80: “You’re a hairy juice salesman and firefighters are like meth to women”

Ramsay, Oscar, and Frank hosted a party in late March. Since the death of his grandfather, Frank didn’t want to do much except get drunk or sleep and this was Oscar’s way of being supportive.

“You say supportive, but it feels a little more like enabling,” Miles pointed out in response to that particular reasoning one afternoon at work. Ramsay agreed at least a little bit, even though he didn’t say it.

“He’s just blue because of his grandfather,” Oscar returned dismissively. “He’ll be okay. Trust me, I know what it’s like. He’s completely fine.”

Ramsay didn’t think that was exactly true either, though. He definitely didn’t think Oscar had been completely fine. While he was lying on various floors in various places, unwilling to move or do much of anything, he had not been fine. He’d been depressed. Ramsay had never brought it up, partly because he assumed it would be an incredibly uncomfortable conversation, but mostly because he felt he was lacking the appropriate emotional maturity for it to be an effective conversation. He’d spent quite a long time hoping that Oscar would be able to pull himself out of his depression. At one point, when that was beginning to look less and less likely, Ramsay had actually memorized Oscar’s older sister’s cell phone and work numbers so that he would be able to contact her anywhere at any time if things progressed beyond his capacity. Frank didn’t have any siblings and his mother didn’t live in the city or own a car. Ramsay was concerned.

“It’s just a party,” Oscar said, exasperated at the undoubtedly unconvinced expressions on Miles and Ramsay’s faces. “He’ll be surrounded by happiness and friends and he’ll feel better.”

Ramsay couldn’t help but reflect on the many, many parties they attended with Oscar only to find him lying inside someone’s closet.

“Plus it’ll be a good excuse for you to hang out with Tallulah,” Oscar added with a pointed look in Ramsay’s direction. He glowered at that. He regretted ever mentioning an interest. Miles, previously unsure, was now wholly on board.

“Nice!” He said, reaching over to high-five Oscar. They both grinned at Ramsay. He lost the will to live.

The night of the party, Frank started drinking even before anybody else had arrived. Ramsay shot Oscar a pointed look, which Oscar ignored in favour of his cell phone. The three of them sat in awkward silence while they waited for someone else to arrive. Ramsay was patently bad at conversation and Frank was too upset to chat, which left Oscar, who was approximately no help at all, just as was the case in most situations. When the first guests finally turned up, Ramsay was both relieved and even more concerned than before because it was Robin, Finch, and Joey. Joey was the last person he wanted around while afraid that his roommate was slowly turning to alcoholism as a coping mechanism. That was like sitting in the centre of a hurricane and having Red Cross bring more water to save you.

“What are the chances that you can get Joey to tone it down for the night?” Ramsay asked Robin in the kitchen as he watched Joey greet Oscar and Frank in the living room. Frank had remained sitting, drinking his scotch and soda.

“Very, very slim,” Robin answered honestly. Finch was standing behind him, glaring at the fruit bowl. Ramsay wondered if it was the bananas or the apples that had personally offended him.

“Great,” Ramsay said flatly.

“Why’re you asking?” Robin asked. Ramsay didn’t really want to answer. For one thing, then it would seem too real. It was such a grown-up problem to have. At twenty-eight, Ramsay still didn’t feel like he was a proper adult. He lived in a shared apartment full of fruit flies and he sold juice for a living. He was afraid to talk to a pretty girl. Greif and depression and helplessness were serious problems for serious adults. Ramsay wanted all of his friends to have dumb problems, like throwing up in bouncy castles by accident or looking too much like Scott Baio.

“Just,” Ramsay started to answer, shrugging. “I don’t know. Just a little worried about Frank, I guess.”

Robin frowned at him, but Ramsay didn’t elaborate. He followed Finch’s angry stare to the fruit bowl. It appeared to be the bananas that were causing him so much anguish.

Later into the evening, most of the other guests had arrived. Tallulah was there, chatting with her sister and her friends, looking equal parts lovely and terrifying. Ramsay, still standing in the kitchen, kept alternating glances between her and Frank, who was sitting in the same spot in the living room, significantly drunker. Piper had come to the party and she was sitting with him, not talking to anyone else. To her credit, Ramsay noted that she also looked faintly concerned about Frank’s well-being. Ramsay figured it was the literal least she could do after missing his grandfather’s funeral.

“Bad news,” Miles announced, coming up to join Ramsay at the kitchen counter with Iggy in tow. “I just learned that Tallulah is dating someone else.”

Ramsay immediately looked to Iggy, who raised her eyebrows in interest. Ramsay looked away again, shaking his head and inwardly cursing Miles. He glanced over at Tallulah very briefly where she was now laughing with Robin. Then he looked back over to Frank, who still hadn’t moved. He and Piper were sitting side by side in complete silence.

“He’s a firefighter,” Iggy said when Ramsay failed to respond. Ramsay looked over at her, truthfully not all that interested in the man who was dating the woman he was interested in. Miles was far more interested in her tidbit of information.

“He’s a firefighter?!” He repeated incredulously before turning to Ramsay and putting a hand on his shoulder. “Oh, sorry, man. I was going to say that they only just started dating and you could probably lure her away, but I think you’re shit out of luck.”

“Thanks,” Ramsay replied flatly. Iggy was still eyeing him with interest, something he hoped would end quite quickly.

“You’re a hairy juice salesman and firefighters are like meth to women,” Miles continued. Iggy shot him a wry look, which he missed.

“You know what else is like meth to women?” She cut in, beginning to tick things off on her fingers. “Chocolate, that new baby smell, yogurt, perfume named after flowers in French, but most importantly, actual meth.”

“I feel I may have said something offensive,” Miles admitted sheepishly after a moment.

“You have,” Iggy confirmed. “But, at the same time, the firefighter she’s dating is crazy good-looking.”

Overall, it was a very unhelpful conversation.

At the end of the night, after everyone had left, Ramsay began cleaning up. Oscar had already gone to bed and Frank had actually left to his own room at some point earlier in the night, leaving Piper alone on the couch. She’d looked quite lost and confused for a few minutes. Eventually, she had gotten up and left the apartment altogether. Ramsay didn’t take it as a very positive sign. As he was putting empty beer cans and bottles on the kitchen counter next to the sink, Frank left his bedroom and padded into the living room in his pyjamas. He sat down on the couch and didn’t say anything for a long time. Ramsay ignored him, not sure what he would even say, and continued to clean.

“Insomnia,” Frank said after a long time. Ramsay had accidentally made eye contact with him while picking up a fallen beer cap. Ramsay froze, garbage in hand, and tried to think of something remotely helpful to say. Instead, he cleared his throat.

“I heard Miles talking about the firefighter,” Frank said after a pause. “Sorry.”

The words were flat and quiet. Ramsay could barely hear him. He just stood there holding on to someone else’s garbage, searching the far recesses of his mind for something comforting or helpful or even fucking verbal to offer. All he kept dredging up was Oscar’s older sister’s two phone numbers. He had half a mind, the drunk half, to call her and ask her for help. She didn’t know Frank at all, but she would probably be far more helpful than he was being presently. He cleared his throat again.

“I’m sorry about the party,” he finally managed to eke out. Frank looked up at him. “I’m sorry about…everything.”

It was weak. It wasn’t anything. Frank continued to look up at him before he nodded morosely a couple times. Ramsay continued to tidy up around him, making a sizeable mountain of empties he wasn’t looking forward to trying to return while taking the subway. Frank stayed in the living room the entire time, not saying anything. And when he eventually fell asleep on the couch, Ramsay put a blanket on him, the extra soft one Oscar’s sister had given him for Christmas one year, and turned off the living room lights.

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