Frank had been living with Ramsay for about three years. They had actually met through a mutual acquaintance, a young man named Eric who neither of them spoke to any longer. Eric had actually been their third roommate. It had, in fact, been Eric’s apartment first. Technically, there was nothing wrong with Eric. They were merely poorly matched as roommates. More accurately, he and Ramsay were poorly matched as roommates. Frank couldn’t care less about Eric. He was just some dude he’d met in his photography night class that had offered him a room to rent when Frank was rapidly drawing closer and closer to homelessness. Ramsay and Eric, on the other hand, had met each other on an intramural volleyball team. Their team hadn’t won a single game and Ramsay had once drilled Eric in the side of the head with a very misplaced serve. Initially, Eric told that story with a laugh, explaining that it had been an accident. By the end of their time living together, Eric seemed less convinced of its accidental nature.
Ramsay and Eric fought constantly when they’d lived together. It was all over stupid things, in Frank’s opinion. Eric was the most passive-aggressive person Frank had ever met. And Ramsay was the least passive-aggressive person Frank had ever met. He was blunt beyond all point of reason. Eric would try to leave little notes all over the apartment, goading Ramsay and Frank into being cleaner or more considerate or into spending less time in the bathroom. And Ramsay would gather the notes, wait until he was in full sight of Eric, and tear to them to shreds. Then he would force Eric to talk about his grievances, which Eric hated, and Frank ended up spending a lot of time in his room.
For the past three months, Frank had taken a leave from work to help his mom look after his grandfather. Grandpa Joe was cranky as hell and ninety years old. He spent most of his days chain-smoking on the back deck of Frank’s mother’s house and swearing in Italian at pigeons. He had begun to develop slight dementia. He still recognized his kids and his grandkids, but he began telling stories of increasingly high delusions of grandeur. He had told Frank several times that he was a prince in Italy, a royal title he had never wanted, but bore with diligent grace nonetheless, and also that Princess Margaret had winked at him at some point during World War II.
Grandpa Joe had had a bad spill, as Frank’s mother put it. He’d had to have his right hip replaced and now he walked with a cane. Grandpa Joe’s relationship with his cane was complicated. He hated it because he said it made him look like an invalid, but he also loved it because he got to swing it at anything that irritated him, a list which included the neighbourhood children, pigeons, Frank, Frank’s mom, and several members of the nursing staff at the retirement home where he lived.
Frank returned to his again to his apartment and his job at the beginning of September. He had texted Ramsay to let him know that he was coming back. He had a new roommate now since Eric had moved out, who Frank had never met. Ramsay seemed unusually fine with him though so Frank assumed they would get along fine. There weren’t many people he didn’t get along with. He had even been mostly fine with Eric, generally keeping to himself and ignoring the slew of passive-aggressive notes.
Frank moved back during the middle of the afternoon on a Wednesday. He didn’t have much to bring back, since he had left his furniture and most of his belongings at the apartment while he was staying with his mother. He just had to haul some of his clothes up to the apartment, which, upon opening the front door, he discovered was approximately a billion degrees. And there were fruit flies everywhere. Someone had put an excessive number of fruit fly traps out on every available surface space in the kitchen and living room, not that it appeared to be doing much good. Or perhaps it was actually helpful and their apartment was just the epicentre of a plague. Either way, it wasn’t great.
Frank spent most of the day sleeping, preparing for his shift at work. He worked at a local radio station, Hook FM, where he hosted the midnight time slot. Almost no one listened to his program. On the one hand, it was nice because he barely had to try. In fact, he barely had to be awake. He had once played Vampire Weekend’s entire discography and taken a nap. On the other hand, he was essentially nocturnal and he had to do his laundry at the weirdest times, like four o’clock in the morning or ten o’clock at night.
Frank got up at eleven o’clock at night so that he would have time to have something to eat, get dressed, and head to the radio station for his first show in three months. He had prepared very little. He was planning on playing a lot of music and maybe answering the odd phone call if someone happened to phone in.
When Frank left his room, the rest of the apartment was dark. He assumed this meant that Ramsay and his new roommate were both asleep. In an effort not to disturb anyone, Frank kept the hall lights off on his way to the kitchen. He was planning on making something to eat by the light of the open fridge. As he was only planning on eating cereal, pilfered secretly from Ramsay’s bizarrely extensive selection of raisin, oat, and nut flavours, he figured it would be fine. What he hadn’t counted on was tripping over someone’s prone body in the darkness and stumbling into the stove. The person he stepped on yelped, scrambled to their feet, and attempted to punch Frank in the face. Frank wasn’t sure if it was the darkness or just shockingly poor upper body strength, but the hit landed somewhere on Frank’s chin and didn’t even make his eyes water. Then the kitchen was flooded with light.
“Murderer! We’re being robbed! Call the police! Call an ambulance!” The other man yelled. Frank assumed he was his new roommate. The other man had not seemed to have drawn the same conclusion about Frank. As Frank was trying to work out who exactly the ambulance was for, Ramsay stumbled out of his bedroom, rubbing at his eyes and looking faintly murderous.
“Hey, man,” Frank greeted Ramsay calmly. Ramsay grunted in response.
“You know this guy?” The other guy demanded, rounding on Ramsay, who muttered something unintelligible. He was useless when he’d just been woken up. Eric used to use that against him. He would rouse him really early in the morning so that Ramsay would agree to his arguments without realizing what he’d done.
“Hi, I’m Frank,” Frank cut in, figuring he was fairly limited on time as it was and he didn’t want to waste anymore on this when he could be eating. “I’m your other roommate.”
“Well shit. I guess that makes more sense than you breaking into our hot as fuck apartment to eat our food. I’m Oscar,” he returned. “Sorry about punching you in the face.”
“It’s cool,” Frank nodded. “You barely hit me at all.”
“Oh. Good,” Oscar replied, though it didn’t really seem like he meant it.
“Sorry I…stepped on you,” Frank added as an afterthought. Oscar looked a little sheepish about that.
“The kitchen is the coolest part of this apartment,” he said a little defensively. “And it’s hot as fuck in here. It’s like existing on top of the sun.”
“Yeah, you have to shut off the radiators,” Frank nodded. Oscar looked over at Ramsay to glare at the side of his head. Ramsay was blinking increasingly slowly, like it was a struggle to keep his eyes open. Frank walked over to the radiator in the living room and shut off the valve. Oscar turned his attention back to Frank.
“You’re already my favourite roommate,” he said, voice and eyes full of awe.
“I’m everybody’s favourite roommate,” Frank returned no so humbly. In his defense, it was true. Eric had definitely liked him best and Ramsay would’ve rather shoved his whole hand in a rotating blender blade before choosing Eric over anybody. If it was as easy as shutting off a radiator valve to win over Oscar, even after stepping on his face, Frank assumed he would absolutely be the favourite again.