I have a new roommate.
I wasn't really sure, to begin with, that I wanted one. Money was tight, sure, but not so tight that I couldn't have continued paying for this place on my own. My internship with Spyrian Mobile was going well, so well in fact that if I played my cards right, I'd certainly have wound up with a job right out of the gate. An IT professional makes a whole lot more than a lowly intern, and interns don't make chump change.
But the apartment had begun to feel lonely a lot of the time, like it had been emptied of all personality, all life. And besides, I had so much extra space I wasn't doing anything with, why not rent the spare bedroom out to someone for a little while? It was a surefire way to boost the amount I could save each month, and give me a little extra spending money here and there for fun things.
It was good idea, even if I wasn't completely sure I wanted to have to share my space with another person.
The first promising person who answered my ads(one on Craigslist, which drew responses from several dirty old men and one young girl who I'm pretty sure was a dirty old man pretending to be eighteen years old, and one ad posted on the library notice board a few blocks from where I live) was named Brian, and we instantly hit it off. He was kind-hearted, passionate about zoology, which he was going to school for, and seemed like the easy-going sort. Perfect roommate material, because it was clear from the get-go that all he needed was a place to sleep and prepare food. He definitely wouldn't be invading my space at all.
Or so I thought.
Unfortunately, after only two weeks with Brian as a roommate, something else became clear to me: he had no idea how to clean up after himself, and no concept of how to share property with another person. Distressing little warning signs began to pop up almost immediately after he moved in, and they were everywhere; he left his bottle of toothpaste, opened, on the side of the sink so that globs of gooey blue mess oozed out all over; the kitchen would be destroyed when he was finished with it, a sea of filthy dishes and crumbs and food product left behind in his wake; whenever he got mail, he would toss the empty envelopes, and sometimes even the mail itself, onto whatever flat surface was nearest, even if that surface happened to be the floor; and, it seemed that whenever I needed it most, Brian was already ahead of me in the shower, and he took a long, long time to shower.
The experience was so frustrating that, after three weeks, I chose to confront him about it. This was the first time we'd had a real conversation since he moved in, too, because Brian quickly stopped communicating with me in anything more than one-word answers soon after he had his things in the spare bedroom. His bedroom, now.
"Brian...are you in there?" I called, knocking on his door as politely as I possibly could, given my irritation. I'd just found yet another symptom of his terrible habits on my living room floor: cigarette butts, casually discarded as if the phrase "trash can" had never once been spoken in my increasingly annoying roommates presence. I persevered through the initial silence, because I was sure he was home, "We need to talk about some stuff."
"What is it?" He answered, finally, through the door. He had an awful tendency to retreat into his room for hours at a time and only come out to inconvenience me somehow. God knows what he was doing in there.
"I just found...look, can you come out? I'd rather we discuss it...y'know...not shout through the door."
I heard grumbling, and then the sound of someone shuffling through what sounded like mounds of trash, and then Brian opened the door and peeked out at me. He seemed to not want to let me look inside, which wasn't too much of a bother, since I had no intention of looking into a room that smelled as badly as his did. Briefly, I was terrified that if it came down to it, kicking him out would mean cleaning up whatever unholy mess he had left behind in the spare bedroom.
"What is it?" He repeated, like I was the one ruining his day, and not the other way around.
"I just got done sweeping the whole living room, Brian, because..." I sighed. "If you want to live here, you can't leave cigarette butts on the floor, and you can't leave gigantic messes everywhere that you don't ever clean up."
"I don't do that." He responded bluntly. I could see, then, that this wasn't going to be easy.
"Yeah, Brian...you do." I said, and I continued, "I just swept a bunch of cigarette butts up off the floor, and I did a load of dishes that were really grimy, and I'd appreciate it if you could finish cleaning the kitchen up the rest of the way. We're roommates, we've both got to work together, okay?"
He grunted. I could see dark, blotchy circles beneath his eyes that weren't there when he moved in to the apartment. In fact, I couldn't remember if the circles were there when he first opened the door, they seemed so fresh an observation. It was like the mere act of defending himself from me was tiring him out, causing him to be exhausted.
"I didn't leave all of those cigarette butts," He said at last. "You must have left at least one or two of them there by accident."
I gawked. This was the most blatantly stupid thing I'd heard anyone say in a while, and I had heard some real winners just in the past week, dealing with people at work.
"I don't smoke." I said.
"Yes you do, I've seen you smoking before!" He replied indignantly.
A strange feeling came over me, then, as though Brian and I were living in two completely different worlds. He really, honestly thought that I smoked cigarettes. Despite the fact that I had told him, outright, when he moved in, that I didn't...he now thought I did. And the weirdest part of this feeling was that, just for a second, I believed him. I wanted to cave and admit that I did smoke cigarettes, that maybe I had left one or two of those butts on the floor by mistake when I missed the ashtray, of course it was silly of me to accuse him of having been the only one at fault...
I managed to snap back to reality, but it was too late; my resolve had been weakened and Brian was pushing his way out into the kitchen to start cleaning. I stared after him, and tried to think of something to say, but I couldn't. I felt as deflated as a balloon that's been leaking helium for several days. Whatever strange feeling had come over me before was gone now, but I still couldn't shake my discomfort. Trying to shrug it off, I left the house, and went out to get myself something to eat.
My time out was nice, since the air this time of year is clear and breezy. It was just what I needed to clear my head. I would have been in a fantastic mood by the time I got home, had it not been for my waiter. He was obviously new, because I've eaten at this same Italian restaurant many times before and never seen him. All night, every time he thought his manager wasn't looking, he flirted and attempted to make awkward conversation with me. It was incredibly uncomfortable and I left as quickly as possible. Needless to say, I didn't tip my waiter.
When I returned home, the apartment was immaculate. Brian had cleaned everything from top to bottom, and the place looked fantastic. I don't think even I had ever made it look so nice, not since moving in, at least.
Moreover, when I got home, Brian was sitting on the couch in the living room playing video games. He smiled at me as I entered, the familiar smile that had convinced me to trust him in my apartment to begin with.
"Wanna watch a movie?" He asked, pausing his game just to extend the offer, looking at me like I was his best friend in the world.
I agreed, and felt better than I had about my roommate situation in weeks. We spent the rest of the night chatting and making fun of a couple of movies, and by the end of the night when I laid down for bed I was convinced that we would be good friends after all. The nonsense of the past behind us, now we could forge a new path and really benefit from each other's presence in the apartment.
I'm not sure how long this will last, though. Just today I came home from work to find that the bathroom was, yet again, a mess. I don't know if this was purposeful or not, but it's concerning to say the least.