Sylvie’s roommate Nadia was dating the worst person in the world. That was probably an over-exaggeration, but it didn’t feel like one. His name was Darren and he was a musician. Sylvie’s other roommate Astrid openly referred to him as Shitty Darren, even to his face, which he thought was a playful nickname. Darren had once literally told Sylvie that he liked how close his fun nickname had brought him and Astrid. Sylvie, who knew all too well about the many times Darren had hit on Astrid, was sure he did like that.
Darren had been in a band called Twisted Rivers. The other band members were all fedora-wearing tools with dumb tattoos. Naturally, the band had fallen to shambles because they were all essentially the exact same John Mayer wannabe and not all of them could sing and strum the acoustic guitar. Someone would have to play the bass and that was apparently unacceptable. Now Darren was a solo artist, his own entity. He was trying to get a record deal with a big local recording company. So far, he’d had little success. Now he was considering paying to record his own album. He’d made contact with a smaller independent recording studio and they’d given him a cost. Darren talked about this like he’d had a smash hit and was now well on his way to the Grammys.
“Like, he’s paying to record is own album,” Astrid said to Sylvie, their roommate Cam, and Astrid’s twin brother Jonas one night. “I could do literally the same thing, but that wouldn’t make it a good album.”
“No, it certainly would not,” Jonas snorted in response. The four of them were relaxing in the living room with Josh Brolin, who had been trying to find a way to get to the curtain rod for quite some time. He’d tumbled onto the radiator once already and Sylvie feared they were rapidly approaching a second time because his footing was not exactly secure. One of his back paws was currently in a potted plant. Darren and Nadia had popped their heads in earlier to say good-bye. They were going to an open mic night at the pub a block away. Darren was going to dazzle the crowd. Sylvie was almost positive that wouldn’t be the case. For one thing, the crowd would be drunk. That particular pub was well-known for having a rowdy crowd. And then most likely they wouldn’t be able to hear his acoustic easy-listening music over the din of the pub.
“You’re a shitlord,” Astrid told Jonas, kicking him in the ribs from the opposite end of the couch. Sylvie had specifically chosen a seat in one of the armchairs so as to avoid being caught in the middle of them. Cam, she noticed, had been careful to do the same.
“Don’t hurt me, I’m already wounded,” Jonas protested, swatting feebly at her.
“What’s wrong with you?” Cam asked him, always bizarrely interested by injuries.
“I don’t know,” Jonas sighed dramatically. “I’ve had an eye twitch for a week and a half.”
“It’s probably stress,” Sylvie offered. Jonas shrugged.
“I don’t think I’m stressed,” he replied. “But I guess my eye twitch and Lockjaw suggest otherwise.”
Both Cam and Sylvie turned to Astrid in shock, stunned that she wouldn’t have told them her brother had developed Lockjaw. Sylvie had done a project in grade eleven about the dangers of tetanus. Lockjaw was a bad sign. It was pretty much game over from that point.
“I just want to clarify that it isn’t legitimate Lockjaw,” Astrid said, rolling her eyes. “As his twin, I probably would’ve been more concerned about that.”
“I like that you said probably, like you wanted to leave your options open,” she said.
“He just has, like, a muscle spasm in his face,” Astrid explained dismissively.
“Yeah, for a week,” Jonas interjected indignantly.
“Maybe you really do have Lockjaw,” Sylvie told him. “It’s just a hop, skip, and a jump to tetanus from here.”
“Yeah, your life is basically over,” Cam joined in, rolling her eyes now. “You better start crossing things off your bucket list.”
“I don’t have a bucket list,” Jonas replied.
“That can be the first item you cross off your bucket list,” Cam told him. “‘Make bucket list’.”
“He doesn’t have Lockjaw,” Astrid cut in. “Mom made him get a tetanus shot when she found out. He’s fine. It’s literally just from grinding his teeth.”
She reached over and poked him in the face. He swatted lazily at her again, failing to make contact. Astrid poked him again and Sylvie was yet again grateful for having chosen the armchair.
The following morning, Sylvie walked into the kitchen to make herself breakfast to find Cam and Nadia already in there. Nadia was standing at the stove, cooking eggs as she talked on the phone. It was definitely her mother. Nadia didn’t speak to anyone on the phone unless it was her mother. At the kitchen table, Cam was sitting on one of the white chairs, drinking from a mug shaped like a fox head, petting Josh Brolin, who was purring like a freight train. Sylvie tilted her head inquisitively at Nadia as she took a seat at the table with Cam and Josh Brolin.
“Her mother’s pressuring her to meet a nice Muslim man again,” Cam said in a hushed voice so that Nadia wouldn’t hear them.
“I mean, at this point, I want that too, if only because Darren is obnoxiously agnostic,” Sylvie returned in the same quiet tone. Cam nodded.
“Her mother’s already offered to set her up with the man who sold them their car,” Cam said.
“Faisal?” Sylvie asked. Nadia’s mother brought up Faisal a lot, which in turn meant that Nadia complained about Faisal a lot, and so Sylvie and her roommates knew a lot about Faisal in general. Nadia would never date him on principal. She could be incredibly stubborn.
Nadia hung up the phone with a huff. Sylvie wondered if she missed the days of flip phones and landlines because it was undeniably more dramatic to hang up one of those rather than a smartphone. The best she could really do with that was an aggressive touch screen button push and that wasn’t actually dramatic at all.
“Fucking Faisal,” she grumbled at Cam and Sylvie. Interestingly, Sylvie was thinking the same thing about Darren.