Erin had been dropping increasingly direct hints about Oscar meeting her parents for months. Similarly, Oscar had been putting off meeting her parents for months. He wasn’t sure why he was being so hesitant. He and Erin had been dating for over four months and he hadn’t so much as even considered introducing her to his family.
“Maybe it’s because you keep saying you and Erin are seeing each other, when in fact you are clearly in a fully committed relationship,” Miles suggested dryly when Oscar brought it up at work one afternoon.
“Am I?” Oscar asked, cocking his head to the side as he thought about it.
“Yes, dipshit,” was Miles’ kind response. “Either that or you’re the world’s biggest dickhead. You can’t string someone along for four months and not call her your girlfriend.”
Oscar supposed that was true. And yet he still didn’t do it.
Oscar used every possible excuse he could think of to evade Erin’s parents. In the end, he only ended up meeting them because Erin tricked him into it. She invited him to dinner and when he showed up at the restaurant, she was seated with two older people to whom she bore an incredible likeness. Actually, all three of them looked startlingly similar. Her parents had the same glasses, same dusty blonde hair, same blue eyes, and, oddly, the same shaped teeth. The three of them gave him identical smiles as he approached the table. Oscar seriously considered turning around and walking back in the direction from which he had come.
“Hello, son,” Erin’s father greeted him, standing up to shake his hand. “I’m Greg and this is my lovely wife Paula, but you may call us Greg and Paula.”
Greg laughed raucously at his own terrible joke. Oscar forced out a feeble chuckle, all the while trying to avoid eye contact with Erin because he couldn’t tell what his face was doing. He really wished he’d had some warning, not least of all because he was wearing a pair of Converse high tops he’d owned since the tenth grade. At one point, they had been white. Now they were some sort of grey-beige shade that Oscar was, at that precise moment, overly aware of. Paula was wearing what appeared to be an honest to God diamond tennis bracelet.
Oscar sat down and tried not to panic when Paula asked him what kind of wine they should order for dinner. As far as Oscar was aware, there were two kinds of wine: red and white. He had no idea what the difference was between them, except that red wine made him instantly tired and white wine gave him horrible hangover headaches. As far as what kind of wine would pair nicely with the tenderloin Greg was planning on ordering for dinner, Oscar had no clue. The wine list was two pages long and mostly in French. They were lucky Oscar could even identify which side was the white and which was the red.
When the waiter came to their table, Oscar tactfully avoided eye contact with everybody at the table so that someone else would be forced to order the wine. The waiter, who was wearing a full suit, kept glancing at Oscar’s shoes with disdain. He was absolutely underdressed for the restaurant they were at, but Erin hadn’t really warned him about that, much like she hadn’t warned him her parents would be there. Greg kept making terrible dad jokes and talking about golf. Oscar had played golf one time in his entire life and he had given up after three holes in favour of the clubhouse bar. It had been for his brother-in-law’s bachelor party and Oscar had hated almost every single minute.
Oscar ordered the cheapest entrée on the menu, which was a ridiculously expensive burger that Greg ribbed him about for the remainder of the meal. He kept telling Oscar about how good his tenderloin was. Oscar was sure it was delicious, but he couldn’t help but think about all the juice he would have to sell just to afford to eat it once. Paula, meanwhile, had lobster and Erin ordered a risotto that, for the price, should’ve been laced with flakes of gold. Oscar drank a glass of the wine they had ordered, white, and he didn’t enjoy it at all. It was horribly dry. Prior to wine, he’d never quite understood how a beverage could even be dry, but this certainly was and he disliked it immensely, no matter how highly Paula talked about it.
At the end of the meal, Greg told the waiter they would only need one bill and then Oscar was forced to awkwardly say nothing when the waiter returned with it and Greg looked at him expectedly like he was waiting for Oscar to offer to pay. If Oscar had the money to eat lobster at fancy restaurants, he wouldn’t live in a boiling hot apartment with two other dudes and the world’s entire population of fruit flies. He would live in a mansion somewhere in Madrid, which would be just as well because he wouldn’t have been in this shitty situation.
Eventually, Greg took the bill, tutting playfully once. It didn’t feel particularly playful to Oscar. It felt a lot more like he was being kicked in the kidney. They left the restaurant together where they said good-bye on the sidewalk. Greg and Paula were going to drive Erin back to her apartment, which was just fine with Oscar because he couldn’t think of a single damn thing to say to her. He thanked Greg for dinner an uncomfortable and excessive number of times, let Paula kiss him on both cheeks, and then gave Erin a very brief hug before bolting down the street in the general direction of his home.
Frank found him lying on the living room floor an hour later. Frank was getting ready to go to work and Oscar had plans to never move again. There was a fruit fly crawling around in his ear. It was driving him slightly mad, but he was willing to let that happen if only to liven things up before he tragically expired on the living room floor alone.
“You know, it’s no longer fire warm in here,” Frank informed Oscar, as if that was the only reason Oscar would ever end up on the floor. Oscar found his naive positivity both endearing and annoying.
“Oh I know,” Oscar replied. “I’m just waiting for death.”
“Sounds like a good use of time,” Frank returned.
“I think I’ll find death very soothing,” Oscar said thoughtfully.
“Well yeah, I’m sure you will,” Frank retorted, as though that should’ve been obvious. “What do the dead have to worry about?”
“You know, maggots,” Oscar began to answer. “Being dead. Resentment.”
“Alright,” Frank agreed noncommittally. “So just waiting for death, eh?”
Oscar sighed deeply.
“Erin tricked me into meeting her parents tonight,” Oscar explained. “It was awkward as hell.”
“Have you considered at all that this is not what you want?” Frank asked, leaning against the kitchen counter.
“No?” Oscar answered uncertainly. Frank shook his head.
“Maybe think about it,” he said before grabbing some food from the fridge and returning to his room to finish getting ready for work. It was until he had left for his shift at the radio station, Oscar still lying on the living room floor, that Oscar came to a definitive conclusion, which he shared with the dark emptiness of his apartment.
“Oh, this isn’t what I want at all.”