Disclaimer: I do not own Oscar and Felix, and I did not create them. I'm only a fan.
Acknowledgments: I would like to thank a few people out there for looking over my story: Empress T'Pau, opacre, and especially TheRimmerConnection. Thanks guys!
This story has a Mature rating for mild language and sexual situations.
It was the proverbial nail in coffin, that letter from today's mail. Blanche had made her threats, and now there was an ultimatum. The consequences wouldn't be the personal, vengeful wrath of a harassing ex-wife but something far more legal. It all boiled down to paying the alimony now, or it was off to court, signed Blanche's lawyer.
Oscar vaguely wondered how easily he might be able to drop everything and take a long, long vacation to some secluded Caribbean island or Wyoming.
He heard the front door open but didn't bother to turn and check. He knew perfectly well who it was, although he had not been expecting them back until late evening. Rather, he had hoped that this certain irritating roommate of his wouldn't return until the early hours of the morning, giving him a peaceful evening alone. Then again, the letter had ruined any possibility of that.
Felix sat down heavily on the other side of the couch. There was a moment when both roommates were seated together in complete silence. Oscar looked over at him, wondering whether this was going to be a silently-brooding Felix or an angrily-ignoring Felix.
And there it was, that whining way he spoke his name. It was too much to suppose Felix would have taken note that his lack of conversation meant he was bothered, and didn't want to be bothered.
"Not now, Felix."
Felix turned away, look of utter dejection on his face. While it was probably just Felix being moody, he decided he perhaps might have spoken a little brusquely.
"I'm in hot water, between a rock and a hard place. My editor doesn't like a word I've written, my bookie is in legal trouble, and Blanche's lawyer is threatening jail if I don't get her the money by next Friday. My life is on a losing streak."
"That sounds awful," Felix moaned. All the while, he kept his eyes fixated on some unseen program on the screen of the powered-down television.
"What's botherin' you?"
"Bother. One of the first words that comes to your mind. That's what I am, isn't it? A bother. I bother people."
"Is it those kids?"
"No, no. The school portraits are finished, thank goodness."
Oscar was expecting something more, but Felix only looked ever more depressed.
"Felix, what happened?"
Felix shook his head. "You have your own problems. I don't want to be a burden."
"Alright," he agreed, and started to stand up.
"Miriam broke up with me."
Of course, it had to be the worst news possible.
"You mean officially? Or you two had a fight?"
"It's all over. Miriam called it off."
Oscar adjusted himself to face Felix directly. Those uncomfortable feelings began to surface, those feelings that Oscar felt when another man looked to be on the border of crying.
"I can't believe Miriam would do that to you. Just like that? She said, 'It's all over between us?'"
Felix started to sob. He was quick to reach for his handkerchief from his jacket pocket and bury his face in it.
"Oh, boy," Oscar sighed to himself, then turned back to his roommate. "Look, Felix, I'm sorry. I really am. I thought you two were hitting it off. But ya know how I feel about your crying. I don't know what I can say when you're like this."
Felix shook his head. He looked over at Oscar, no longer openly sobbing, but sunk into a pathetic slumping posture.
"I was a fool. Miriam and I..." Felix fingered the handkerchief. "Our relationship isn't...wasn't what it once was." He leaned back into the sofa, giving a heavy sigh. He rolled his head and eyes to look at Oscar. "Do you know how long it's been since Miriam and I were intimate?" Oscar didn't really feel like answering, so he didn't. "I mean physically intimate," Felix pressured, giving a quick nod and making circular motions with his hands, as if the gestures were actually conducive to understanding.
"Felix, I get it."
"Well, I'll tell you."
Felix shook his head and waved his hand dismissively.
"You're my friend, Oscar. I feel like I can confide in you. Truly, I feel comfortable telling you anything."
"Ya don't hafta!"
"Even if I don't want to hear it, you're..." Oscar blinked. "Months?!"
"You see, Oscar, the nature of our relationship had changed, and I refused to see it. Oh, I knew but I wanted it to continue as it was. I wanted to keep seeing her as my girlfriend, despite how she distanced herself. She never said anything, but it's what she didn't say. And what I didn't say. I didn't confront her when I had the chance, and now she's gone from my life."
"You're tellin' me you guys went for two whole months without making whoopee?"
Felix gave Oscar his look of disapproval. "It wasn't by choice. There were other things that got in the way, like her mother visiting or a hair appointment. Or she wasn't in the mood. It was the same with the opera. Miriam stopped coming all together...It was just like the months leading up to my divorce."
"Gloria, too? Hate to tell ya this, but maybe you weren't..." Oscar gave a pathetic half-shrug, "satisfying her."
"Miriam had practically a child-like understanding of art until I came along. I knew all the right theaters and museums to take her to. Those nights out were more than satisfactory, I made sure of that."
Oscar remained silent for a moment longer, just to see if Felix would catch on. He didn't.
"I'm talkin' 'bout your nights in. Maybe you weren't satisfying her back when you two were still physically intimate?"
Felix's mouth dropped in surprise. "Boy, you have a dirty mind!"
"You're the one who said it's been a while, so I'm thinking maybe it's the sex?"
"I'll have you know, Oscar Madison, that I'm a very good lover. I'm tender, considerate, patient, attentive, and I have high endurance." Felix brought his shoulders in line with Oscar's, leaning his side against the back of the sofa. He draped his arm over for posturing. "Which is probably more than you could say. I don't know how you manage with all that beer in your belly, and your complete lack of exercise-"
"Hey!" Oscar stood up. "You've moved into my apartment and invaded every part of my life, but I don't need ya in my sex life!"
He headed for the front door. Felix watched as he started up the steps.
"Oscar," Felix moaned, as if in pain or great emotional distress.
It was enough to make Oscar stop, against his better judgment.
"Where are you going?" Felix asked, his voice croaking.
Oscar turned to his friend, still sprawled on the couch. "Out."
"Don't leave me here," Felix whined. He pouted and threw himself down on the sofa's cushions, extending an outstretched arm towards Oscar. "I don't want to be alone! I'm miserable! I haven't felt this bad since my divorce."
"Since your divorce, I've seen you miserable lotsa times."
"So instead of kicking me out, you're kicking yourself out. This is how you're getting rid of me, isn't it?"
"Ya know, that's not a bad idea. Always felt an eight-room apartment was a little large for a couple of guys."
Felix winced and buried his face in the cushion. His whimpers were muffled.
"It's difficult being around when you're like this, but when I'm having a bad day...I need to get outta here and do somethin' that makes me feel good, or I'll end up like you, trying to suffocate myself!"
Felix looked up. He dragged his body along the length of the sofa and arched his back, resting his chin on its arm.
"Would you really leave me in my fragile condition?"
The first words that came to Oscar's mind did not seem like one of his better suggestions. Then he remembered that fateful night when Felix had come to the apartment in the depths of a borderline-suicidal despair.
"You could come with me."
"I don't feel like going anywhere," Felix whined. "I just want to lie here and die."
"I'm not letting you mope and cry around the apartment for the next two weeks." Oscar walked back towards the sofa. He crouched down, bringing his face eye-level with Felix's. "We're goin' out. We're gonna get drunk and meet girls."
"I don't get drunk."
"You can snort a glass of fancy merlot in the corner."
"But I can't go out."
"Go out to put yourself in a good mood. How 'bout skipping the next few weeks of being miserable and jump right into being happy?"
"I can't just...just do that. I'm hurting."
"I'm goin' out. You can come with me, or you can stay here."
Felix laboriously turned onto his side and curled his legs up. He slowly sat up.
"You're not giving me much of a choice," he said, a pompous air returning to his voice.
"Oscar, we're here."
"Hey...hey, wha...what happened to the girls?"
"None of the women you were so desperately trying to flirt with followed you in here."
"Sure they did!"
Felix quickly got out of the taxi. Oscar could almost pass for sober. His tired and disheveled appearance was typical. He could speak without much of a slur, although his voice was a little loud. But it was the whiff of alcohol that made Felix cringe and feel nauseous.
"Felix, what're ya doin'?" Oscar called out from his seat.
Felix dashed around the back of the vehicle to the driver's side. He already had his wallet out.
"Four ninety-four," the cabbie informed him.
Felix noted to himself that the fee had gone up an extra twenty cents, although the traffic was lighter in the early hours of the morning. And to think Oscar could have just walked down the street to get drunk.
"My roommate is just a teensy bit tipsy. I'm certain if he was sober, he would apologize for his behavior," Felix casually informed the driver, although he doubted if he had ever seen Oscar quite so plastered. And the driver looked to have seen enough intoxication in his line of duty to not care.
Oscar was still in his seat. Felix opened the door on his side.
"Oscar, time to get out."
Oscar remained slouched and seemingly glued to the seat. He only moved his neck as he looked from side to side, squinting in confusion.
"We're home. See?" Felix swept an arm towards the familiar front of their apartment complex.
"Wait...I thought...Where're the girls?!"
"Oscar, the cabbie has other drunks to drive home."
"Hey," Oscar pointed an accusing finger. "I'm not drunk, Feliksh!"
He put one hand on the car door, the other on the frame, and heaved himself up. He took his first few steps smoothly, but also very slowly. Felix closed the passenger door, got out his handkerchief to wipe his hands of whatever germs might have been festering on that car door handle, and moved up next to him.
"I hope you realize you disappoint me a great deal. I advised you against over-drinking. You made a fool of yourself this evening, and embarrassed me. You embarrassed me in front of drunks, which should be an impossibility."
Oscar cleared his throat. He wavered as he shifted close to Felix, who turned his face away to avoid the alcohol fumes.
"You're remindin' me of a woman I divorced."
"Blanche is a very smart and clear-headed woman."
Oscar touched Felix's shoulder. He pinched a bit of his jacket's fabric between his fingers.
"Looks like the...like somethin' she'd wear."
"Blanche has good taste."
"Almost looks. She dressed worse!"
Oscar let loose with an explosive laughter. He released the jacket and slid his entire arm across Felix's shoulders. He hooked the crux of his elbow around the back of Felix's neck, and leaned heavily.
"Don't feel like walkin'," Oscar mumbled.
Felix wrapped an arm around Oscar's waist.
"You'd better hope my bursitis doesn't act up."
They entered the building and Felix automatically moved towards the elevators. Oscar dragged his feet most of the way, but still seemed capable of walking, only using his roommate for leverage. Felix noticed the time on the wall clock, and he cross-checked with his own watch. As usual, the clock was a few minutes fast, but the fact remained—the time was approaching 3am.
Felix blinked hard and shook his head. No wonder he was feeling sleepy. Worse yet, he had to go to the studio the next day—technically, later today.
"Hey...your girls! Call 'em and-and invite 'em!" Oscar grinned.
"What are you talking about? What girls?"
"Ya know, your...your models."
"Those models are professional workers. They do not accept private house calls."
Oscar firmly planted himself in front of the elevator doors. Felix reached over to push the button but was too far away. He angled his body and stretched his arm out to get as much length as possible.
"They're still women! Ask nicely? A free session?"
Felix tugged at Oscar's waist.
"Oscar, we won't be going anywhere until the button gets pushed."
Oscar took a lumbering step forward, enough for Felix to barely brush a finger against the up arrow. One of the elevator doors opened instantly.
"How 'bout it?"
"Felix Unger and Oscar Madison's private photography session."
Felix was grateful when they were both in the elevator and the doors had closed. Although there was no one hanging around the apartment complex, Felix felt less embarrassed being in a small, enclosed space. Now, only his slight case of claustrophobia was kicking in.
"Well...?" Oscar's voice trailed on, genuinely wanting an answer. He was smiling at Felix, and nodding in expectation of an affirmative answer.
"Absolutely not. My relationship with my models is purely professional."
"You're surrounded by gorgeous girls, and...and nothin'?"
"They're beautiful women, but we work together to get a job done."
"Well..." Felix shrugged against Oscar's arm. "There were a few, I would call, romantic encounters. But nothing ever happened, not the way you're thinking."
"Felix..." For the first time since Oscar had taken the first sips of alcohol, he sounded serious.
"What, what is it?"
"I need a woman."
"It's a little late for that. The only women out at this time are drunks or..." Felix hesitated before lowering his voice, "women of ill-repute."
"I don't care. I just want somethin' soft so I can..." Oscar released Felix. He held his arms out and turned his relaxed palms to face each other at hip-level. He moved his hands up along an invisible hourglass-shaped body.
"Don't grope in the elevator," Felix admonished.
Oscar rolled his eyes. The elevator doors opened on their floor. Felix exited and started to walk towards their living quarters. Oscar didn't follow.
"Do you want to lean on me?" Felix asked.
"Blanche," he said dumbly.
Felix grabbed his arm. He lengthened his stride. They were very close to their apartment as it was, but it felt like they couldn't arrive fast enough with Oscar lumbering along behind him.
"It wasn't great, but I need it."
"Marriage. It truly is a necessity of civilization."
"I wasn't talkin' 'bout marriage."
Felix used his key at the door and let them inside. He turned on the lights while Oscar was already plodding down the stairs, making a beeline for the couch, which he collapsed upon. Felix numbly removed his coat and hung it in the closet, the feeling of sleepiness unshaken.
Oscar winced and mumbled something unintelligible.
"What was that?"
"I think I'm in trouble."
Felix sat down next to his drunken roommate. "You drank too much."
"I haven't had a girl for a looong time."
"Maybe if you weren't such a boor, you'd have a date."
Oscar's features sharpened, but it was momentary. The edges of his mouth formed a sort of lop-sided smile. "I've got you."
"Well," Felix couldn't hold back a small smile in return, "what are friends for?"
Oscar shifted himself on the couch, so he was right up next to him. He laid his arm on the back of the couch and scooted in so close that Felix's arm was against his side. He splayed a leg out to rest against Felix's. Oscar tipped his head to rest against the back of the sofa and looked up at him with heavy lids. "I remember...I spent a night just like this with Blanche."
"You got drunk and failed to pick up women?"
"We were sitting...on a...a couch."
Felix nodded. He waited for Oscar to continue.
"Uh-huh," he said when Oscar said nothing else. "Well, Gloria and I...used to sit on couches. After we had gone out, we would sit together and we would...we would talk. I used to like to read poetry or Shakespeare to her. Sometimes she would light a fire in the fireplace, although the smoke always irritated my sinuses. But after living with you, I'm certain I could tolerate a little smoke."
"Blanche and I used to share a cigarette."
"Gloria did for a bit. Smoke. But I convinced her to quit."
"Didn't Miriam smoke?"
"No, absolutely not."
"Ya don't find it sexy?"
"You know smoking makes me feel ill."
"You've tried it?"
Felix blinked hard against his tired eyes. "What?"
"Smokin' makes ya ill? Or bein' 'round smoke?"
"Being around people who are smoking makes me ill."
"So, ya never tried it?"
"Well...I actually...I have tried it. Everyone else was doing it, and I thought 'why not?' But it was a stupid thing to do. A very unhealthy, messy, useless and expensive hobby."
Oscar smiled. It was that content, sweet smile Felix rarely saw. A very distinctive smile. Oscar brought a hand to the side of Felix's head and ran it drunkenly through his hair. "Blanche and I, we shared secrets on the couch, but drinking was usually involved."
"Uh...hm," Felix stated, his mind on the hand in his hair.
"You have nice...shampoo...hair. I mean the shampoo you use on your hair. Ya wash with shampoo?"
Felix was frozen for a long moment. He scrutinized Oscar's face. That smile, those mannerisms, he recognized them whenever Oscar was trying to impress a pretty woman. Except all the nuances were inundated with alcohol. The thumb of his hand became occupied with his ear.
"Your ears." Oscar spoke as if making a statement.
"I think I should boil some hot water—"
As Felix attempted to get up, Oscar laid the hand firmly on his shoulder.
"I worry 'bout ya."
Those four words struck a beautiful chord. More than anything else spoken that night, Felix believed those words were the truth, stored away somewhere deep in Oscar's mind and slipped free when inhibition was no longer guarding every thought.
Oscar placed the entire palm of his hand over Felix's mouth, instantly silencing him. Felix didn't attempt to speak, even when Oscar removed the hand.
"A guy like you has problems. Problems, God knows." Oscar looked up for a brief moment, as if directly addressing the Divinity. "But ya need to have fun. Lotsa fun."
"I do have fun."
"I mean fun. Ya know...fun stuff. Everyone needs to have a bit of the fun stuff."
"Of course, I have fun. I can be a fun guy."
"I'm talkin' 'bout not cookin' or...or cleanin' or collectin' stamps."
"But I think those things are fun."
"I'm talkin' 'bout crazy-fun. Fun for the body."
"I exercise daily."
"I know, I know..." Oscar gave Felix's bicep a light pinch. "Ya like clean, but I'm talkin' 'bout the dirty fun stuff: Grope a model in the dark room. Watch a triple-X porno on 42nd Street. Pay the cabbie the extra ten for a tumble in the back seat—"
"The cabbie?! Oscar, what taxis have you been taking—"
"I'm sayin' do whatcha want, somethin' good and dirty, before you're dead. Seize the moment!"
Felix wrung his fingers together.
"Oscar..." He smiled sheepishly, and Oscar smiled back. "I do carpe diem...but with reasonable caution. I know I'm a shy, quiet guy but I'm alright with that. I'm not one to engage in...casual affairs. Besides, I think I like being the one who's pursued rather than the pursuant."
"Yeah?" Oscar somehow succeeded in shifting in even closer. His eyes scanned Felix's body. "Tell me."
"Tell you what?"
"What dirty things ya like."
"Oscar, you mean...about my preferences..." Felix's voice trailed, unable to answer.
"Say my name one more time, and I'm yours!"
Felix's mouth slacked but no words came. Nothing. Felix wondered if he had actually drifted off to sleep, and was taking part in a manifested, deep-seated dream.
"That's cute," Oscar tapped Felix on the cheek. "Now if this was a date with Blanche, I'd move in for the kill."
Felix blinked. Of course, this all related to Blanche. Or, what was probably more likely, the yearnings for female companionship. He took in a breath and let out all the tension in a firm exhale.
"It's getting late. How about I get you into bed?"
"And I was startin' to think I wasn't gonna get lucky."
Felix frowned in momentary confusion, but then laughed giddily. He slapped Oscar on the shoulder before rising from the sofa. Before he was even fully on his feet, he felt a slap on his hip. He spun around. Oscar watched, making no move to get up. Felix sighed, ignoring the drunken playfulness, and extended an arm.
"Need a hand?"
Oscar grinned widely, and looked to be on the verge of laughing out loud.
"Can't think of a better way to end the night!"
Oscar leaned back on the couch and guffawed. His whole body shook with a loud, bawdy laughter. Felix covered his mouth. He wanted to give his look of disapproval, but he found himself biting back a grin.
When Oscar recovered, Felix was still standing there. Once again, he extended the arm.
"I think it's late for us both," he said, simply.
Oscar took his hand and relied heavily on it to move. Felix brought his other hand into use and had to take a wide stance to bring him off the couch. Oscar swayed when he was on his feet, and threw an arm around Felix's shoulders.
"I suppose I'll—oh!"
Felix, caught off-guard, gave a single gasp as Oscar slipped his hand down his spine, stopping at the small of his back. Oscar bumped his body off his and held a hand outward with the palm facing upward in an inviting gesture.
"Sweep me off my feet," Oscar's voice lilted.
Their faces were at a kissable distance. Remaining resolute, Felix brought his eyes down and spoke to Oscar's tie.
"It's late, and I'm very tired and you're very drunk."
Oscar snatched his hand, and for a moment, Felix was struck by how he refrained from instantly taking off. Instead, he maintained the pose of a charming gentleman about to initiate a ballroom dance. Then he tried to shuffle. Felix tripped before standing firm.
"Just a little, teeny waltz to my room," Oscar cooed.
Felix sighed. His free hand inched towards his waist, but Oscar was already taking the lead. He rested it on Oscar's shoulder instead.
Oscar swayed from side to side, side-stepping slowly toward the hallway. Felix looked down at his feet, not wanting Oscar to haphazardly tread on him. When Felix looked back up, Oscar's eyes were fixated on him. As the hand on his back inched further down, Felix realized he now had firsthand experience of copping a feel, although he never would've guessed he'd be on the receiving end.
"That's not appropriate on a first dance," Felix said in a patronizing, albeit teasing, tone.
Oscar began to hum a made-up tune, or a tune made unrecognizable by his grating voice and being overall tone deaf. Felix's ears were assaulted until they arrived at the door, where he finished with a crescendo. Oscar released Felix, but did not make the attempt to go in. He stood close, staring at him with the same casual, lazily smiling expression.
"Wanna nightcap?" he asked.
"Old stale beer isn't what I have in mind for a nightcap," Felix replied, genuinely not realizing how flirtatious his comment might come across to an already flirting drunk.
Oscar planted both hands firmly on Felix's shoulders, and reeled the other man towards him. Felix's weight shifted to the toes of his feet as his chest bumped against Oscar's.
Oscar gave him a firm kiss on the lips. Felix arched backwards, putting a bit of distance between his lips and Oscar's. Oscar moved in again and this one was more passionate than the first. The shock prevented Felix from doing much of anything. That and the pungent taste of alcohol. And the fact it was Oscar.
Suddenly, Oscar broke away, his hands dropping to his sides. He tilted back against the wall adjacent to his bedroom door. His eyes remained fixed on Felix.
With little else to say, Felix spoke his name. It came out throaty and airy, and a bit pleading. Oscar grabbed Felix somewhat forcefully by his forearms, and once again pulled him in close. He hushed him, then planted another kiss, a chaste one on the lips, then moved to his neck. Felix allowed himself an indulgence—closing his eyes in a brief appreciation of the delicious sensation of lips-to-flesh. He opened his eyes as Oscar pulled down a bit of his shirt collar.
"I can't. You're too vulnerable." Felix spoke in a low voice.
Oscar moved his lips to his ear. "You're the one who's flirtin'. I'm drunk, makin' this the perfect opportunity."
"To take advantage...of—"
"Again with the Oscar."
Oscar spoke louder than he had intended, especially being so close to his ear. Felix cringed and was further lambasted when his body was spun around and his back pinned to the wall. Oscar was just in front, their bodies touching. He rested his crown against the wall and tilted his face into Felix's neck.
"I think..." Felix shivered against a warm, deep exhale. "I think that you..." He bit back his words as Oscar nestled his way past the shirt collar toward that conjunction between neck and shoulder. "I think you..." His body suddenly turned hot when a bit of his skin was nipped. "Oscar, you...you have to...go to bed and—ah! Ahh!"
Oscar had undone one button of Felix's shirt unnoticed, and his hand had slipped inside gliding across his belly. Then, almost immediately he withdrew it, along with the rest of himself entirely.
"You need a shave." Oscar spoke bluntly, and swung the door to his bedroom wide open. "Night, Felix."
After the door was shut, Felix strained his ears to hear Oscar's footsteps. When there was nothing further for the next several minutes, he re-oriented himself. Finding himself on his toes, Felix brought himself down on his heels and still further down until he slid all the way to the floor. He took in a few more deep breaths to try to calm himself, but only ended up hyperventilating. There was an aftertaste of alcohol which clung to the back of his throat and stung his sinuses.
His best friend had kissed him. He had been kissed by his best friend.
Still weak in the limbs, Felix scrambled up and staggered over to the mini-bar. He poured himself a shot of brandy, and although he failed to down it in a single gulp, he emptied the glass quickly. His skin still tingled with Oscar's touches, which set his mind buzzing, although that could also have been the alcohol on top of the alcohol already in his system.
Realizing his precarious position, Felix abandoned the mini-bar and went to his bedroom. He reclined on his bed, his eyes fixated on the ceiling.
In a way, Oscar had always been his. His to fuss over, to care for, to chastise, to make certain he left for work on time, to clean his place, to cook him delicious meals, to offer himself in any way he could. He had never thought of their relationship turning physical. Never serious at the very least. Never any vivid and guilty fantasies—but perhaps only vague notions. Perhaps only as a thought that would arise at the end of the day, when he was lying in bed trying to sleep, and whisper to him. He had felt foolish for once speculating that Oscar might have had a preference for men, back before he had moved in with him. It was only because he had remained divorced for so long and had no children. Once he had witnessed Oscar's womanizing habits first-hand, Felix didn't give it another thought. But now?
In vino veritas?
Oscar spent the morning in bed, listening to the dulled clattering of utensils. He approached the kitchen. Felix turned from the stove, coated in sweat and wearing only his pajama bottoms.
"Finally, you got up. I've been slaving all morning, just for you!"
Oscar heard the clattering of metal, and he was jolted back to his bedroom—for which he thanked God. Instinct told him to lie in bed all morning, to never leave his room, but he knew Felix would come in to check up on him. He had to get out. He could sneak out through the back entrance and leave a little note—the sort of thing Felix would appreciate—saying that he had to get to work early. That he'd had to leave so early and so swiftly, he had no choice but to avoid him. And he could do that every morning for the rest of his life.
Against all sense, he got up and walked over to the kitchen. Felix wasn't there. He looked across the counter and spotted him. The sound which he had figured to be kitchen implements being clanged together was actually Felix collapsing unconscious on Murray's drum set. Oscar rushed over.
"Felix! Felix, buddy, speak to me!"
He shook Felix by the shoulder. The other man looked up wearily.
"Oscar, you know I love Gloria, so what about my brother in Buffalo? He's single and has the hots for men."
Oscar's eyes snapped open and he forced himself to sit up against the hangover. He couldn't sneak out. In his mind, he tried to consider how to begin the awkward morning after. He needed to confront Felix before he did anything else, and before falling back asleep to disturbing dreams.
His hangover was not as intense as he had anticipated, so he found himself able to stand up with only mild difficulty. The lights and sounds reverberated in his head, but he could make himself eat whatever was cooking. He could smell fish, which was a pleasant surprise, although it was one he couldn't fully appreciate with no appetite.
Not bothering to change, as he was already fully dressed from yesterday, he shuffled out of the room. He briefly stopped by the bathroom to take an aspirin for the emerging throbbing pain in his head. As he made his way down the hallway, he could now fully hear Felix fussing in the kitchen. His anxiety heightened.
He turned to the kitchen counter, already set with two covered plates. Felix (not shirtless, but wearing his typical bathrobe-over-pajamas) was making scrambled eggs over the stove top, and didn't notice his entrance. Oscar watched him, reconsidering all over again, when he turned around. Felix was taken aback, as if he had been surprised.
"Morning." Felix spoke slowly, with an emphasis on the one word.
"Morning, Felix," Oscar said, trying to sound casual against the sensation of feeling flushed. He had to look away, making it appear as natural as he could by rubbing the back of his neck. "What's for breakfast?"
"Eggs florentine, made with my specialty hollandaise sauce, with a slice of baked, lightly seasoned salmon."
Oscar nodded. It sounded like quite a breakfast, one which Felix shouldn't be cooking. He forced himself to look back at Felix, but could see no signs of anger or disgust or disapproval. No upcoming chastisement. There was a silence which extended to a point that was far too long for a casual, natural silence. With nothing to say, Oscar made the first move and stepped into the kitchen. He was acutely aware of nearing Felix, then moving past him to the percolator. He was also very aware when Felix made a turning motion to return to the stove. He used a whisk in the bowl seated on top of a pan.
"That's my hangover remedy."
"What?" Oscar asked, taking special attention to pouring the coffee into his cup.
"In the glass next to you. It's a new recipe."
Oscar looked about, and noticed just next to him on the counter a glass filled with a red liquid. He took it, tilting the glass slightly. It was very viscous, and it smelled like an overly-concentrated and tomato-y mixed fruit punch.
"I figured you might be needing it after last night."
"Yeah," Oscar said, clearing his throat in preparation to bringing this to a conclusion. "About last night—"
Felix's interruption was quick and he stopped stirring the sauce, giving Oscar his full attention.
"I don't remember anything I did."
Oscar took a sip of the coffee to clear his hangover fog. He turned away, bringing his coffee cup with him—he didn't bother with the suspicious concoction called "remedy”. Felix followed after him.
"Nothing at all?"
Oscar could almost make out disappointment in Felix's voice. He slowed, nearly to a stop, but continued on toward the table.
"Nope, it's all a blur." The moment he was seated, he looked up at his roommate. He stared hard at Felix, the deciding factor as to how far the subject matter would be forced to go. "I'm guessing I didn't do anything stupid."
Taking that statement at face value, Oscar ignored the desire to ask a follow up question and leaned back into his chair, relieved.
"The sauce!" Felix rushed over to the stove top. "Don't worry, the hollandaise isn't ruined. Breakfast will be ready shortly."
For once, Felix fussing over food was a reassuring sign of normalcy. Oscar grinned. This morning could be like any other morning.
"I wasn't worried."
As he enjoyed his coffee, Felix divided the sauce between the two plates, which were already set with muffins, poached eggs, and the salmon. Felix carried both plates over to the table and seated himself. Oscar reached for the silverware, and scanned the table.
"Looking for something?" Felix asked.
"You don't eat eggs florentine with ketchup. That's why I made the hollandaise."
Oscar shrugged and poked the food with his fork.
"There's something green in mine."
"Spinach. Eggs florentine always has spinach."
"If there's spinach, give me the ketchup so I can drown out the flavor."
Felix did a motion with his arm that made it appear he was going to throw his fork down, but the gesture slowed, and the fork was set neatly on the table.
"I slaved over breakfast this morning—"
"Please, don't say that word."
"Is that so? Well, let me tell you that 'slaved' is an apt descriptor. Of all the things I've done for you, and this is the thanks I get. You were far more of a gentleman when you were drunk."
Oscar's body locked itself into a paralysis. Only his eyes moved to stare at his roommate. He spoke slowly, as if each word would make Felix retract his statement. "What...do you mean?"
"I mean you were..." Felix cocked his head from side to side as he considered the next word to use, "nicer to me."
"You appreciated me a lot more." As Felix spoke, a semblance of a smile formed on his lips.
Oscar turned the poking end of his fork to him. He leaned on the table towards his roommate.
"Listen to me, Felix, because I'm only gonna say this once more. I was very drunk last night. I don't remember a thing. You don't hold a guy responsible for anything he might've said or done when he was really drunk. And, I mean it when I say I must've been really drunk."
"I know that. I'm only saying you were nicer. What's wrong?"
Oscar blinked. He had been staring intently at Felix, as if that would make him forget the whole thing. He sat back in his chair, the effects of a hangover still present.
"Forget it, Felix. I'm not enjoying the morning."
"And my eggs florentine isn't making it any better, is that it? I made it because I figured you would be having a bad morning and I only wanted to brighten it. And my hangover remedy! You left that in the kitchen, and I had made that specifically for you."
Felix took a peevish bite out of his meal. Oscar decided something else needed to be said, just to snuff out all lingering doubt.
"There actually is somethin'. I didn't bring this up yesterday since you were so upset, but you may not be seeing much of me this evening."
"And why is that?"
"There's this girl and if I'm lucky, I won't be around until tonight. Late tonight. Or if I'm really lucky tomorrow morning."
Felix frowned. "A girl? You mean..." As Felix hesitated, Oscar was once again in hot anticipation. "You're seeing someone?"
"Well, we just met...oh, maybe a week ago. So, we're seein' and talkin', but maybe we'll take seein' and talkin' a little further tonight."
"What's wrong with her?"
"What'd ya mean 'what's wrong with her?'"
"You've never mentioned her before, and you didn't want to see her when you were down last night. I thought the fact you wanted to pick up girls meant there wasn't anyone."
"Yeah, so...we barely know each other. But I'm hopin' we get to know each other a little better tonight, comprende?"
In a switch, Felix went from suspicion to a relaxed resignation. He smiled at him in that sort of juvenile way. "You'll be bringing her back here?"
"No...No, uh, we'll go to her apartment. She has an amazing place. Haven't seen it, but she says she has one of those...one of those nice apartments. In any case, Felix, don't wait up."
"So you really think you're going to get lucky, eh?" Oscar nodded, trying his best to look enthusiastic, but he was not enjoying the lie as much as he thought he would. "What's she like?"
Oscar thought fast. "Really tall. Green eyes. Has an amazing figure."
Felix mouthed out "wow" and made slow, deliberate nods in approval. Oscar wished he hadn't made her sound quite so attractive.
"Good for you. And it's been a while for you..." Felix hesitated. "Since you've brought a girl back here. After all those busy nights, you deserve it." Felix winked and slapped him on the shoulder. "You go get her, wildcat."
Oscar offered up a weak smile. The knowledge that there was no fiery redhead in the wings, much less anyone else, made him feel unusually depressed.
"Well, Felix," he said with a finality, ending the miserable conversation, "I'd better get dressed, shower, the works."
Oscar took the cup to his lips and began to drain the rest of the coffee.
"I was about to say, if you weren't going to change your clothes and freshen up, I would rip them off and wash you myself."
Oscar kept his lips sealed for a long moment. He forced himself to swallow.
"Later, Felix," he said, and left the table.
"Felix, I think I'm in trouble. A couple of guys are comin' 'round to break my legs."
"Haven't I told you that you shouldn't hang around with the underworld types!?"
"I'm sorry, Felix, but it's too late. They're gonna make an example out of me."
"You need to get out of here!"
"They're already on their way. Sorry, buddy, but you're also in trouble. They'll hurt you to get through to me."
"Oscar this is...this is terrible! I don't want my legs broken!"
"Hey, I just got an idea! We'll hide in the closet!" Oscar opened the door to the coat closet. He smiled widely at Felix. "No one will find us here in the closet." He winked knowingly.
"Well..." Felix grinned, also knowingly. "Alright."
Their bodies moved in a sort of dance similar to last night's, and Felix woke up. Shaken and sensitive, his mind was still focused on that dance, and a few other dirtier movements that didn't happen. To divert his focus, he considered the room. There was an early evening light leftover from the day. It was early enough to prepare dinner for himself, and after that, to idle the time away cleaning until Oscar returned. That was, he figured Oscar would return tonight at some point. He almost always did. If he continued to lie on the couch, he'd catch a glimpse of this mysterious, highly attractive date of his. Maybe later, when Oscar would have kicked him out of the living room, he would listen through his bedroom's thin walls to their muffled noises of making love heavily and loudly on the very same couch...
Felix couldn't let it stand any longer. That gnawing male need had been tugging on him for quite some time, and denial only made him inordinately desperate. He undid his belt, then his pants. He unzipped his fly, slowly, and his problem presented itself. He bit his lower lip.
Felix looked around his nicely enclosed living space. His options were crude, but he was in a convenient position to deal with it however he wanted, alone in the privacy of a cozy apartment he had all to himself.
Oscar really wished he hadn't described his date in such highly attractive terms. She was completely deranged, that was what he was going to tell Felix when he stepped through the door. He would leave off that bit about going to a cheap diner after work and trying to pick up the waitress. She wasn't particularly young or attractive, so he felt he wasn't overstepping his boundaries, but when she turned him down with that dreadful statement—"you're a little old for me"— he asked for the check and took the next available taxi. And there was that grumpy period on the drive back to the apartment, where he considered just how old he was getting, how middle-aged, how his quality of life would only decline from this point on as every second of his life was a step away from youth towards senility. And eventually death, he knew, but he didn't like to think that far.
Oscar returned to the building in good time. He opened the apartment door into darkness. He hesitated.
He poked his head in, and heard the humming white noises of the heater and humidifier in conjunction. He stepped fully in and closed the door gently behind him. With just enough moonlight and artificial light from the neighboring building to navigate, he softly made his way down the steps and to the center of the living room. There, he noticed an unusual glow spread across a small section of the floor down the hallway.
Oscar looked towards the kitchen, and his eyes rested on the dining table. He approached for a closer look and noted the table was set for two. Two candles had been placed on candlesticks and set opposite one another in a classic romantic arrangement. They looked to have been lit but were now extinguished.
He went back across the living room, took up the jacket he had left on the railing, and opened up the coat closet. He moved each jacket over, but everything in there was his or Felix's. At least, as far as he could tell, even in the dim light, there was no ladies' apparel. He abandoned any notions of hanging his jacket and dropped it to the floor. He closed the closet and looked back down toward the dim light in the hallway, wondering who had turned him down. The glow, though, made him consider far more seriously what sort of new Felix Unger madness he had stumbled upon.
He moved slowly towards the flickering glow. It obviously came from Felix's bedroom, along with the dim sound of music playing over a radio, just barely audible over the humidifier and heater. The sounds from the radio became clearer. It played a slow song with a crooning male vocalist, back from a nostalgic era. He spotted the note taped on the door but couldn't read it clearly in the darkened hallway, and didn't really bother trying.
The door was open just a sliver. He reasoned whatever Felix did alone in his room was his business, but curiosity over the date and something else, a sort of perverse curiosity he could not fully acknowledge, made him widen it.
He took a single step in, nearly inquiring with "Felix?", but his mouth failed to form words. The lighting wasn't the best, and Felix was mostly under the bedsheets, but those moments it took to open the door weren't enough for Felix to pretend anything else. The lighting was terrible enough so Oscar could not see Felix's expression when he jolted his head and shoulders from the bed and looked over.
Oscar took that one step back across the threshold and pulled the door completely shut. He stood there, facing the door, cringing at his own shameful stupidity. He fitfully wiped his hands on his pants, suddenly overcome with a feeling of contamination. Looking upward, he tried to muster a reprimanding insult to hurl at himself.
Speechless, he quickly turned away and headed toward his bedroom. Just as he was about to enter, he considered giving an apology to his overly-sensitive roommate, whose feelings of utter embarrassment he could only imagine.
A light fell upon his door, outlining his shadow. He turned to see Felix standing at his own door. A light had been turned on in his room and the music was gone. Felix was mostly obscured by the door, only his upper body visible as he looked around the door's edge, which he held with both hands.
"Look, Felix..." Oscar began, wanting to apologize in sincerity, but finding himself unable to form words. He approached Felix, ready to throw himself down at his mercy.
It suddenly became so much more difficult when he finally saw the other man under full light. His whole appearance was disheveled, with a flushed face, and sweaty. He was wearing his pajamas (or, at least, his pajama top was visible), but the buttons were undone, revealing a bare chest. The glaze of sweat was particularly visible around the base of his neck and plastered his hair to his skin, and not just the hair on his head.
"What happened to your date?" Felix asked, sounding winded. His chest rose and fell with a deep and desperate breath.
He blinked, and refocused his eyes away from the details of Felix that he didn't want to see—his chest, his damp hair, his reddened skin—to just looking at him as squarely as he could in the eye.
"You can tell me," Felix pressed.
"It didn't," Oscar replied mechanically.
Oscar shifted his eyes away, as it was impossible to simply look at a still-aroused Felix and not think about sex. The note on the door was now clearly visible, with the first line reading: "Oscar," and the second line: "Knock politely to speak to me." At the very bottom were the infamous F.U. initials. If there ever was an appropriate case for their use, this was it.
"It just...didn't happen, ya know?" Oscar's voice picked up as he backed up, slowly. He wanted to dash to his bedroom, but he kept his eyes on his half-dressed roommate. "What happened to yours?"
"Your..." Oscar frowned. "You expectin' somebody?"
Felix blinked. "I don't know what you mean. Why..." He took in another deep, but controlled breath. The attempt to feign normal breathing made Oscar annoyed, wishing his roommate would just pant. "Why would I be in my pajamas if I were expecting company?"
"Oscar, I realize you're upset over having another one reject you. But look at it this way: There's more to life than sex."
And in just those words, the feelings of awkwardness were engulfed by utter shame and embarrassment. There were more than a few retorts Oscar could make, but he didn't dare speak them, although it was difficult enough not to think of them. Even Felix shifted.
"Was there something else?"
Oscar considered putting a question, if not several, to him. There was actually a noticeable pause, enough for Felix give him that encouraging expression, to have Oscar make his move. "No, buddy, I'm good."
"Alright...see you tomorrow morning, Osc."
"Right. See you...Feel."
Felix was smiling contentedly when he closed the door. Oscar immediately darted to his own room. A couple of steps in and he nearly tripped on a lump. And he was usually so good at navigating around his lumps. He lay down on the bed and stared up at the ceiling, not feeling sleepy.
That's what the glow was coming from—tiny candles which he only noticed when Felix fully opened the door. It was consistent with the lighting he saw, but it didn't make much sense. It would seem Felix had a date who stood him up. And despite being smoke-sensitive and having fears of the apartment going down ablaze, he kept the candles going.
No, Oscar didn't really think that was true. He would've heard near non-stop about a date, and Felix would've been despondent about being stood up. He also would've caved in and told him if he had been stood up. There was also the music. Could it really be possible that Felix created a romantic atmosphere solely for himself? And why would someone who would put up a fuss over just about anything act so casual, not just tonight but also last night when he was groped, if not physically molested? Not simply casual, but calmly satisfied?
Oscar turned sharply in his bed and tried to put the idea out of his mind. It didn't do to speculate on a friend that way. Besides, it was Felix the Nut, the same man who sent his wife a suicide telegram and wore his seat belt at the drive-in theater.
Oscar lifted his head for a moment to grab his pillow, which he firmly slammed against the side of his head. His feelings of desperation turned his thoughts to women—girlfriends, women working at the places he frequented, and simply those attractive girls he had spotted but never actually engaged or seen again—the so many kinds that made an impression on him. Thinking of them gave him the pleasantly warm feeling, although he didn't wish to indulge, not after seeing Felix.
He somehow fell asleep despite his restless thoughts.
Oscar slowly awoke to clean walls and smooth sheets. It was a wonderful feeling to slowly wake up to, until his brain became more functional and told him it could not possibly be his room. Oscar scanned about him, as if looking for any semblance to his room would set him back in that place. He sat up in Felix's bed.
He looked down at himself to see the visual evidence that he was fully clothed. It made him shudder, the thought that he had to check to make certain he still was still wearing the same underclothes he had on when he went to sleep. He frantically got out of bed and rushed into his own room. He dressed quickly before peering down the hallway.
"Felix?" he called out, but heard no answer.
There wasn't a sound in the apartment, only the background noises of an early, a really early, New York morning. Everything was still dark aside from the usual array of artificial lights from adjacent buildings and traffic. Oscar went back and forth, from room to room, but there was no sign of Felix. Except for a note on the kitchen counter, informing him his roommate had gone out, also signed F.U. Once again, those initials were seemingly appropriate for the occasion.
Oscar quickly finished getting ready for his day, which only really consisted of putting on whatever clothes were left lying around that didn't smell. He had bologna with a wad of mustard for breakfast, and drank directly from the sink faucet before departing for work. Once he was out the door, he tried not to think about what his day would look like when he returned.
Oscar might have considered it lucky that the electricity had gone out for the entire building, allowing him to leave the office early; he might have, if it hadn't been for those morning hours. There was the distinct possibility that the incident last night had made Felix leave. Perhaps the feel-good hormones had made him initially amenable, and was only now, the morning after, feeling embarrassed, and possibly ashamed. But there was the further question of why he had woken up in his roommate's bed. It would certainly also be on his mind. It was only a matter of which one of them would be the first to openly address it.
When Oscar opened the door, Felix was in the kitchen. There were a line of grocery bags on the counter, and Felix had his back to them. He was holding one bag with his arm as he set what looked like boxes of cereal in the cupboard. If anything, Oscar would be able to focus his interest on the food, but Felix's presence had stolen his appetite. He set his jacket in the closet, just the way Felix would want, and walked down the steps. Felix casually turned around to get another bag, and he noticed Oscar. He straightened.
"Oscar!" he gasped.
It was enough to make Oscar stop. "Felix," he said simply.
"Why aren't you at work!?"
"The electricity was out. I guess a generator was busted, so my editor let some of us go."
Felix moved to reach for another bag. "That was nice of him."
"For the ones he let go." As Felix turned to put the next set of groceries away, Oscar approached the counter. He leaned over to peer into each bag. "He's keeping a small staff around, which I bet is against some labor law, but—"
He didn't finish his sentence. Flat against the bottom of one of the bags were the words "An Introduction to Psychoanalysis" followed by "Sigmund Freud." They were printed in a large font on a book jacket. A bad feeling came over Oscar as he considered Felix and Freud in the same context.
He picked it up, realizing the cover was attached to an entire book, with bound pages and all. Oscar looked back into the bag and noticed another book below that one, titled "The Interpretation of Dreams" and also authored by the familiar Sigmund Freud. Oscar picked it up, and noticed a third book, which at least wasn't written by Freud. He didn't fully understand what "Sexual Inversion” meant, only that it sounded dirty. He picked up that one and set the other two back in the bag. He opened the book to a random point, and his eyes immediately spotted the word "lesbian."
Felix was busy putting away and arranging groceries in the refrigerator until he happened to look over at Oscar.
"I notice you found the books," he said, tentatively.
"You went to the library?" Oscar asked, keeping his eyes on what he hoped had the potential to turn into a steamy chapter about girl-on-girl love.
"I stopped by earlier this morning, before going to the store."
"I never thought I'd find dirty literature outside my bedroom."
"Those are not smut, but great works of psychology!"
Felix approached Oscar. He set the books by Freud back in the bag and held out his hand. When Oscar gave no response, he lashed an arm out, but Oscar recoiled.
"Hey, I think this 'great work of psychology' is my kind of reading."
"That's the Havelock Ellis one," Felix stated.
Oscar turned the book over, starting down at the cover. "I don't know how I feel about Freud, but I think I like this guy."
"You do?" Felix questioned. He stared quizzically at Oscar. "Does the content in that book interest you?"
"Sure, what normal, healthy man wouldn't be interested? But what makes a straight-lace like you suddenly so interested?"
It was not the sort of answer Oscar was expecting, although Felix spoke it without hesitation.
"Yes, Murray has been having problems, but he doesn't want to go through all that psychiatric mumbo jumbo, so I told him I would be his therapist. After all, I've been through dozens myself. So, I took up some supplemental reading on the side."
"Shouldn't our friend, Murray the Cop, see a real shrink?"
"Oh, no, it's nothing really serious. You know..." Felix lowered his voice to a whisper, "bedroom problems."
"Felix, you shouldn't shout. Murray might hear us."
Oscar laughed at his attempt at irony. Felix was not amused, and extended an open palm. Oscar handed the book over. Felix looked at the book jacket, then set it back in the bag with the other books. He carried it over into the living room and set the bag down at the end of the coffee table before seating himself.
He eyed Oscar. Oscar met his gaze. Others might have looked away in discomfort, but not Felix.
"Since you're here, I think we should talk."
"Yeah? We generally talk when we're both in the same room."
"I was just thinking how funny it is how we live together, but we hardly talk."
Oscar didn't immediately respond, only held his gaze. "Who are you, and what have you done with Felix?"
"Alright, I said that wrong. What I meant to say, was how funny it is that we live together, but you hardly talk."
"I'm moving my lips, words are coming out, isn't that talking?"
"I mean, having a real conversation. Now that we're both here, I think you should start a conversation. Say something, anything you'd like."
"Alright." Oscar considered for a moment. There was no indication that Felix wanted to specifically talk about last night, and he wasn't willing to give it up for open conversation. "If you weren't gonna make lunch, I was thinking of eating out."
"To the hot dog stand? Not on my watch! Today, you're staying in. I'll make sandwiches. That is, if you won't mind a bit of a late lunch. I'm a man who keeps to a schedule, but I have chores to do."
"I don't mind a late lunch, but I like having lunch alone. I did manage forty-three years of breakfast, lunch and dinner without you."
"Do you really want to manage your meals? You waste money when you eat out, and if you tried to prepare your own meals, you'd be eating frozen tv dinners, cold cuts, and ketchup. Do you really want to live like...no, this isn't right. This isn't a conversation."
"Sure it is. You talk, I talk."
"But this is your big chance. I'm open to talk about anything."
"We see each other every day. What's new to talk about?"
"It doesn't have to be about something that has just happened. For instance, you never told me much about your family."
"Sure! I'm always talking about my brother in Buffalo, but you don't talk about your brother. How do you two get along?" Oscar stared at Felix, unmoving. "You do have a brother, don't you?"
"You want me to lie down on the couch, Sigmund?"
"Oscar, I've always been interested in you—your hobbies, your health, your family, the women you associate with. I need to become a better listener, and who better to listen to than my roommate and best friend?"
"I put up with your cleaning, your cooking, your crying, your...you! But I won't spill out my life's story so you can play at being a shrink!"
"Why are you being so defensive? Does talking about your life make you uncomfortable? Could it be you feel your life is as big a mess as that room of yours? Is that why you never clean it? You feel your room is a reflection of your life? Of all those unrealized hopes and dreams?"
"Don't you...ya know, what? Speculate all you want, but be quiet about it, will ya?!"
"It doesn't work that way. There has to be an open, honest dialogue. How about you just tell me what you've been dreaming about? You do this one thing for me, and I swear, I won't try to psychoanalyze you any further."
"So you really are trying to psychoanalyze me!"
"Why not? I might as well psychoanalyze everyone!"
"Maybe you should psychoanalyze yourself!"
Felix giggled. When Oscar remained stoic, he repressed it by clearing his throat.
"But I don't need to be psychoanalyzed."
"Felix, you're the one checkin' out dirty psychology books."
There was a pause. Felix was staring at him with such a quizzical expression, and Oscar could bet on why that was, easily.
"I know you made up the whole Murray thing!"
"That's not true. Murray told me he was having problems with Mimi just recently."
"Murray is always having wife problems. Everybody we play poker with has wife problems! You never once had any of them recollect last night's dreams. This is new, Felix. You were upset this morning...and I did something last night that was kinda rude."
"But you couldn't have known."
Oscar cringed, a reflex against the thought of having to spell it out. "Trust me, from now on, I'll knock."
Felix was unfazed and gave a single "ha!" He stared at Oscar, almost pathetically. "You never knock even when you're fully conscious."
Oscar frowned. "I don't think very clearly when I'm...tired or drunk, sure."
"That's right. You were sleepwalking last night."
"And I guess I didn't sleepwalk back into my room. I know. I woke up in your room, Felix."
Felix shifted. "Well, you...sleptwalked right into my bed."
"And when I woke up, you weren't there. You must've woken up really early. And here I am, wonderin' why ya checked out those shrink books."
Felix wordlessly opened and closed his mouth, breaking under Oscar's glare.
"You kissed me!" He dramatically clamped a hand over his mouth—the elephant in the room was now, finally, spoken for.
Oscar was washed with an initial physical and mental numbness. At his core, beneath the numbing, something simmered. Felix's hand slid from his mouth, that very mouth Oscar was undeniably overly-familiar with.
"Last night you kissed me while sleepwalking. You came into my room and told me I was...you said I was a 'cutie' before kissing me and collapsing on top of me. I had to roll you off as best I could because you also..."
"Um...you called me 'Felix'."
The revelation was not an explosive one, only fuel for already mixed emotions.
"Don't be angry with me," Felix continued, desperate. "Not that it necessarily has anything to do with me, you know. You could've been fantasizing about anything, really! My name didn't have to be connected in any way to your actions, you see? You only called me 'Felix' after kissing me and lying down on top of me. Although...” Felix hesitated before continuing confidently, “I should let you know, before you tell me that was a fluke, you shamelessly flirted and kissed me when you were drunk two nights ago."
"I know." The words sounded flat coming from Oscar's mouth.
"You do? How?" There was a pause. "Oscar, how could you have known?"
"I was lyin' when I said I didn't remember."
"Alright...alright. Since the cat is out of the bed—I mean, bag! I meant bag—"
"Doesn't mean a thing." Oscar shrugged numbly. "I need a drink."
He shuffled toward the mini-bar.
"Exactly! It doesn't necessarily mean anything, although there's no reason to eliminate possibilities," Felix said after him. When Oscar did not respond, Felix shifted in his seat, nearly rising as he slung an arm along the top of the backrest, looking over at his roommate's back. "Oscar, I worry about you. You haven't had any form of female company for quite a long time now. A single, middle-aged man, living all alone? That's a lonely life. At least you've got me around."
As he spoke that final sentence, Felix stood up and approached Oscar, who remained focused on the liquor. Oscar grabbed the brandy and poured himself a shot. He stared at the liquid for a moment, sitting in the tiny glass, before pouring it back into the decanter. Then, he drank directly from it.
"Please, drink from a glass." Felix spoke in that ultra-patronizing and pedantic manner. The very same insufferable friend had now acquired a simple but nonetheless carnal knowledge about him.
Oscar set the decanter on the counter, but kept his hand on it. "I need a vacation."
"Think I'll go off to one of those exotic beaches. Ya know, where women go out with nothin'. Topless also sounds wonderful. But I'll settle for full-body swimsuits. T-shirt and shorts. Anything where I can look at curves!"
"All your problems are rooted in your subconscious. I firmly believe your kissing me is the result of unresolved sexual tension, that's all."
Oscar spun around, glaring. "You're gone."
"You're outta here! I'm kickin' you out, Felix! I'm finally doin' it! Get packed this minute, I never wanna see you again!"
"But I'm only trying to help."
"You're a nuisance! The biggest nuisance in this whole building! In New York! Every day I have to put up with you, but you've gone too far this time. This is last straw. The last straw that broke the camel's back, and I'm the camel, and you're that straw, Felix! I want you outta this apartment, and I don't want ya anywhere near me, or I'll tell Murray to get a restraining order! And I'll get it. No one's gonna question it. I'm tellin' you..."
Oscar made a sudden forward motion, almost like a lunge, with a single hand clenched and in a position ready to make an upper-cut. Oscar never did swing the arm, and although Felix didn't flinch, his dazed expression looked like the aftermath of a sock in the face.
"Oh," Felix said, weakly.
He shuffled his way down the hallway. Oscar stared at him retreating, before remembering one final concern.
Just as his door was closing, Felix opened it again. He stared down the hall at his roommate with an expression that bordered on crying. Oscar quickly approached. He grabbed either side of Felix's shoulders and looked him squarely into his eyes.
"You can't ever tell anyone about this. I swear, Felix, don't even hint at it! No jokes, no cute remarks. Not another soul can know, or I swear...I swear, Felix..." Oscar trailed, uncertain what sort of threat he could make, but realizing a specified one wasn't needed.
"Believe me, I know you don't want people knowing," Felix managed to speak the choked-up words. He turned sharply away, breaking Oscar's weakened grasp, and went into his bedroom.
Fuming, Oscar went into his bedroom and slammed the door shut. He first noticed a lone sock hanging from the closet door's knob. He picked it up and threw it with all the force of pitching a fastball into the mess. He did the same with the next couple of clothing items and a half-eaten pastrami sandwich. When he found himself wielding an old shoe, he hesitated—he couldn't tell where the previous items had landed; every inch of his room looked to be in such a state of chaos, he couldn't possibly make more of a mess. He let his now-sore arm fall to his side, the shoe slipped from his fingers. He collapsed his body like a sack of spoiled meat on the mattress.
Felix packed what he could through a curtain of tears and a congested nose. He stood with a suitcase in either hand, one full of the clothes that had been in the closet, and the other of medications and cleaning supplies, looking back at the bedroom Oscar had given him on that night he moved in. He could send for the rest later. At the very least, his presence would be removed—just what Oscar wanted.
"Goodbye," he croaked, to no one in particular, and turned to leave.
He opened the door, and just happened to look up as he was stepping out, although he felt ashamed enough to want to hang his head low. Oscar was opposite him, standing in front of his closed door. Felix waited for another reprimand, but Oscar simply continued to watch him.
Felix turned his face away, clenching against the urge to cry, the very thing Oscar hated more than anything, and gently closed his bedroom door behind him. He set out past Oscar, down the hallway in the direction of the living room and, ultimately, the exit.
"Why didn't you hit me?"
Oscar spoke, and it was enough to grab Felix's attention. It wasn't in a yelling tone, only questioning.
"I...don't know what you mean."
"When I came at you like I did, why didn't you hit back? You had every right to."
Felix bitterly turned his back to him. "Does it matter?"
"It matters, because you should be happy. I wouldn't hold it against you if you never wanted to speak to me again."
"You're..." Felix stifled a cry. "You said you never wanted to see me again, remember?"
Oscar approached him, hands on hips. He positioned himself right in front of Felix's path.
"You said..." Felix took in a quavering breath, "such unkind things."
"I was pretty upset. Any guy would if you told him what you told me."
"Does it matter!? You said...you never...w-wanted to s-speak to me again!" Felix managed with his words punctuated by sobbing.
Oscar grabbed either side of his shoulders and gripped his arms tightly.
"Curse me, Felix! Put that curse on my head!" Felix only clenched his body against the onslaught of sobbing. "Please, Felix, I'm begging you. I deserve it more than anyone."
Felix took in a couple of deep breaths to fully repress the crying. Oscar put his hands in his pockets, waiting to hear the words of that eternal curse.
"No...no, I won't do that."
Oscar gave him that sturdy look, straight in the eye. "I don't get it. Why are you so upset?"
"Isn't-isn't it obvious?" A giddy laugh broke through the sobs. "Because you're my best friend."
"Even after all those things I said to you? What I did to you?"
Felix set down his suitcases. He removed his handkerchief, drying his face and blowing his nose. He wasn't going to cry anymore. "Of course! You think a little kiss would get in the way of a friendship?"
Oscar didn't immediately respond. "More like two."
"Actually, if you want to get technical, on two separate occasions you kissed me four times total. On the lips, that is."
Oscar turned away from Felix and took wide strides down the hall.
"Oscar?" Felix called out, and followed close behind him.
He opened the door to his bedroom and closed the door on Felix. Felix immediately began knocking.
"Oscar, we need to talk about this. See? I'm not angry at you. Oscar?"
Although Oscar's voice was muffled, the words were clear. "There's nothin' to work out!"
"There's no reason to be shy."
Felix opened the door and took a step in. Oscar was lying on the bed, his back to Felix.
"I told ya not to come in!"
"What do you want to do? Pretend it never happened?"
Oscar quickly sat up and pivoted towards Felix.
"How 'bout this: We don't talk about private things. You're a great pal to forgive me, really, but I'm not gonna discuss this. Not ever."
"How can I forget my best friend kissing me?"
"You're free to go! Tell me off, never speak to me again, and find someone else to take you in. Maybe it'll be a woman, and then you won't mind getting kissed!"
Felix sat down on the bed next to him. "You're making a big deal out of this when you shouldn't. Your kissing me really doesn't bother me."
Oscar looked on worriedly. Felix smiled reassuringly.
"Come on, we're both adults here. And we've been friends for a long time, haven't we? Besides," Felix chuckled, "you have to admit it's funny. I bet we'll look back on this...fifty years later and laugh."
For a moment, Oscar didn't speak. If anything, he tensed up. "You serious about that bet? Because I'm betting, hoping, praying that in fifty years, you'll be somewhere far away from me."
"Seriously, we need to talk about this."
"I don't get it. What's there to talk about? You said you don't care, and I'll promise I'll never do it again. That's that."
"The two instances you kissed me, you weren't in full control of yourself."
"I'll put a lock on my door and I'll only get drunk with a prettier, more feminine drinking companion."
Oscar lay back down on the bed, prone with his arms splayed. Felix watched him trying to relax against the bodily tension.
"You feel ashamed, don't you?"
"I didn't say that."
"It wasn't like you kissed Tim the Janitor."
He turned his other cheek to the bed and glared at Felix with one eye. He raised his head up. "No, it was more like...I kissed you, Felix." He rolled over and sat up on his elbows. "You gotta believe I'd do anything to take it back."
"Don't talk that way. There are plenty of other things you ought to be regretting. Your divorce, for one."
"We've been through all that, and I've told you many times Blanche and I were never meant to be! Now, consider this, Felix, if I had kissed you just a few feet outside this apartment building, we could've been publicly humiliated and probably arrested."
"But you didn't, and we weren't."
"That doesn't bother you? You can't tolerate a speck of dust on the underside of the coffee table."
"I live with you, don't I?"
"I mean...oh, I don't know what I'm saying."
"Oscar, I'm not here to argue with you. I guess...I guess what I'm trying to say is that...everyone has their...moments of strong affection for a friend of the same sex." Felix shrugged his shoulders up nonchalantly, and held them there while he continued to speak. "Really, it happens all the time."
Oscar sat fully up in bed.
"What else could it have been? You kissed me because of the affection you must've felt—"
"It was a horrible error in judgment! Not even judgment! A lack of any rational thought! That's exactly what it was, because, Felix, I don't care what ya call it, I don't go around kissing men. Not that you're not a nice guy, but you're not exactly my type," Oscar's last word was spoken tersely through clenched teeth. "Tell ya the truth, Felix, all your talk makes me nervous. You get why it's a problem?"
"You don't have to talk down to me, like I don't know! I've been around. Around and about in the big, wide world out there. I know there's a stigma."
"Then why are you so damn insistent?"
"Listen," Felix confidently laid a hand on his roommate's shoulder. "Oscar, it's nothing to be ashamed of. I'm not ashamed."
"Felix," Oscar brusquely pulled away, "you need to be careful how you sound, ya know?"
Felix blinked. "Oh, no, I'm not making any insinuations. I'm only talking about the attraction that inevitably happens between friends."
"Great! Excellent! My mind is at rest! Whoever heard of attraction between a couple of friends!?"
"Oscar, surely a worldly-wise man such as yourself has had a wide variety of life experiences."
"I don't know. I've never killed my roommate before."
"What I mean is—"
Felix stood up with a flourish, waving an index finger inches from his face.
"You're not letting me finish!"
Oscar ignored the finger, shifting his body closer to the bed's edge. Felix backed off slowly, still keeping the finger close to his face.
"Felix," he said in all seriousness. As he brought his legs over the bed's edge, Felix took a step back, just enough for Oscar to stand. "I think it's about time we had fun as a couple of bachelors."
"You mean...a road trip?"
"I'm thinking more local."
Author's Note: Hello, everyone. According to the guidelines of this site, this chapter is rated Explicit. An edited, M-rated version of this chapter is posted on my other account at fanfiction.net. Thank you and happy reading. -Nerdy Earthling
The door to the apartment gave a sluggish swing as it opened. Oscar was the first to stumble across the threshold. With thoughts of expressing great disapproval to his roommate, he threw his jacket and hat on the floor beside the closet door. Felix looked on, standing by the mess. Both knew he would end up cleaning.
"You're still mad at me, aren't you?" Felix asked, bending over to pick up the clothes. "I didn't do anything wrong, so I won't apologize. I'm just not cut out for those sorts of outings, and you know that. I don't know why you made me go...Oscar, please, let's stop ignoring each other?"
"It's been too long."
Felix frowned. He carefully removed his own jacket and hung it neatly in the closet.
"Since we've had girls. This is it. We're in trouble."
"It's a dry spell," he said with a shrug.
"Isn't it?! And it's entirely your fault we're both lonely men tonight!"
"Really, Oscar, really? And when were we expected to pick up girls during the movie?"
"I'm not talkin' 'bout that!"
"I can't believe you tricked me! Telling me we were going to see a foreign film. Sure, it had English subtitles...which were hardly necessary, but that doesn't put it in the same class as The Bicycle Thief. And worse yet was that man sitting behind us who mistook us for a couple of homosexuals."
"Forget the porno! I mean the club."
"A club for the desperate man of poor taste."
"Those girls were willing! For a price, sure, but they don't mind. As long as you don't insult them, they don't mind!"
"They're escorts, Felix, escorts! If ya wanna get technical, the money is for the escorting, not the sex. The sex is a nice bonus, and only then if they like you."
"Our waitress looked like a teenager."
"Her job is to serve drinks in knee-high boots, a mini-skirt! Sure, she's not wearin' a shirt, but she wouldn't be doing that if she were underage."
"Why would a woman do such a thing? It's so undignified."
"She gets paid good money! I can see why you don't like it, but what really gets me is whatever made ya think it was a good idea to tell that to her face?"
"I was being truthful. She really should consider going back to school and improving herself."
"You're ridiculous! We had a chance, and you ruined it! Ruined it with your...your moralizing!"
"A chance at a one night stand, maybe, but true love isn't bought! I didn't have to pay Miriam to be my girlfriend."
"But Miriam isn't your girlfriend anymore! And forget true love! Face it, we're middle-aged, divorced men who barely scrape enough to pay alimony."
"I'm not doing so badly."
"You're a neurotic hypochondriac who sanitizes the poker chips."
"Do you realize how frequently those chips exchange hands? Not to mention the one time Murray mistook a pile for hard candy."
"I can't deal with this! Worse than your moralizing gettin' in the way is you gettin' in the way!"
"In the way of what? What sort of relationship would you have had with that young girl? No, I don't want to know the answer."
"She wasn't a girl! She was a young, good-lookin' woman who was our gateway to meetin' other good-lookin' women! Women more of the type we both could've appreciated! Women we should be appreciatin' tonight!"
"My only type is the Gloria type."
"And now it's back to Gloria! How did Miriam ever put up with you? Were you always telling her how much she was almost like your ex-wife?"
"That's uncalled for!"
"Oh..." Struggling with his words, Oscar gave a sweeping motion with his arms. "I don't care!"
Oscar turned to head for his bedroom.
"You don't care?"
"I've got my own problems! Leave me alone, will ya!?" Oscar shouted down the hallway, not bothering to turn to face his roommate.
There was a knock.
Although the voice came from behind the closed door, his name was clearly heard.
"Ocupado," Oscar called out as he closed his eyes tightly and took a deep breath to regain his inward focus, to recapture perhaps the second best bodily experience a man could have.
He had tried too hard, but not even porn could sustain him. In fact, the desire for release had gotten so intense, he had to make a few adjustments. What had started as a session in his bedroom had soon forced him into the bathroom where he was hoping a hot shower might help get his blood flowing. Still unresponsive, and with dripping wet hair, he had turned to a non-pornographic but still highly enticing image of a swimsuit model from an advertisement for some kind of treatment for athlete's foot. She had been doing the best for him, until the knocking threw him off.
If he didn't focus his eyes too closely on the model, she reminded him of Blanche. It never did well to think of his ex, but he could not seem to help himself. Out of his entire marriage, the sex was something they did right. At least for maybe the first couple of years.
He gave himself a pleasurable squeeze as he recalled the one time the sex was more than satisfactory. It was superb. This was from a time back when they were a young, active couple. They had plans to attend a game at Yankees Stadium, and he had decided to swing by the day before, despite her protests. It felt good to show an amateur around the place, especially the press box. He remembered heading over there with the smell of cool dampness since it had been raining the day before.
Somehow that model's breasts reminded him of his ex's from that day when he had pushed her up against the wall and unbottoned her blouse. She had been perturbed by the initiation but one amazing kiss, and she consented (although he had to promise her dinner and a movie).
He massaged himself, punctuated by tugging, as he tried to situate himself back in the moment. He only had to hike up her dress, and the next thing he knew, he was moving like a piston. A very virile piston. And all the while Blanche was hugging him so tightly. The memory was mentally arousing, although the physiological response he was hoping for was delayed...
The knocking came again.
"Oscar, it's been nearly half an hour."
Has it? Oscar whacked his forehead against the wall. He closed his eyes against its hard coolness. He lost it all together.
"What are you doing in there?"
Frustrated, Oscar raised his face to the ceiling. The moisture on his face and neck readjusted itself.
The doorknob jiggled.
His ears hummed, he had shouted Felix's name so loudly in the enclosed space. With a single hand, Oscar adjusted his boxers. He clenched the other into a fist. He turned to the door just as Felix was looking in. He did not open it entirely, but only partially and peered inside. Surprisingly quick on his feet, Oscar was already there to meet him at the threshold.
"What is it?" Felix asked, innocently enough.
"A man is in the bathroom! Don'tcha think he needs privacy!?"
Felix lips parted, but he didn't speak. His eyes moved from Oscar's face to his clenched hand, then back. Oscar had raised the hand in front of him, holding the magazine, pointing it accusingly at Felix. He hadn't really figured his sometimes-naive roommate would make any assumptions, especially with the magazine crunched the way it was. As it was, one magazine could always be easily concealed by another. This time, since he was indulging in Sport, Oscar had absently slipped that one between the centerfold, making the other magazine, with the large, bold word "orgasm," clearly visible. In a meek attempt at modesty, Oscar hid the material behind his back.
"Ohh, Oscar..." Oscar looked away, trying not to turn red. "Oscar..."
"I know," Oscar mumbled, his eyes shifting briefly to Felix once more before looking away, guiltily.
Deciding he was feeling embarrassed and ashamed enough, Oscar pushed the door open wider and stomped past Felix.
"For shame!" Felix shouted back, waving an index finger at him.
Oscar pivoted, waving a finger back.
"Don'tcha dare! Not after I caught you red-handed!"
Felix gave a literal gasp. Oscar turned away and went into the living room. His mind made up, he went straight for the coffee table and grabbed the paper bag, still containing the psychology books.
"Oscar, what..." Felix began, but Oscar went right past by him into the kitchen. He slid open the window above the sink. "Oscar!"
Oscar tossed the books out the opening. He turned just as Felix advanced in close.
"Those were the property of the library!"
He held out the magazines he still had in hand. "How 'bout returning these instead?"
Oscar released his fingers and let the magazines slip onto the floor. He turned abruptly away and went straight to his bedroom. He slammed the door behind him. He lay down on the bed, folding his arms, stewing in mixed idiocy and sexual frustration. He stared hard at the ceiling. It was only a matter of time before Felix would come in and give one of his lectures. No doubt he would try to shame him further. Throughout all these years of roommate hardship, this was the first time Felix just had to have walked in on him, and not too long ago, he on Felix.
Oscar pulled out a special issue, family-friendly magazine that he was storing under his pillow. There was no point giving the matter any further thought. He turned to an article on Seabiscuit and started to read.
A long while had passed until, as per his anticipation, there was a light knocking at the door.
"Are you finished in there?"
Biting back an explosive litany of insults to hurl at the door, Oscar got out of bed and yanked it open.
"I mean it, Felix, leave me alone!"
"You should thank God that I recovered those library books, or you would've had to have paid a big fine! Or worse yet, some poor pedestrian could have gotten hospitalized!"
"Nobody I care for walks 'round the back! Besides, I was aimin' for the dumpster, 'cause that's where they belong as far as you're concerned!"
"Good thing great minds didn't think like you did—flinging books from windows—or the field of psychology never would've advanced. You'd probably reject Newton, too!"
"I don't reject gravity, Felix! What I object to is you reading Freud. You're not one of the great minds of modern science!"
"At least I'm working towards improving my mind, compared to what you've been doing. First the bathroom, and now your room—"
"I'm warnin' you, if you don't leave, those library books won't be the only things thrown from the window!"
"And I'm telling you, I don't want to see another one of those dirty magazines in this apartment. I'm certain you have more hidden away, but I didn't feel like putting on a hazmat suit. The one you dumped onto the floor, I threw away in the trash. Your sports magazine had to go with it, seeing how the pages were..." Felix shuddered, "sticking to each other."
"It's just a little water from the shower!"
"That's contamination! I also sterilized the floor and the garbage."
Oscar glared. His entire body was tensed, poised to do something violent if Felix didn't leave within the next few seconds.
"It's really none of your damn business!" Oscar was quick to add, "Hypocrite!"
"How...can you accuse me of such a thing!?" Felix dramatically brought his hands to his chest as he spoke, genuinely surprised.
"You think it's dirty, so you tell me off, but you were doing the very same thing. That's being a hypocrite, Felix!"
"I never said...that was dirty. I mean, it is dirty but..." Felix shook his head and waved his hands dismissively, instantly retracting the statement. "I was only criticizing how you chose to go about doing it."
"Right, I know! I haven't gotten lucky, I'll admit it!"
"I mean...you don't have to go about doing 'your damn business' the way you're doing it. That is our bathroom, shared by the two of us."
"Felix, I have the feeling I do a lot of things in there you probably wouldn't like."
Felix sighed and rolled his eyes to one side. Once again, he shook his head, shaking away the unwanted thoughts. "What I'm trying to say is that the bathroom and this construction zone you call your bedroom aren't places you would bring a young lady to."
"What's that got to do with it? You caught me. I'm not gonna pretend I had a girl who crept out though the six inch bathroom window on the twelfth story."
Felix nodded his head to the side, gesturing down the hallway. "We should talk."
"Ya know, you're right. That humidifier isn't enough to clear the air around here."
Oscar followed him into the other bedroom. Felix turned on the lights and held his arms out, as if making a grand demonstration.
"What's with the..." Oscar held his arms out in a poor imitation of Felix.
"Look how clean it is. I don't know how to say it, but your room has been looking worse, which I didn't think was even possible. I think I spotted the remains of a pastrami sandwich, but I couldn't be certain because pieces of it were just...they were just everywhere."
Oscar shrugged. "I've been having a rough week. And maybe I like saving my sandwiches in pieces. Better for my digestion. So, what's with the dirty lecture?”
"Isn't cleanliness what makes this bedroom nice? If you did have a date over, I couldn't imagine you bringing her into your room."
"You know I don't bring girls into my room."
Oscar rested his hands on his hips. The conversation didn't seem to be going in any direction he cared to follow.
"Are you tellin' me..." He frowned momentarily. "You don't want me usin' your bedroom anymore?"
"No, no, that's not it at all."
"Really, I can use the couch."
Felix sat down on his bed. He gestured for Oscar to sit. Even though Felix would probably later complain about having to clean the sheets of crumbs and whatever other traces he would leave behind, it was a very comfortable bed. He seated himself, and Felix scooted closer.
"You poor, poor man."
Oscar immediately stood up. "Right, Felix, thanks for the conversation."
"Where are you going?"
Oscar sighed in resignation. He sat next to Felix.
"Oscar, I want you to understand that I wasn't disappointed with what you were doing, but that you felt you needed those filthy magazines. There's absolutely nothing artistically or socially redeeming about them."
"I don't need to hear this. You're my roommate, not my father!"
"I'm only trying to help."
"That's all I hear from you! But ya know what? I don't need your help. You can't give me the kind of help I need. It'll all get better if I get a girl." Oscar lowered his gaze to the floor. "Yeah, if. If I get one."
Felix laid an encouraging hand on his shoulder. He gave a light grip, followed by a tap.
"It's been tough on both of us. But who knows? Maybe that redhead will change her mind."
"You know, the one you had a date with. What's her name?"
"Now talk about a crazy coincidence!"
"Felix, I made her up. There never was a redhead."
Felix nodded. "That does explain a lot. I thought it was strange you had never brought up such an attractive woman before."
"I only did it so you thought I was having a normal sex life."
"Really? You made up a woman just so I wouldn't worry about you?"
"I did it so you wouldn't get personal. But that didn't stop you. You still turned Sigmund on me."
"Because you're troubled and desperate. I turn to psychology because that's where the cause is." Felix brought a finger to tap against his temple. "The root is in the mind."
Felix smiled pleasantly, but Oscar didn't return it.
"You humiliated me."
"What? No. What makes you say that?"
"Why else would you barge into a man's bathroom when he's in it?"
"I did knock. Twice. Really, Oscar, I was worried about you. That's why I came in. I knew something was wrong. I heard you in the shower, then the water stopped and I didn't hear anything for a long time. And then I thought I heard the sink run, then nothing again. I checked my watch and noticed the half hour was approaching, and you're never in the bathroom longer than ten minutes. I wasn't certain, until I opened the door and saw you, annoyed, looking flushed—"
"Enough with the step-by-step account! I was there!"
"You're absolutely right. We're here to settle this, once and for all."
"Gonna settle what? What is...'this'?"
"For as long as I've known you, you've always had a girl, or somehow managed to get lucky. I don't think I've seen you on your own for so many months."
"Maybe you're in just as much trouble as I am." Oscar shifted himself closer to Felix, giving emphasis to every other word by gesturing. "I mean instead of being so interested in what I'm doing, you need to be lookin' after yourself."
Felix offered him a curious look over. "I'm not the one spending personal time in the bathroom."
"No, but at least I'm doing the normal guy thing. I'm not playing music and setting the table for two when it's gonna be solo."
His eyes widened. "Really, you're dragging my..." He shifted forward, looking offended enough to stand up and march out of the bedroom, but he didn't. "That's personal!"
"You're draggin' mine out!"
"You really are going to stoop that low? Do you want to hear how much I dislike loneliness? It's just..." Felix hesitated. He turned completely away from Oscar, as if he couldn't bear to look at him directly. "I just happen to like do things that...that help me pretend I'm making love to Gloria than to myself."
"You're not the only guy to fantasize. I fantasize. Every guy out there fantasizes."
"What I do is different entirely."
Oscar stared, giving Felix time to reconsider what he had just said and take that statement back, but he didn't. "Forget it, Felix. You're gonna go blind and insane like the rest of us."
"I don't find that very amusing. There are people who actually believe that."
"No one takes it seriously."
"I used to believe it, and I took it very seriously."
"That's...really tough." Oscar hesitated. He was annoyed at Felix's insensitivity, but now the feeble look on his face made him regret trying to turn the tables. "That really is."
"It wasn't until the Kinsey Report that I learned better."
"Ya talkin' 'bout that psychologist a while back who interviewed all those people about their private lives and wrote that book about it?"
"He wasn't a psychologist, he was a research scientist."
"There is a difference."
"Felix, that study came out a long time ago, but not that long. You mean you spent your youth believin' that? You went through the service believin' that?" Felix nodded. "And you're tellin' me that you never..." Felix continued nodding. "Completely?"
"I can discipline myself. I distinctly remember reading in a book about keeping good hygiene that...doing that would make my body sick, and that it would pollute not only my mind and but my very soul. On top of that, you know that I have always been very clean, even as a child. So, I didn't want to make a mess."
Oscar wasn't good at remembering specific dates if they didn't relate to sports, but he hoped for Gloria's sake that Kinsey's book hit the shelves sometime before their marriage.
"A little mess and pollution is okay. That's what makes life fun."
"Still, it's not something I actually indulge in."
"Right. You were just doin' it by accident."
"I've already told you that what I do...what I did was different."
"It's all the same!"
"No, it isn't! It's a lot more appealing and romantic than furiously jerking off in front of the toilet basin."
Oscar's eyes widened. "Felix, there are some words you should never say. Never in the order you just said them!"
The conversation hinged on a fine point that Oscar felt he could argue and win, but did he really want to?
"You're evading the issue," Felix said after a long, awkward moment of silence. "You have a problem, Oscar, and I can help, but you refuse it because you're stubborn."
"You think that's what it is? Being stubborn? Can't ya tell when a guy...when a topic makes a guy uncomfortable, so he doesn't wanna talk about it?"
"You never seemed uncomfortable all those other times."
There was a pause. Oscar threw his arms in the air.
"What other times?"
"Talking about sex didn't always used to embarrass you. In fact, I'm a bit surprised. You're usually the one to talk dirty. And to top it all off, a full-grown man like yourself with his adult, male best friend. It isn't like we don't have a history of romantic flings!"
Oscar stared. Once again, Felix was oblivious to what he was saying. Or, he was at least making it appear as such.
"I can only think of a history of roommate abuse. That we do have."
"Don't play coy, we've had plenty of moments. Whenever we double dated, we've shared some pretty intimate moments."
"I dunno what you were focused on, Felix, but I was focused on my date."
"On a more intimate matter, you use my room, and this very bed, so you can woo some girl for the night."
"My room is messy, yours is clean. Besides, your mattress...it's a really nice mattress."
"It is nice, isn't it?" Felix grinned. He pushed himself down so the mattress could spring him back up. "I remember when I first moved in. The mattress was all wrong for my back, and the blankets irritated my sinuses. So, I invested in a decent mattress, and bedspread. It's funny because ever since that I...you're going to think I'm crazy, but since we're already on the subject, I have to say I've been having this recurring fantasy ever since redecorating. How it plays out is that Gloria comes to visit me here, in this bedroom. I'm in bed, and I awaken as she steps through the door. She's in that green silk dress, the one I like so much, and she pauses, just briefly to look at me, before approaching. She doesn't have to say anything because the instant she sits down next to me, leans over and starts..." Felix cut himself off, figuring his next words. Oscar listened attentively. "Well, once we start catching up on lost time, then I know there's an 'us' again."
For a moment, Felix had returned to his daydream. And in that moment, Oscar almost asked about his own whereabouts in the fantasy. He spoke quickly to end the discomfort. "I used to think about the same thing."
"Ah, ah-ha! I knew you still had feelings for her!"
"Yeah, feelings is right. I have a lot of different kinds of feelings for Blanche."
"Tell me at least in these fantasies your room is presentable."
"In my fantasy, everything happens on the couch. My room is still the same but the apartment is clean, just the way you like it. But in my version, Blanche and I don't get back together. We just have sex that's really good, and I mean so good, Blanche decides that's how I'm going to pay off my alimony from then on."
"It's a fantasy, Felix. All fantasies are a little ridiculous."
"So what if my fantasies are all ridiculous, and yours are all really rational? Mine are fun to think about every now and then."
Felix shrugged. "At least investing in the bed has paid off. I sleep wonderfully, and my roommate prefers it, so that must mean something."
"Really, if it bothers ya, I'll use the couch."
"Like that will be less awkward." Oscar simply stared at Felix. Felix watched him back, blinking a couple of times, until he spoke again. "Considering our history involving that piece of furniture, you know."
"We also have a history with the couch?"
"How about the Pigeon Sisters' last night?"
Oscar took in a deep breath. "So, you're not past embarrassing me."
"We both use that couch! We sit on it, we watch TV and sometimes, although more on an occasional basis, we even eat on it. I'll admit, Oscar, I'm certain it was pleasurable. You both appeared very pleased. I didn't think you had that in you, but you can be full of surprises. Just keep in mind that whenever you're planning that sort of session, you have to be prepared.”
Oscar didn't offer a verbal response. His brewing anger only showed through the intense stare, which Felix knew but did not notice. "You know what I mean, don't you? Towels are easier to wash."
"Felix, I'm just gonna go ahead and ask: Were you watching us?"
Felix blinked. "What? Oscar, we've already been through this—"
"Yeah, a long time ago! But ya better tell it again. Because what you're sayin' sounds like you didn't just walk in at the end!"
"Well...it's just that...you have to understand—"
"Tell it straight!"
"You have to understand that, yes, I was already there before Cecily caught you two. I only happened to chance upon the scene. I seem to remember I left the room because my sinuses were bothering me. Really, it was quite innocent."
"How long were you starin' at us?!"
"I wasn't staring. I was just...just noticing—"
"How long did it take ya to notice?!"
"Oscar, show some consideration. That happened a long time ago, and I'm only trying to be honest."
"Eavesdropping isn't honest!" Oscar pounced, and nearly leaped from the bed due to the state of extreme agitation he could feel pounding in his stomach. "You better have a good reason why!”
"I saw you pleasuring Gwendolyn and I thought you were quite the gentleman. Reminded me of how Gloria always liked that."
Oscar wasn't entirely certain what he felt like doing to Felix, but he somehow restrained himself.
"All that time. After all that talkin'! The talkin' and the wooin' and the runnin' around the block for the pharmacy, then I get back here and s'more talkin'! Finally, I get her to relax, then my roommate decides to be a peeping Tom!"
"I resent that! My intentions were purely innocent!"
"And I don't find out until...until what? Two years later!?"
"In my defense, I didn't think I was going to interrupt anything.” Felix cleared his throat and lowered his voice, as if prevent someone from overhearing. "Really, I didn't realize that...you two were just starting off."
"Ya could've figured!"
Felix shook his head and gave an obvious shrug with his palms held outward, continuing his usual trend of not-so-subtle body gestures.
"Look, Felix...that's the appetizer. Most girls like the appetizer."
Oscar was just about to relish calling out Felix out for ignorance. Except his roommate was giving him a very smug smirk, along with a patronizing clap on the shoulder.
"That's so very quaint of you. Using your own droll analogy, I would say that when Gloria and I made love, that was always the dessert." A pause followed. Felix blinked hard, his entire face briefly squinting. Suddenly, his smugness turned into an embarrassing apology. "I guess I've been missing Gloria so much lately."
The implications of Felix's previous statement churned in Oscar's mind. Although he tried to force them aside, they continued to churn. "You've been missing her since the day of your divorce. I know because you mention her constantly."
"But it isn't just missing her personality or her presence. Don't get me wrong, I miss those things too, but...I also miss her."
"Yeah, I know."
"I mean...I mean sexually."
"What else? The topic of conversation hasn't changed. Hasn't changed for days!"
"I sometimes wonder...I know it's silly..." Felix wrung his hands together between the pauses. He shrugged his shoulders. Oscar waited, but Felix didn't finish, or didn't vocalize his thoughts.
"Do I really have to ask?"
Felix looked down at his hands as he used one to stretch the other's fingers out. "I just...sometimes wonder if Gloria...I don't know..."
"If Gloria what?"
Felix gave him a look of sad resignation. "You said it yourself. We're both middle-aged men. Why would Gloria come back when there are younger prospects?"
"I've been thinking the same since I turned forty." No longer fidgeting, Felix hung his face towards the floor. He didn't take any notice of Oscar's comment. "Look, just because we're getting old, doesn't mean we can't do things. You can still cook and clean, those are two things I know you like to do." The lack of any positive recognition made Oscar realize he approached this depressed Felix the wrong way. "Besides, there's no reason for Gloria to reject you because you're...not as young as you used to be. You have a good job, and you don't look middle aged. Maybe just a guy who's approachin' it, but not middle aged."
Now, Felix responded with a sharp turn to Oscar.
"I know how I look. I'm concerned Gloria won't—" he abruptly cut himself off.
"Felix, I feel like the past few days you've been dancin' 'round things you've been wanting to say. If this is about sex, better just blurt it out."
"I am worried Gloria won't find me satisfying in bed." Felix covered his face with his hands, pressing his palms firmly against his forehead as he dragged them towards his hairline. "You have no idea how many times my fantasy turns into an embarrassing nightmare."
"Look at it this way: If you still do dessert, you've got a good chance."
Felix gave another sharp turn, utterly and completely stunned. "I pour my heart out, confide in you, and you turn around and insult me!"
"That wasn't an insult."
"Oscar Madison, I can't believe you said that!"
"You said it!"
"You...you made me say it! You took advantage of my weak and precarious position!"
"You're being melodramatic!"
"Just because I have very normal anxieties about not pleasing my wife-"
Felix only looked momentarily annoyed. "Maybe you should be a bit more anxious. Sex is a little more complicated than keeping it up." In a quick movement of his eyes, a gesture that made Oscar feel incredibly self-conscious, Felix gave his body a brief scan. "But it is pretty important!"
"I dunno why I'm not shoving your still-warm corpse down the garbage disposal right now!"
"Well, I am right! What are you going to do when you do finally pick up a girl? Play Parcheesi until you're ready?"
"Believe me, Felix, I haven't been single and divorced my entire life! I used to actually have sex, and it was pretty good sex. It was damn good! Amazing! Heavenly! I've been...stressed lately. Can't stress can do that to a guy?"
"Sure, there are plenty of culprits. Stress is one. Lack of exercise, eating poorly, a filthy environment..."
"Being a sportswriter?"
"I'm serious. Atmosphere is very important, which is why I lent you my bedroom in the first place. A messy room only signals to a woman that you're probably the sort of person who just likes to...bum around drinking beer and watching sports all day. Yes, I know you do those things, but you don't want the room where you're going to spend a romantic evening to show that. Never underestimate mood. Very few things can compare to soft music, soft lights, soft bedsheets and a mattress with just the right amount of firmness."
"Felix, we never would've made it past the Stone Age if we needed all those things to have sex."
"But you might, considering you can't even find an outlet when you're alone with photographs of nude women."
"Believe me, if you were a woman, I'd have you right now on this very bed."
The long, awkward moment of silence returned.
"Yeah, I know." Oscar sighed. "And the worst thing about it? There's a simple solution."
Felix leaned in close, his face only inches only away from Oscar's, and kept leaning. Oscar nearly fell backwards on the bed.
"What're you doin'?" Oscar asked, although he didn't need to.
"You said simple solution."
Felix blinked, and his face already began to turn red.
"You're trying to seduce me!" Oscar accused.
"Me?" Felix gestured to himself. "You're the one who kissed me in the first place! That's how this whole thing got started!"
"Alright, alright," Oscar took in a deep breath, trying to think. "How 'bout we just say we're both men missing women."
They both nodded.
Felix looked to be on the verge of some form of a breakdown out of sheer embarrassment, out of vulnerability. Oscar gave a light fist-shaped tap to his shoulder. And without any further provocation, he kissed Felix—a quick, chaste one on the lips. He immediately pulled away, and froze.
"I was in a menage a trois once," Felix said, suddenly. "I was in college, just before the war, and I was absolutely smitten by this blonde, but she liked the other guy, this tall, handsome...really, he fitted the tall, dark and handsome movie star image. When she invited me to accompany her and this other fella...” Felix hesitated as he started to crack up, “who she called her boyfriend on a weekend excursion, I was...I was hurt, to be honest. I wanted to spend time alone with her as a companion, not a tag-a-long, but I really liked her, so I went. I told myself I was in competition for her. Turned out she really didn't care much for me but her boyfriend did."
Felix spoke quicker as his story progressed and a repressed laugh broke through after the last sentence. It was his loud, giddy sort of laughter. Oscar only stared.
"I was also in a sort of a menage a trois during the war..."
"We can still walk away from this," Oscar said quickly, before either one of them would do something regrettable, if that hadn't happened already.
Felix breathed in deeply, regaining composure. "Oh, I know."
He moved his face in closer. Oscar shook as he was kissed on the cheek.
"There, there. That wasn't so bad," came Felix's voice, barely audible above a whisper, a seductive whisper Oscar had never before heard directed at him.
"Dammit, Felix," Oscar whimpered. Mentally, he gathered himself and stood up. "We're roommates!"
"All the better!" Felix spoke so loudly compared to the whisper only seconds before, it caused Oscar to flinch. Felix shifted his body to the very edge of the mattress and wrapped both arms around Oscar's hips. His chin dug into his stomach and he looked up at him in one of his near-manic states. "This explains everything!" Felix gripped tighter. "Let me be an outlet for your sexual frustrations!"
"It only explains why, if ya don't let me go, you'll get a black eye and two broken arms!"
Felix's grip wavered and Oscar took a step back, but Felix went with him, sliding off the bed and onto his knees. Oscar thought he might continue to slide across the floor, dragging him down with his body weight. Oscar lunged back and pushed at Felix's shoulders, causing his grip to loosen entirely and he plummeted. Felix hit the floor hard.
"You're delusional!" Oscar spoke as he backed up to the door. "If you think I'm in any way attracted to you, like, like you were beautiful, sexy...you have another thing comin'!"
Oscar turned to the door. He reached the doorknob.
"Alright, Oscar Madison, just one more kiss!" Oscar turned back to meet Felix's audacity, even while he was sprawled on the floor and wincing slightly from the pain. "You kiss me, and if you don't like it, then, as you said, we'll part ways and never speak of it."
"I get mad at you for kissing me in the first place, and you're makin' the same offer?"
"No, this time you'll be the one initiating the kiss."
"So, what? I..." Oscar almost couldn't say it. "I kiss you and then what?"
"Then...we'll see. Who knows? Maybe you decide you don't like it, or maybe you want to kiss a little more? Isn't that how it usually is?"
"You're assumin' there's a part of me that wants to do this."
"Well...you did, after all."
"Felix, there've been more times where I've wanted to kill ya than kiss ya!"
"Really, Oscar, what would you be losing by trying?"
"If that's the way you wanna do it, how 'bout that plus another promise by me: If you break your word, meaning if you ever bring this up, I'll personally pack your suitcase and escort you out. And there's no goin' back after that. You're never stepping foot in this apartment. We won't be on speaking terms, and I'll tell the poker players you turned homosexual."
"Alright, Buster!" Felix had a confident undertone to his voice. He arched his back, raising his chest higher off the floor as he held himself up by his arms. "If those are the stakes, then this has to be a real kiss, not a quick peck on the cheek."
Oscar took that moment to take in seeing his roommate lying pathetically on the floor. Then he approached Felix with long strides. The other man looked up, and Oscar dragged him up to his feet.
Oscar interrupted with a kiss, just to silence him before he said anything else, anything that might ruin what felt like a moment that wouldn't have happened unless all things were in the right place at the right time. He was surprised it wasn't an angry kiss. He certainly felt angry with the taunting suggestion. His focus turned on the kiss, and the longings for embracing. His arms felt unnatural as he gripped Felix's shoulders, but he forced them to remain there. Felix took the kiss and loosened his jaw, although Oscar didn't move in. Although it did cross his mind and hung there in a very tantalizing way. It would've been so easy to reach out and pluck it, if it weren't for his inhibitions, the same ones taken down by alcohol days earlier. But he did glide his tongue across Felix's lower lip, making him gasp then release with an exhale.
He made a slight adjustment to make an equally easy and difficult break away. He looked straight into Felix's stunned face, lips still parted. Whatever he was about to say was lost. Oscar looked down at himself, at the other man's body touching his.
"Is it alright if I say just one thing before you leave? I swear, once you leave my bedroom, the deal starts and we'll never speak of it again."
Oscar gave a single absent nod.
"You're an excellent kisser," Felix's voice rapidly dropped, hitting a low, soft tone. "Even though I don't condone drunkenness and I don't like alcohol breath, that night was also nice. I mean it, now I know how you get girls. It's in the way you give pleasure, isn't it? With that exquisite mouth of yours—"
Oscar grabbed Felix's shirt. The intensity of his obvious flirtation, from Felix's words to the way he looked at him, was something Oscar couldn't fully grasp. His roommate always was more than a bit awkward when trying to sound suave, but this time, he was particularly seductive.
"You don't care that...that I'm a man and you're not a woman?" Oscar asked, somewhat befuddled.
The question made Felix smile. "This doesn't have to be like a man-woman sort of deal." He patted Oscar's arm. "It's alright if you're nervous. I was also nervous my first time."
"Felix, I'm not..." he thought he knew what he wanted to say, but he couldn't find the right words. He doubted that there was anything that needed to be said. He started up again after a long pause. "I'm just doin' this as a thing between a couple of lonely guys."
"What else would it be?"
"It isn't like we don't like this sort of thing."
"Enjoyment of the carnal pleasures is perfectly normal."
"I couldn't 've said it better."
"And it is better this way. We're both friends, buddies. No expectations. No false pretenses."
"Now, will you kiss me again?"
Despite his reassuring statements, and the question that might as well have been a command, Oscar was far less certain as he moved in. Felix was, however, more active. He felt suction on his lower lip, then a tongue dipped into his mouth followed by a brush against his naked thigh, just below the hem of his shorts. It was enough to cause his head to swim and make him pull away. Felix did not make any attempt to reel him back in, but he did eye him with an intent to seduce.
"You know, Oscar, I'd really like it if you kissed me the way you did last night."
"If I was sleepwalking, I wouldn't remember, and frankly I don't."
"It was basically the same when you were drunk. You said you remembered that."
That drunken night was mostly a blur, and Oscar could only make a vague guess. "You like sloppy kisses?"
"It wasn't sloppy. Here." Felix took his wrists and led him by them as he walked backwards, bringing his back to the wall. He released his hands and pulled him in closer by the waist. "You had me pinned like this, remember?"
"I'm not sure." Although it did feel very familiar, he couldn't be sure if it was with Felix or back from another drunken time.
Felix took his hands and brought them to his shoulders. "It was a little more like this."
"I guess I really had you pinned," Oscar said, nervously. "You mean on two separate occasions I shoved you up against the wall?"
"Actually, only the time when you were drunk. I can barely feel it. Harder."
"Push on my shoulders."
Oscar pushed on the corners of his shoulders, bringing them flat to the wall.
"Good. Now, just lightly."
Although Felix had made the request, Oscar was once again passive as Felix arched in with a row of soft kisses, each one like a repeat of a simple brush stroke. Oscar followed suit, but after the first couple, Felix pulled his head away, back against the wall.
"I just wanted to sample you," Felix said, under his breath. He swallowed. "Now, my neck."
"What about it?"
Felix arched his head to one side in full preparation, but he moved his eyes from Oscar's face and to the ground coyly. "You know."
"Ohh." Oscar adjusted himself to be in position, but there wasn't much of a neck. "You want to take off your tie?"
"You do it, please?"
Oscar released one shoulder and loosened the tie. He could feel Felix's body tense. He pulled the tie looser, and unbuttoned the top button. He returned his face to an appropriate necking position and let out a single warm breath against the skin. Felix gave an airy, throaty exhale. Both men shivered.
"You like that?" Oscar asked, dumbly.
"Yes," Felix breathed. "Any part of my body can become highly sensitive, but my neck...yes. I use to love it when Gloria would do that to me."
Oscar returned his face to Felix's. The mentioning of Gloria had thrown him off, almost enough to make him back away.
"Don't say anything. Just enjoy," he said, and brought his face in close.
He hesitated, realizing he never necked anyone smelling of men's cologne. But it wasn't just the cologne. There was something else he was far less able to pinpoint that made him pause. He offered a hesitant kiss square at the center of his neck. He moved downward, nuzzling past the collar and offered a last gentle suck right at the neck's base.
"That's very nice," Felix said in a calm voice, although his eyes flashed intently. "I think you should take off your pants," he whispered, wickedly.
Oscar frowned. He looked down at himself and his boxers.
"You already have your pants off," Felix stated, then returned his voice back to a seductive, although not as confident, edge. "Very nice."
Oscar frowned. Neither one made a move.
"No! I'm not nervous. Not at all."
"I'll start." Felix loosened his tie further. "Unless you want to?"
"I think I'll watch." Oscar released Felix and took a few steps back. And he did watch, feeling very voyeuristic, as Felix took off his tie. He tossed it on the nightstand.
"It's funny, Oscar," Felix started as he began to work on his shirt buttons. "I truly was naive about sex for the longest time. My early experiences just...barely scratched the surface. Then Gloria came along and taught me all I needed to know, especially all the...sensual pleasures. I think I always did like seeing you enjoying yourself."
He pulled his shirt tails apart, showing his chest and abdomen. For a man his age, he wasn't in bad shape. His slender frame reminded Oscar of a woman's. But the forcing of a woman's shape onto Felix didn't really work for him. There were too many other less feminine factors. Felix was just the opposite of the beefcake build. He was a skinny guy who was flexible. Very flexible. He recalled witnessing such flexibility whenever Felix danced or had to clean something in a hard-to-reach space.
"Really, I think of this as like everything else I do for you, don't you think so?" Felix asked, moving on to his fly.
"Um," Oscar said aloud, the question confusing him as his thoughts were diverted from whatever direction they were going. His eyes were already on Felix's hands, already in anticipation of the sounds of a zipper and rustle of fabric. "Kinda?"
Felix unzipped and pulled his pants down over his hips. He bothered to unlace his shoes and, after carefully pulling them off, put them gently off to the side. Then, after anxiously shuffling his legs out, he folded his pants and set them next to the shoes. Oscar watched all of this, figuring he should have guessed that the man would always find the time for neatness. It was a wonder when he ever did lose himself, or if he retained it even during his wedding night. Then Oscar remembered that Felix had spent much of his honeymoon photographing Niagara Falls. Perhaps anything could happen within the next five minutes.
Felix finally took a step toward Oscar in an open shirt, boxers and knee socks. In a quick movement of wrist, he unveiled himself.
Gloria got lucky.
After their years of friendship and the few years spent living together, this was the first time Felix ever showed that part of his body. Not even in the privacy of the apartment after a shower did he ever walk about stark naked. Then again, perhaps it wasn't that much of a surprise considering his unusual blend of prudishness and exhibitionism.
"Well, what? I've seen you in tights, so I already got a pretty good picture," Oscar said, trying to sound nonchalant. And trying not to stare at what was once to him only a bulge, now in the flesh.
Felix looked coyly to the side. He then took another step in closer, and brought his hands to cling onto Oscar's shorts.
"You expect me to follow that act up?" Oscar asked, gesturing with his eyes.
"You've seen mine, now show me yours."
Any reaction was lost to Oscar when Felix took the initiative and pulled on the elastic. He peered in.
"Aw, so that's little Oscar."
Oscar snapped his shorts back around his waist. "Don't even start!"
"But it's adorable and cute. And nicely cut."
"I swear Felix, I'll clobber you." He clenched one of his hands. "I really will."
"I'm only being the tease." Felix grinned. "Oscar, just the other day, you were telling me I had to be a fun guy. Looks like you need to take up some of your own advice. Is this how you were with Blanche?"
"Don't! Don'tcha ever mention my ex during intimate moments!"
Felix was still smiling. "There's no need to fret, Oscar. Like I said, you don't have to do anything." His face softened as he brought his hand under his cock, and held it out.
"Do you want to?" Felix posed the question simply, in the same sort of tone as when asking if he wanted scrambled eggs on the side.
"I, uh..." he forced his eyes back on Felix's face, realizing he had been talking down to his cock. "God, Felix I..."
"Right, good thinking."
Oscar blinked. "Thinking?"
"I actually chaff easily. I'll be right there."
Felix walked over to the night table and opened a drawer. His back obscured much of Oscar's view, but the angle was enough for him to see something purple being taken out, with a cap that Felix opened. He applied something creamy to his hands first .
"Do you like lavender?" Felix asked, without turning around.
Oscar didn't answer.
"It was one of Gloria's favorite scents. Lavender. I like to keep a bottle of her favorite brand around for the occasion."
Felix turned back, clutching at the base part of those inches that now looked considerably glossier. He moved in close, still grinning. Oscar's body tingled as he felt Felix's hand stroke his inner thigh, and when those fingers snaked upward, he bolted, inadvertently smacking against the wall. The response was dramatic enough to stagger Felix, whose face turned to shock so quickly. He looked down at the floor, guiltily, and it made Oscar feel and do the same. "Don't sneak up on me like that," he said, despite knowing how pathetic it sounded.
"I understand." Felix spoke morosely and covered himself. "I'm sorry, Oscar, that was rather forceful of me."
Oscar sighed. "It's not that."
"You probably think I'm trying to take advantage of you. Your best friend, trying to seduce you like some lusting madman. I'm...an animal!" Felix cried.
"Felix, it's all just a little much and little unusual, ya know?"
"I know, I know. It's because you're scared."
"I didn't say that."
"I know what scared looks like, and you're scared."
Determined, Oscar moved in and clamped a hand over his mouth. Felix could have easily moved backwards, or bitten him, but he, fortunately, only stared at him wide-eyed. Keeping him gagged, he then navigated his other hand through the opening in his boxers to grab the other man's cock. It gave him an unusual thrill to be able to grab the shaft with the whole of his hand, and offer a brief squeeze. And having gotten a hold of the thing, he couldn't resist giving it a tug. Or two.
"Felix, I'm not scared."
Felix's eyes rolled in obvious pleasure. He inhaled sharply as his entire body tensed with the onset. He held his breath, then released with a moan, trembling. Oscar removed his hand and Felix's lips instantly parted, an action Oscar typically found to be most seductive. With his free hand he grabbed the back of the other man's head. After all, he had asked for a kiss, and he hadn't quite delivered. He locked his lips firmly against Felix's, who moaned louder. He ran his fingers through his exceptionally short hair, then to the side of his face.
Oscar paused his aggressive kissing as his focus diverted from his lips. Sure, he was used to all kinds of hair, but as his fingers moved to his jawline, it felt rough to caress against a five o'clock shadow. And there was still that men's cologne. And against the motions of his other hand, Felix began to harden.
Oscar backed away. It wasn't feeling stubble that did it. Or the cologne. Or even that another man was getting aroused because of him, although he almost convinced himself it was. His eyes confirmed it, as they looked straight into the face of Felix Unger, the same man who every week vacuumed the shower curtains.
He took a deep breath, trying to reconcile his thoughts, as all the expectations of what it meant to be not just a man but a divorced New York sportswriter came to mind. But Felix had already recaptured both his hands and guided them back to their previous positions. He looked at him longingly, mouthing something that failed to fully form.
Just this once. After this, Oscar Madison, you find yourself a nice girl.
"Sit down, Romeo," Oscar said, bringing his hand from Felix's chin to his shoulder, directing him backwards.
Felix took those couple of steps until the back of a leg touched the bed, upon which he sat down heavily. He spread his knees wide so Oscar could continue to move in. He pressed his legs against the box spring. He hunched just slightly, bringing the other man's chest close to his. He kept one hand on Felix's shoulder and with the other started a slow, smooth pumping motion from base to tip. When Felix's dark eyes flickered, adjusting to look into his, he averted his gaze to the far wall. A nice girl...
"Oscar..." His name was spoken slowly through a shallow but firm exhale. It caused Oscar to shiver in such a way that it resonated with his groin. "It's been a while...I like foreplay...I really do...but...this feels so good..." He brought a hand to Oscar's wrist. "It'll feel even better if you don't use the whole hand. Just lightly...like this..."
Oscar turned, meeting Felix's eyes, who was staring right at him while demonstrating.
"You always this vocal?"
"I like to say what pleases me...what doesn't...what makes me feel strange."
Oscar returned his gaze to the back wall and took over. He continued his usual pattern much as he had before, although this time forming a tight ring with his thumb and first two fingers.
"That..." Felix gasped. "That's not what..."
Oscar hushed him and, pleased with the response, made his movements more purposeful.
"Oh! Oh, I m-mean...it's different and-and...mm...ohh...oh, fine." He squirmed. "Gently, or I'll—"
Oscar squeezed tightly and pulled, and Felix's voice subsided into a quivering, airy whimpering. He allowed himself a pause to enjoy his handiwork as his fingers came upon the ridge of his scar. He ran his fingers over, and thumbed along its arch.
Felix's hands glided across his upper arms, moving in circles. Only his fingertips made actual contact against the bare skin just under the sleeve of the shirt. It made him shiver.
"Does that feel good?" Felix asked, although the question didn't matter. He whimpered with desperation, and his hands rubbed more firmly. He grasped at the sleeves before wrapping his arms around his back. He pulled Oscar closer and sloppily kissed his neck. Feeling the strain of another man hold up a considerable portion of his weight on his back, Oscar shifted and brought up a knee to rest on the bed, wedging it underneath Felix's thigh. His roommate hooked the leg suggestively around his waist, causing Oscar to weaken. More than anything, he wanted what he was doing to Felix to be done to himself. As if reading his mind, a hand dropped down below his waist and inched towards his crotch.
There was enough insistence in the voice to stop the action from going any further. Felix voiced a disappointed moan, which transitioned into a deep inhale. He tugged down on Oscar's shirt collar and exhaled firmly on his neck. And he breathed in the scents—his musky, masculine scent mixed with whatever else since his last decent shower. Oscar felt sweaty, and he guessed he must've been pretty dirty since he had been out and about earlier that day, and he hadn't bother to wash with soap or anything of the sort when he was in the shower earlier, but none of that seemed to stop Felix as he nuzzled and kissed, and used his tongue.
Despite the pleasure Felix's mouth gave him, he winced against the aching in the back of his neck and the beginnings of a headache. The shirt seemed to made of material tough enough to break his spinal column before tearing as Felix yanked it even farther down and sucked hard against his clavicle.
"Oscar..." His name. Once again, he actually said his name. It was spoken in such a way that could not be mistaken for anything else other than to a lover when close to climaxing. Oscar had assumed by the throbbing state Felix was in, he would be thinking of something else, just about anything, other than him—although most likely Gloria. "Do me slowly."
Oscar brought himself into stillness and felt him twitch vigorously in his hold. Felix clung tighter and tighter, panting hard enough to hear and feel each labored breath.
"I didn't say stop! Please—oh, please, please..."
God, his voice was so desperate from the husky low at the beginning of it all. Oscar brought his other hand to work in conjunction. Felix dug his forehead into his shoulder. His hands furiously groped around Oscar's frame before clinging tightly to his undershirt.
"Slowly," Felix commanded and begged, and then gasped.
His body shuttered as he came quickly and abruptly. He nudged his hips before crumbling with each breath, first leaning back on his hands, then down onto his forearms, and finally collapsing onto his back. The movements were enough for his cock to slip away. Felix retrieved it with both hands and gave himself a few soft squeezes before the entire room was still aside from the rise and fall of his belly. All the while, his eyes were closed as he relished in the afterglow. It was all enough to make Oscar envious, until he suddenly felt very self-conscious about each of Felix's legs being on either side of him. The stickiness on his hands became noticeable and he wiped them on his undershirt. His mind reeled with uneasiness as he now considered the aftermath.
"I don't know what happened," Felix murmured. "I can usually hold out for much longer."
"Don't worry about it."
"But...but I didn't want a quickie and...and you..."
Felix tucked his cock back into his shorts and arched his neck to look at Oscar. He brought himself back to a seated position, with Oscar still situated between his legs.
"I told you to slow down...You must've known that I was telling you to slow down because I was finishing."
"But look at yourself. You liked it."
Felix moved his eyes from Oscar's face to his chest. He brought his hands to Oscar's shirt and began to lift it.
"What're ya doin'?" Oscar asked, straightening.
"I'll launder your shirt," Felix replied as the shirt continued to lift higher.
"Don't bother. It's chilly."
"It's not a bother," Felix said, and brought his mouth to a spot just in line with his sternum.
Oscar stiffened. It wasn't that the sensations didn't feel good, only that he had been expecting Felix to be taking a nice, long nap. But he actually seemed to care about Oscar's own pleasure. It would've been a nice gesture if it was wanted.
Felix's hands skated down to Oscar's shorts. Oscar clung tightly to the fabric, keeping the shorts in place.
"But I want to," he mumbled, lazily and playfully. Felix leaned away from his chest, the shirt slipping down his face. Oscar could sense his eyes even before he forced his to meet them. "I can help. I'm a good lover, remember?"
Lover. Of all the words Felix could have chosen, that one actually meant something. "Felix, let go."
He said it seriously enough that Felix's hands loosened completely. Oscar immediately took several steps back, taking in the image of his roommate so soon after climaxing.
"Oscar, what is it?"
"I just have things I gotta do," Oscar said, shrugged, and left the bedroom in a hurry.
And by things to do, that only really included returning to the bathroom. But first he went into his room for another stashed-away-in-shame magazine. Although this time he didn't take half an hour. Already amply started, he came with relative ease. It could have been like any other sad, lonely experience for Oscar Madison, except his daydream that really did it for him had turned unusually vivid and strange. The picture of the provocative woman whose page he randomly turned to happened to be a ginger. It gave him a body to visualize as that fictitious redhead whom he wished he could date. In his imagination, she was there but not giving him any pleasure. At least not by physically touching him. She was posturing, as she was in the picture, while he was standing off to the side. She looked at him as she suggestively posed, pulling down part of her skimpy top to expose one breast, with a thumb hooked to draw down on the elastic of her skimpy panties. But she turned away from him and instead went to Felix.
"You're being a bad boy," Felix cooed. "You have to stand there and watch us."
And the redhead proceeded to do all manner of things Oscar liked, all to his roommate and that part of him that was larger than his, causing him reflect on how a difference of inches always did seem to matter in any sport.
Oscar left the bathroom, released but not relieved. He went straight to his bedroom. He had work tomorrow. That would surely normalize his life.
Felix woke up. He didn't make a single movement toward getting up, but stayed in bed under the sheets. Despite knowing he was taking the first step towards developing a bad habit, he remained comfortably motionless and mused about what his old therapist would say about his dream. He was in it, after all. When he closed his eyes, he could visualize himself back in his therapist's office, the one from his dream. Gloria was there, too, and both were looking at him judgmentally. He didn't know what he said, but he remembered that there was an open psychology book in his lap. Nothing was legible except for the words: “polymorphous perverse.” Feeling anxious, he had tried to wipe them, but they were stained onto the page. Gloria and the therapist were shaking their heads in grave disapproval when it had suddenly occurred to him that he didn't have to stay. He had left the office and the next moment he was back in the apartment. He had opened the bedroom door, and Oscar was waiting for him, sprawled out on the bed completely naked except for his strategically-placed Yankees cap, and he said the words, “Close the door, Felix.”
And after that ...
On second thought, he really didn't want to speculate on the psychoanalytic interpretation of the dream. He moved and felt stiff. It was surprisingly stiffer than usual, especially at his age. He tugged his pajama bottoms closer to his hips and trapped it under his waistband. He sat up and checked the clock, noting that he was up nearly an hour earlier than his usual wake up time. Regardless, it was never a sin to start the day early, and he began with a series of push ups. They were enough to soften his morning problem, and almost enough to shut off the thinking part of his mind.
As he initiated his usual morning routine by putting on his bathrobe, he felt a resolve in needing to speak to Oscar, but resisted the urge to go knock on his door. Instead, he made his way into the bathroom. He didn't take his evening shower, and the pushups caused him to sweat. As he looked in the mirror, he could almost see the dirt and grime repulsively clinging to his face and neck. Although his roommate needed to shower in the mornings, and although he needed to be ready when Oscar would inevitably wake up, a quick watering down was necessary. He stripped and turned on the water, and it suddenly occurred to him that Oscar might take the opportunity during his showering to slip out.
There was far too much concern over Oscar to fully enjoy the cleansing experience. Felix kept is ears attuned for the opening of a bedroom door. As the thought of Oscar sneaking out lingered, it became more of a certainty. He knew Oscar would try it, and he would have to be the one to block his path. He would stand there right in front the door. Even if they didn't speak, one look at those eyes can tell him enough to fill volumes. Not just the eyes, as he really thought about it, but all his body mannerisms—how he would be standing, what he would be doing with his hands, the way he would avoid his gaze by tilting his head....
Felix sighed. Less than a minute into the shower, and his groin gave a pleasurable twitch. He immediately turned the dial, and the water became a cold stream. He shivered, and the temperature dipped to what felt like an icy cold level. Unable to tolerate cold showers ever since his stint in the service, he soon turned it off. He stepped out, moving quickly to keep warm.
Suddenly, he heard a door open and footsteps. He wrapped a towel around his waist and rushed out. Oscar was already past the bathroom and was heading in the direction the living room when he spun around.
“You're trying to sneak past me, aren't you!?” Felix accused.
Oscar's eyes widened at the situation before him, unusual even for Felix. “Good morning to you, too!”
Felix rounded on him, gripping the towel in place.
“Admit it! You're upset over what we did last night! That's why you're up early and trying to leave without saying goodbye!”
"You're a nut!”
Oscar was about to say more, but Felix was quick to question.
“Then why are you up and dressed so early?”
“I just happened to wake up early. I put on whatever was closest the bed, and I was gonna go make some coffee. I was not gonna leave!”
“Is that so?”
“You realize how cold it is? Go put on somethin' or you'll catch one.”
“Are you expressing sincere concern for my welfare? Or will you rush out that door the moment I leave?”
Oscar sighed. "I'm not gonna leave."
“Don't move.” Felix folded his arms closely across his shaking body, digging his hands under his armpits. He didn't really allow himself to feel cold until he spoke with Oscar. He rushed into his room for his bathrobe, which he tied closely to his body, thrusting his hands into the pockets. When he returned, he nearly had a panic attack when Oscar was not right where he left him. Stepping fully into the living room, though, he saw him by the thermostat.
"I thought we agreed we to cut back on the utilities."
“You were the one complaining to me about the cost.”
“I'm gonna have more money coming my way.”
“It's football season.”
“Don't try to change the subject. We need to have a talk.”
The furnace turned on, and they both remained standing. The roommates stared at one another.
"Look,” Oscar said, finally, “I've been thinkin'... things can go back to normal. Whatever happened between us is between us. We don't have to explain it, or understand it...It was just something that happened between a couple of guys who happen know a lot about each other and who were feeling kinda lonely. That's all."
Felix gave a couple of distant nods.
"Of course...of course you'd say something like that. I'm such a fool."
Oscar extended a supportive arm and set his hand on Felix's shoulder.
"Talk to me, buddy."
"I thought it meant something to you."
"Sure it does."
Felix took a step back away from his touch.
"You couldn't wait to leave."
"I had a lot on my mind."
"First you rushed through it, then you wouldn't even let me...you just left."
"I don't get the fuss. You're the one who got a happy ending."
"That's not the way it works."
"Don't tell me how it should or shouldn't work. Look...what we did...I've done that before, a long time ago."
"I had already assumed most, if not all, your sexual escapades ended up quickies."
Oscar sighed. Any other time he would've refused to speak of it. He threw off any reservations. "I had a buddy and we...did what we did. We were just kids at the time."
"You had a boyfriend?"
Oscar winced. In that single question, Felix had perked up considerably and looked at him with such naiveté. "He wasn't my boyfriend. He was an older kid, a year ahead of me. We went to the same school and it was...somethin' that happened a few times."
"Something that happened? That doesn't sound very romantic."
"That's because it wasn't. I told you, we were buddies. That's all.”
“So you're comparing what we did, a special moment shared by the two good friends, to a revival of your sexually-frustrated college years?”
“I wasn't that sexually-frustrated. I dunno, I was just a teenager at the time.”
“A Teenager!” Felix gasped. “Oh my God!”
“Look, I'm only tellin' ya because..what we did, and what I did a long time ago, it was bonding. Male bonding.”
Felix shook his head. “Terrible. Just terrible.”
“What? What is it?”
Felix looked ready to pounce on him. “Leonard is nearly thirteen!”
"Thought he was ten."
"He was ten two and a half years ago! I should know, I'm his father! Sure, he still looks ten, but he's getting bigger. I just can't..."
"Oh, come off it! I'm not sayin' it's somethin' that happens once you hit thirteen! Really, Leonard is a lot more like his father than he is like me."
Felix didn't say anything for a moment, and Oscar realized he really didn't know what Felix was like at thirteen.
"I was probably no older than thirteen when I picked up that book on hygiene."
“Felix, this isn't about teenagers or Leonard or some book.” Felix didn't answer him immediately while his mind had turned to his kids. Oscar continued, “Really, what I did...I guess what I'm tryin' to say...it was just a couple of kids playing a game."
“I thought you said male bonding.”
"Oh, well...did you and your friend get off?”
Oscar's eyes widened. “How can you ask me that!?”
“That would've been a step up compared to what we did."
"That's none of your business! Has nothin' to do with us!"
"You drew the comparison."
"Felix, we just fooled around a bit. As long it never leaves this apartment, it's fine by me. And that's gonna hafta be fine by you, too!"
"If you were fine with it, you wouldn't have walked out before getting yours."
"Ya want me to say it!? I walked out because I wasn't comfortable!"
"I made you...” Felix's face softened. He stared down dejectedly at the floor. "I'm sorry you felt that way." He gave a heavy sigh. "It makes sense. You wouldn't even look at me."
"Can't ya understand how it can be a difficult thing?"
"Oscar, I really don't mind at all. I live with you. I know all about your unhealthy habits. There's no shame in letting me at least...attempt to get you physiologically excited—"
"Not that! I mean it's not easy for me to show that other side. It's not like the sorta thing we'd tell the guys next time we play poker."
"You didn't tell them about Crazy Rhoda Zimmerman either, but that never stopped you."
"Look, Felix...I guess what I'm really tryin' to say is that I didn't know what we would be like afterward...I couldn't put you through that."
“Are you....Oscar, are you saying it was all a mistake?”
"Felix, if I didn't like it..." Oscar hesitated, reconciling whatever thoughts he could. Felix looked on, expectantly, giving him little choice but to voice it. "Hell, if I didn't like it, I wouldn't have done anything in the first place."
"I know you have needs...sexual needs, and I've never known you to tell a girl to take a step back before jumping into bed. So what is it about us?"
"Look, I wasn't with some girl—I was with you. And that's a very different game."
"Don't you trust me?"
"I know what it sounds like, but I trusted you enough last night."
"Oscar, I don't understand you."
"Ya don't hafta understand! I didn't want you to, and that's all."
Felix shrugged in resignation, but he looked at Oscar in a way that showed he hadn't entirely given up.
"I only did it because I thought you were lonely...and desperate.”
“You sayin'...” Oscar was about to lose his temper, but contained it just in time to prevent an outburst. Instead, he took a step closer to Felix. His chest just brushed against his bathrobe. Being roughly the same height, they could look right into each other's eyes. “You're sayin' I'm lonely and desperate,” he said in a low voice.
"You lead me on." The tone of Felix's voice matched his.
"Lead you...you brought me into your bedroom."
"You seduced me. You kissed me...You fondled me..."
"You were the one beggin' me to neck you." Felix broke his gaze. He really wished he wouldn't bring up necking while standing so close. “Twice.”
Felix's eyes flared. "Thanks for the service! Can I write out a check?"
He walked away from Oscar and seated himself on the couch. He sat down and petulantly folded his arms, locking them in close to contain any further outbursts. Oscar sat down next to him.
“I don't wanna play games, but don't say you did it out of pity.”
“Don't toy with me, Oscar! I'll admit it meant something to me! Love means a lot to me."
Oscar winced. "Alright, alright! Look, if it means that much to you..." He hesitated. He had never thought he would make such a proposition, but the thought itched. "If ya wanna make it even, I'll let you do me."
There was a pause.
"Are you serious?"
"Yeah, I'm serious. Just go ahead and do me."
"You mean...right now?"
"Sure. Do me now."
Oscar shrugged. "Wherever."
"But you have to shower, get dressed, eat breakfast—"
"There's enough time. I got up early. You do me, and I'll shower afterwards."
"I want this to be more than a quickie."
"I'm here now, and frankly, I don't want anything special just...just your hands, Felix. Ya have great hands. Warm them up cookin'."
Felix smiled at the tempting suggestion. He shook his head. “But last night, you wouldn't let me to touch you.”
“I changed my mind,” Oscar said with a shrug.
“Oscar, when I say serious, I mean serious. I'm not a playboy.”
“Felix...” Oscar sighed.
“What? What is it?”
“Just...we can do this, but don't mention love, will ya?”
“But...” Felix hesitated, “but what's bonding between two people if there's no love?”
Oscar rested his elbows on his knees. He looked down at the floor, figuring the only way he can put everything in his mind into words would be to avoid the gaze of his roommate entirely. “Felix, I've been through a lot. I'm not even talkin' 'bout the last few days. I woke up this mornin' thinkin' one thing, and now...I haven't had the same, consistent thought. But one thing I do know, is that I'm gonna be the same sloppy, middle-aged and near broke Oscar Madison I've been since my divorce. I don't do love anymore.”
“Don't say that. No one is beyond love.”
Oscar made the mistake of trying to look at him straightforward, as he was met with the pitying in his eyes.
“I mean it. I'm not doin' it anymore.”
“You don't mean that. You're just going through a period of self-loathing—”
“I swear, the whole thing is off if you do anymore psychology!”
Felix sighed. "Really, Oscar, all I want is to treat you the way you treated me. Doing favors for another guy, that's a form of love, isn't it?” Oscar didn't respond, but Felix offered a smile. “Believe me, that was very nice, what you did for me. Reasonably skilled and very experienced, I can tell...and I only mean that as a compliment!”
Oscar gave him that same, constant look he always gave his roommate whenever he started to push his boundaries. So this was where their conversation, starting days ago, ends up. “Does that line work on the ladies?”
Felix grinned mischievously. “I promise I'll make it up to you.”
And then Felix winked.
*Cue theme music*