Chapter Ninety-Eight: “Because you look a hot second away from death”

The trip back to Roehampton from Destinyville felt like four centuries instead of four hours. Oscar had never wanted to be anywhere less in his entire life than he wanted to be in his mother’s car, driving Erin, Priscilla, and Keith back to Roehampton. There were a whole lot of factors that contributed to that. For one thing, he had never been so aware of his own eyelids before. That was undoubtedly the most hungover he had ever been ever, including the morning after he had thrown up in that rented bouncy castle at his former friend Mike’s daughter’s birthday party.

Secondly, the tension in the car was higher than it had ever been. Oscar had thought it was bad enough on the way up to Destinyville, what with him spiralling out of control internally and shouting at Keith about directions. This was much worse. He and Erin had spoken approximately fifteen words to each other since they had returned to the hotel room the night before. He didn’t know what to say, he suspected she also didn’t know what to say, and, frankly, he didn’t actually want to talk about what had happened anyway. Keith, meanwhile, was sporting a black eye from where Oscar’s fist had connected with his face. He glared at the back of Oscar’s head for the entire first hour of their trip. Oscar could see him in the rear-view mirror. Priscilla was for sure handling the situation the best out of all of them. She had even attempted to make conversation very briefly at the beginning of the drive, but quickly gave up on that.

As the first hour drew to a close, they stopped at an on route rest station to get gas and breakfast. They were travelling in a convoy with Sybil and Chris in their rented Toyota Yaris hatchback. It was pea green and miniscule. The group of them got breakfast and ate it together in silence. Sybil and Priscilla seemed to be having an entire conversation in eyebrow movements. Oscar was too tired to try to figure out what they were telling each other, though it was obviously about him. They kept glancing at him with their eyes only, as if he wouldn’t notice that. He assumed they were also the reason they had stopped so early into their trip. He did need gas, but he probably could’ve made it another hour. They had been travelling in a larger convoy with Miles and Iggy and Jacklyn and her date as well, but they had long gone.

When they started to get ready to leave, Priscilla announced that she and Keith would be taking Sybil and Chris’ rental car home and that Sybil and Chris would be driving back with Oscar and Erin. Oscar suspected that the only reason Chris and Sybil were coming with him was because the rental car was barely big enough to hold two people, let alone four and their luggage. It was blatantly obvious that Keith and Oscar were being separated. Oscar couldn’t begrudge Keith for that; he had punched him in the face after all. Besides which, he didn’t have the energy to begrudge him. He was too busy focussing on not falling asleep in the remains of his breakfast burrito or vomiting on the remains of his breakfast burrito. One was definitely preferable of the two, but both still weren’t great.

“Yeah, and I’m going to drive your car home, man,” Chris told him, taking Oscar’s keys from the Formica table top as he did so. “Because you look a hot second away from death. I don’t trust you to drive me anywhere.”

Oscar thought about arguing, but he didn’t. It was probably for the best.

Hour Two of the drive home started off just as quietly and tensely as the first. Oscar was sitting in the backseat behind Chris in the driver’s seat, next to Erin, who still hadn’t said very much to him. Sybil was in the passenger seat, glancing back at them in the rear-view mirror. For his part, Chris looked unbothered. Oscar had begun to suspect that he just didn’t care very much about anything though.

But then, twenty-five minutes in, Chris began singing along to the radio. He had managed to find a station that was playing techno music from the early 90s. He knew a shockingly high number of words to “I Like to Move It” by Reel to Real. It was followed by a rousing rendition of “Macarena”, “Total Eclipse of the Heart”, and “Rhythm is a Dancer”. Even Erin joined in. Oscar shot her a smile that she returned tentatively, which was nice because, prior to that, he had assumed they had broken up without anything actually being said and that he’d never see her again.

Hour Three saw Chris pulling over to the side of the highway so that Oscar could vomit out the door. It was not one of his finest moments.

In Hour Four, Sybil switched the radio station to classic rock and then took a seven minute video of them all singing along to “Bohemian Rhapsody”. Chris said that Queen was the greatest band of all time, a sentiment with a strength Oscar hadn’t previously thought he was capable of employing.

Chris drove the car to Sybil’s apartment where the two of them got out, leaving Oscar to drive Erin home to her place before returning the car to his mother and catching the bus back to his own home. Getting on a public bus in his state was the almost the last thing he wanted to be doing in that moment. The absolute last thing he wanted was to be trapped alone in a car with Erin. He got the sense that they were about to have a serious conversation he was not at all prepared to have the moment he shut the car door behind him.

“So…,” Erin began as he pulled away from the curb. “You went a little bananas.”

It was a gross understatement and it was kind of her to make it.

“Yeah…,” he agreed, sighing. “Sorry. I got a little carried away.”

“Carried away, drunk,” Erin replied, tipping her hands back and forth like scales.

“Yeah,” he said again. “Katy, the maid of honour, is my ex-girlfriend.”

“Oh,” Erin said before continuing a long moment later. “That’s one hell of a diamond ring she’s got.”

“Yeah.”

There was an even longer beat of silence.

“Sorry,” Erin said softly.

“It’s okay,” Oscar replied, though he hadn’t quite worked out if it was in fact okay. All he’d managed so far was that he really had no right to be so angry about it. Katy was no longer his girlfriend thus he had no right to be upset about anything she did any longer. It wasn’t supposed to matter to him. Obviously it still did, but he shouldn’t have swung at Ezra. On the plus side for everybody but Keith, he hadn’t actually managed to hit Ezra.

He left Erin’s feeling slightly better about their relationship, at least confident that it wasn’t going to end immediately. He drove back to his mom’s, dodged all of her questions about the wedding with practiced ambiguity, and then took the bus back to his apartment. He sat at the front where it was least bumpy and prayed to God that he didn’t barf during the trip. The driver was a very surly man named Bert, who didn’t seem like he would take a surprise appearance from Oscar’s vomit at all well, not that Oscar really blamed him.

“How was the wedding?” Ramsay asked when he finally made it home. Oscar was pretty sure there were even more fruit flies and he was not happy about it. He dropped his luggage in the hallway and joined Ramsay in the living room to lie down on the floor between the armchair Ramsay was sitting in and the TV.

“Okay,” Oscar answered, shrugging with some difficulty. “I got kicked out.”

“You got kicked out of someone’s wedding?” Ramsay repeated incredulously. “Why?”

Something in the apartment smelled funky. Perhaps that was why there had been a resurgence of fruit flies.

“Punched someone in the face,” Oscar explained dismissively, preoccupied by the smell. “Do you smell that?”

Ramsay was suspiciously quiet.

“It smells like skunk,” Oscar said after a moment. He looked up at Ramsay, whose shifty eyes were focussing everywhere but on Oscar’s face.

“There was an incident,” Ramsay replied evasively after another minute, still not making eye contact.

“What kind of incident?” Oscar asked.

“A skunk incident,” Ramsay answered.

“Yes, but what does that mean?” Oscar pressed. “Was there a skunk in our apartment?”

“No.”

“Then what happened? Did someone get sprayed?”

Ramsay was suspiciously silent yet again.

“Did you get sprayed by a skunk?!” Oscar demanded.

“It wasn’t my fault!” Ramsay defended himself instantly.

“Whose was it? The skunk’s?” Oscar returned.

“Joey’s.”

“Ah, that makes sense,” Oscar nodded.

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