59: Roommate Wars

59: Roommate Wars

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Campus Chronicles

Roommate Wars

I don’t need to pay a therapist to give me crap. I have a roommate that does it for free.

~Ally McBeal

“Ewww! Gross!” When Maddi’s drunk boyfriend started to hurl, my four roommates cleared out in a hurry. Including Maddi, who scrambled for her room, saying, “I can’t deal with this.”

This naturally left me to clean up yet another mess. Ever since I’d moved into this apartment at the beginning of my junior year, my dreams of escaping dorm life — and a string of awful roommates — had turned into a nightmare.

Freshman year, I’d started with Party Girl, who went out just about every night, since her late class schedule let her sleep till the afternoon. She’d bump into the corner of my bed at 2 A.M. and throw on the lights. Her boyfriend came up for days at a time, giving me a choice between sleeping on someone else’s floor or being treated to a live sex show.

Next, I lived with the Prison Matron. At first, I was thrilled to be with someone who kept regular hours. Soon, I was receiving the glare and a loud sigh when I spoke softly on the phone with my mom at 9 P.M., or didn’t turn the lights and my computer off by 10. She was better than an alarm clock in the morning, too, since she popped out of the hay with the roosters while it was still dark out.

I got used to stepping over other people’s mess. I got used to listening to twenty-four-hour show tunes. I got used to other girls’ hair in the sink and shower drain. But slowly, dorm living had been driving me insane.

Now, I’d discovered apartment life was no better. I shared a tiny room with two other girls. One had had sex in my bed while I was away. Another set a hot iron on the carpet and burned a hole we all ended up paying for. The special food I’d put aside was cooked and eaten, and my scorched pots were left in the sink to grow miniature rain forests of mold. The others threw drinking parties that could have gotten us arrested. They routinely left the doors unlocked and the windows open when the apartment was empty or we slept at night. My lamp was knocked over and broken.

But Maddi was the flat-out worst in a very competitive field. Raised to be her parents’ princess, she simply didn’t understand any other way of being in the world. At first, I thought we could compromise on the sorest points, including having her boyfriend living practically rent-free in our very crowded apartment. I was sick of having to “cover up” just to grab a drink from the fridge, or be confined to my cramped three-girl bedroom because every single night Maddi and Tim were using the living room that my rent was paying for. I wanted to cry when I walked into the kitchen, just in time to see them fixing two triple-egg omelets, using the last six of my eggs!

So finally I approached her with the gentle suggestion that she and Tim go to his apartment a couple of evenings a week. She gave me a blank look, clearly puzzled. “But I don’t want to.” She said the words slowly, so I could understand her.

Soon, things got worse. Every time her toilet clogged — a regular event — she called on me to attack it with the plunger. She never washed a dish, never carried out trash, never picked up. I tried “roommate meetings,” complete with doughnuts for good will. She’d promise to vacuum, which was the least “icky” of the chores, but then not follow through. Even my other roommates grew just as frustrated with her as I was.

When she took a dislike to another girl in the building — whom she didn’t even know — she dropped food off our balcony onto the girl’s car. Not only was this a mean thing to do, but any idiot could figure out pretty quick just which apartment to check for the perpetrator.

When I was talking to any of our other roommates, Maddi listened in, always sure we were talking about her. In all honesty, a lot of times we were. With Tim always there, we had no privacy, and our living situation was becoming intolerable. I couldn’t get anywhere trying to reason with her, so I basically started ignoring her.

Then she called her mother and cried, because her roommates didn’t like her. Next thing I knew, her mother had driven six hours to hold court in our living room, screaming at Maddi’s bedroom-mate and flinging obscenities at her, threatening to have her kicked out of college and her parents’ home taken away.

As a music major, I needed to go play a concert, but I was actually afraid to walk through my own living room. I called my mother in a husky whisper, sounding — I’m sure — like a war correspondent. “Mom, I’m trapped in my bedroom!”

Mom suggested I just leave quietly, and smile and be polite if confronted. When I did this, Maddi’s mother whirled on me. “What are you smiling at, b*tch?! You’re going to get what’s coming to you!”

Things escalated after that, with Maddi’s father, an attorney, repeatedly calling my mother at home at 10 P.M., threatening lawsuits if I didn’t start treating his daughter better. Mostly, he talked about how we’d made her cry because we didn’t include her in things. Mom tried to calm him down, but finally he announced his daughter had been forced to move out because I had subjected Maddi to anti-Semitic abuse! He told Mom he was filing a lawsuit and also asking the administration to expel me. Mom tried to tell him that my grandfather was Jewish and we had many Jewish relatives, but he hung up before she could get the words out.

In the following weeks, my orchestra conductor spoke to me. He’d received a complaint from Maddi and her family, and asked if I had any trouble with staying in orchestra because of her. I told him of course not, and he smiled and that was that. Fortunately, he knew me better than they did.

The middle of senior year, I moved into a single room in a shared house. I had to carry my own toilet paper with me or it all disappeared. And the kitchen overflowed with trash, skuzzy dishes and scummy water. My neighbor on the other side of my thin bedroom wall played finger cymbals night and day. And the illegal sublet in the back part of the house flipped out one night over the way his mail had been handled, and stabbed a note into the wall with a kitchen knife to express his anger before he was finally reported to the police and evicted.

Now I’m in grad school. Roommates? No thanks!

~Marcela Dario Fuentes

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