It was around Christmastime when Oscar saw Camden Camden again. He had worked with her right after graduating from college. It was the first job for both of them, and it wasn’t exactly a memorable one.
One aspect of the experience stood out for Oscar, though: He really learned to despise Camden. She was a vain, superficial person who lacked any redeeming qualities. Other men at the office found her attractive, but Oscar thought she looked androgynous and malnourished.
Nevertheless, he had tried to get on her good side. She withheld her approval from almost everyone, and Oscar believed that getting her to say something nice about him would lift him out of the slough of self-deprecation in which he was then wallowing.
“So at least I’m better looking than some of these other slobs, right?” he had once asked her.
“You’re a B-minus, I guess,” was her reply.
They quit that job within a few months of one another. Even as he went on to do other things—a handful of which were interesting—her unguarded assessment lingered in his mind. He couldn’t figure out why it mattered so much to him, since he never had any interest in her.
In early December, she sent him a friend request on Friendface. After he accepted the request, he received a personal message from her. It read as follows:
“Can we have lunch!? Just 2 ketchup catch-up 😀 xoxo CC”
They arranged to meet at a hip coffee shop in a trendy section of town. Oscar arrived a few minutes late and was shocked to see how gaunt and unhealthy she looked. She had also gotten some very obvious, very spherical breast implants.
She leapt up from the table to embrace him. “Notice the growth spurt? Early Christmas present,” she said with a wink.
“Ha ha ha, okay,” Oscar said, hoping that she would end this embrace. He could feel her fragile bones through her down-stuffed coat, a sensation that filled him with revulsion. “Good to see you too, Cammy.”
They sat down and she began talking. She spoke in a rapid, aimless manner. “Well, it’s nice to see old friends, especially around the holidays, and you know we never talked as much as we should have back then. Shouldn’t we have talked more? I just looked you up one day on Friendface and there you were. I said, Cam, that’s a guy you need to talk to. I needed to talk to you, you know? Sometimes that’s what you need.”
Owing to the miasma of hair spray and cheap perfume that hung around Camden like marsh gas, Oscar found himself unable to concentrate on what she was saying. “Like I said, it’s good seeing you. A bit unexpected, though.”
Camden ran her skeletal fingers through her thin, straw-like hair. “I wanted to ask you, Oscar, and I know it’s been a few years since that stupid job—god, wasn’t that such a stupid job?—and I know it’s unexpected, but I think it’s still a good thing anyway, and I just wanted to ask you something.”
Oscar nodded. “Go ahead, Cammy. I don’t know how much help I can be, but I’ll try to do what I can.”
She grabbed his hands and tried to meet his darting gaze. “Am I okay, Oscar? I mean, am I doing okay? From what you can tell, is everything okay with me? I just wanted to hear it from a friend.”
“Sure, sure, you’re okay. Everything’s okay,” he said, continuing to avert his eyes because he didn’t want her to see that he was about to start crying.