible was going to happen to them all. Then Oscar registered the flickering overhead lights. Then he noticed the mustached young man in the corner trying to avoid eye contact with all of them. And then the lights went out completely and the whole elevator shuddered to a stop. Someone screamed, he suspected Melly, and the lights came back on, but the elevator didn’t start moving again.
“We’re okay, right?” Iggy asked the elevator at large. “Everything’s fine?”
Oscar wasn’t sure if she was checking if everybody else was alright or if she was looking for confirmation that they were going to be fine, but the guy in the corner looked like he was moments from passing out or dying. He was very pale and sweat had visibly begun beading on his forehead. Oscar was more than a little concerned that the rest of them were either going to be sharing the elevator with his vomit in a moment or that they’d have to give detailed statements to the police when Mustache Guy inevitably died of stress.
“Of all the elevators,” Danielle grumbled bitterly, turning to address Oscar. “You had to come barrelling into this one. You know what terrible things your friend said to me? Such awful things. And all because of you.”
Oscar didn’t much care for her tone. He found it very accusatory, undeservedly so considering that he had no control over what Miles chose to say to anybody, even if it was about him. Besides which, Miles was Iggy’s boyfriend, a position which he felt surely trumped his status as friend. He noticed that Iggy stayed conspicuously quiet, looking quite sheepish in her spot next to Melly. Melly, on the other hand, looked righteously angry as well, as if she too thought it was somehow Oscar’s fault that Miles had defended him.
“In my defense, I wasn’t even there when any of this supposedly happened,” he pointed out calmly. “So I don’t actually know the terrible things my friend said to you. All I know is that you were talking shit about me.”
Danielle fumed at that, but silently so Oscar counted it a win. He turned his attention to Mustache Guy in the corner, whose complexion had not improved. He was sweatier than before. They’d have to do something to help him soon or he’d dissolve on the spot and slip away to oblivion.
“You alright, man?” Oscar asked him. He didn’t answer. He barely even looked at Oscar. He blinked a few times, but that was all the response he gave. The three women turned to him as well, looking like they had only just noticed his existence. Melly and Iggy looked stunned to find him there. Danielle still looked irate.
“Gord?” Iggy said after a moment.
“Jesus Christ, are you just going to try to guess his name?” Oscar rolled his eyes. “Because we do not have time for that. Look at him. I’m pretty sure he’s dying.”
Iggy shot him a withering glare. It was a look that could’ve killed plants or small animals instantaneously on impact.
“I know him, buttface,” Iggy retorted scathingly.
“Buttface?” Oscar repeated, head cocked to the side. Iggy shot him another dark look before turning back to Gord.
“I used to be a lifeguard,” she informed him calmly. “I know first aid. Pursed lip breathing.”
And then she began instructing him on how to breathe through pursed lips. After a while, his breathing had returned to normal intervals and he didn’t look like he was at imminent danger of passing out from lack of oxygen. Oscar observed the whole thing with Melly and Danielle, quite impressed with Iggy and her ability to soothe. Danielle still looked grumpy, occasionally tossing looks in Oscar’s direction that suggested she thought he was the scourge of the earth. He ignored her. He had never liked Danielle. He certainly didn’t like her now.
“Sorry,” Gord once he could breathe again. “I’m claustrophobic.”
Oscar wanted to point out the obvious, that this was a real shitty situation for him then, but thought better of it. For one, he didn’t want to push Gord into a panic spiral again, but he was also more than a little afraid of what Iggy would do to him.
“Well it’s not as if any of us want to be here,” Danielle grumbled bitterly, taking the conversation in a still worse, yet different vein. “Who knows how long it’ll be before someone comes to get us? We’ll probably be here for hours. We’re going to be so hungry and so hot.”
All in all, it was not helpful. Oscar could see Gord working up to another panic. Iggy was openly glaring at Danielle, which was a bold show of outright dislike, especially in front of Melly, who, to be fair, also looked faintly horrified by the words coming out of Danielle’s mouth.
“Wow, what an unhelpful thing to say,” Oscar said flatly, stepping in before Danielle could continue to spout more horrendously grim things. “I think it’ll be fine. We’re in an elevator in a well-populated shopping mall, not a collapsed and abandoned mine. A little positivity would go a long way here. Perk the fuck up, Danielle!”
He shouted the last part and it seemed to startle Gord out of whatever anxiety he had been approaching. In fact, everybody else looked rather taken aback, but in different ways. Iggy looked pleasantly delighted, Melly looked horrified, and Danielle was indignant. She didn’t say a single thing to anybody for the rest of the time they were stuck in the elevator, which ended up being a relatively short hour and ten minutes. In that time, Oscar explained that he had been sprinting to the elevator to avoid seeing Katy and Ezra pick out engagement rings for any longer than he already had. Iggy was sympathetic to this and even Melly made an attempt to seem contrite. Danielle, on the other hand, scoffed to imply that she thought it was an emotional distress well deserved. Once again, Oscar ignored her. Then they spent a great deal of time listening to Gord sing his way through a large portion of David Bowie’s discography. As it turned out, Gord knew most of the words to all of Aladdin Sane. Oscar was both grudgingly impressed and fairly annoyed. He went home humming “The Jean Genie” under his breath.