I feel like I need to tell you about the worst roommate I ever had. So. I’m going to… just go ahead and do that. If that’s okay with you.
Like almost everything else in my life, it started with a Craigslist ad.
Room for rent in a two-bedroom apartment downtown. $500 per month.
$500? In downtown Santa Barbara? Seemed too good to be true. I’d been trawling the listings for weeks, months, and the usual going rate to rent a room was $700-$900 per month. Which I couldn’t afford. But $500? I could manage to wring $500 out of my meager pay as a marketing coordinator.
Coordinating marketing, man. It’s serious business. You gotta say, this marketing goes there! And that marketing goes here! Kind of like Tetris. Except usually with Tetris you’re not on the phone with a print vendor begging for a faster turnaround. And also you spend a lot of time surreptitiously G-chatting with your friend who is equally miserable in her job. So maybe it’s not remotely like Tetris at all.
Where were we going with this, now?
I didn’t have high hopes when I sent the email inquiring about the room. I figured it had already been snatched up, or maybe it was all a joke from the start. Haha 500 $ a month?? u must b STOOPID! !!! hehe
Because someone that cruel would have to spell like a middle school dropout, amirite?
The Craigslist poster wrote me back inside an hour. The room was still available, he said, and I could come by to check it out that night if I wanted.
The building was 1970s brown. The bathroom had coral tile. The tiny window in my potential bedroom overlooked a concrete wall. The poster — I’ll call him Kurt — sat on a threadbare couch wearing a ripped Nirvana t-shirt and rigorously avoided eye contact with me. I was 25 and he was 26. Via faltering small talk we discovered that we’d both taken German and done track and field in school. I asked why he’d listed the room so cheaply, and he shrugged. Even he didn’t seem to know.
I figured I could settle for a strange roommate if it meant discounted rent in a prime location. “Well,” I told him as I stood to leave, “I’m still interested, so just let me know.”
“I already checked you out, and you passed. The room is yours. You can move in any time,” Kurt replied.
One month later, I moved in. Unwittingly, I’d chosen to move in on the day of the Solstice festival in my town, which is when the yuppies take off their shirts and pretend to be hippies for a day. The closest street parking was three blocks away, which made carrying boxes somewhat, uh, challenging. I’d also brought a box of cleaning supplies, because there was no way I was moving into that place without scrubbing every common surface first.
I standing in the tub carrying out a furious attack on some scummy shower tile when the front door banged open. Kurt had arrived with two friends wearing shit-eating grins. They had been to the parade, and next they were going up to the Sostice celebration in the park. I should come, they told me. I politely begged off but Kurt grabbed my arm and pulled me into the kitchen, where they commenced gathering provisions for their jaunt to the park. First they all took a shot of Christian Brothers brandy, and then Kurt began to pour Tanqueray gin into a ratty Nalgene water bottle.
“Oh shit,” one of his friends said, digging in the freezer. “We’re outta ice.”
Kurt paused, wobbling slightly, to take stock of the situation, then reached into the back and pulled out a plastic bag of frozen brussels sprouts. He ripped the bag open and dumped the contents into the gin-filled Nalgene, stray sprouts rolling every which way across the counter.
He screwed the cap on and they left.
Two hours later, Kurt wandered back in with one friend, the other having seemingly been lost en route. He put on a VHS tape of G.I. Joe: The Movie as his friend passed out on the couch. Kurt nodded off in a recliner, head slowly dropping to his chest, fingers gradually relaxing on his Coors Lite until the can slipped from his grasp and emptied all over his leg and into the seat cushion.
The dude didn’t even wake up.
Kurt was a heavy drinker, which didn’t initially seem out of place because many of my post-college-age friends were heavy drinkers at the time. Over the following weeks, though, he regaled me with endless stories about “that one time.” There was that one time he was so drunk that he thought the cops were looking for him and hid for hours under a parked vehicle on the street. There was that one time he was so drunk at his work’s holiday party that he told his boss to fuck off. There was that one time he managed to pass through a DUI checkpoint while intoxicated out of his mind.
He was a person of curious extremes. During the weekdays he played a sober Jekyll to his drunken Hyde, huddled at home eating a can of soup in front of the television. He adored his mother as much as he hated his father. He was equally as likely to be found watching a UFC fight as he was his DVD set of Sex and the City.
I never quite knew what he did at his job. The best I could figure was that it involved some kind of programming. Then again, he was incredibly suspicious and rarely told the whole story about anything. He’d dealt drugs in high school, he told me, and then he invested in a lot of stocks. He’d used a chunk of that money to buy a white Mercedes.
He insinuated that he knew a couple of important “sources” that had helped him get his police record erased. He also insinuated he’d used those sources to run a background check on me before we’d met, which was a bit … unsettling, to say the least.
The other things I learned after moving in were just as amusing as they were tragic:
- Kurt had grown pot in the closet of my room before I moved in.
- He’d also peed on the carpet in my room while drunk.
- As you’ve likely gathered, he was obsessed — OBSESSED — with Kurt Cobain, and with Nirvana. He had a guitar that Cobain had supposedly played, and a shirt he’d supposedly worn. He swore up and down that if he played Nirvana while driving drunk, nothing bad would happen.
- He hated — HATED — the beau. He once told me about a girl in our apartment complex who’d asked him who that “short and fat” guy was after seeing Beau in the courtyard with me. I strongly suspected that he invented this conversation just so he’d have an excuse to diss my boyfriend.1
- He had this habit of leaving the apartment door open so that he and his friends could hurl their cans and bottles outside as soon as the contents were consumed. Which inevitably led to me stomping downstairs and picking everything up in an self-righteous rage.
- He couldn’t be bothered to open anything else in the apartment, though. Mold had grown around all the windows before I moved in because he left them closed, with the blinds drawn tight over them, every single day.
- He never cleaned up after himself, which didn’t help my battle against the roaches in the kitchen.
- He was, however, obsessed with soaps. One day he went to Bath & Body Works and came back with no less than six different scents of the same hand gel. He lined them all up on the counter by color, and there they remained. Annoyed at the lack of counter space, I’d sometimes throw them under the sink, but the next time I went back in the bathroom, there they were again, proudly on display.
As if all this wasn’t enough, the worst came the night I got home from the bar to find the living room trashed; my couch turned over. I was a little drunk, quite honestly, and a lot angry, so I wrote a note about respecting my stuff, taped it to the upended couch, and went to bed. An hour and a half later I was startled awake by the sound of my door busting open and the sight of a silhouette in my doorway.
Mr. Hyde had found my note and had come to confront me.
“Fffffffffuck you,” he said. “Fffffuck. You.”
He had a habit of drawing out consonants when he’d been drinking.
“Get out of my room,” I croaked warily.
He staggered towards me. He was grinning, he was laughing, but he was still cursing. I was so confused and upset that I began crying. He sat down on the edge of the bed and put his hand on my stomach. I lost my shit. “GET OUT!” I yelled. “Go away! Get out! Leave me alone!”
After he left, I sobbed myself to sleep.
That was pretty much the beginning of the end.
I didn’t have enough money to just move out, so I made myself as scarce as possible. I filled the hours of the day with work and classes, and slept over at the beau’s house when I could. The nights I was home I came to dread hearing the front door open, and came to dread leaving my room to cook food or use the bathroom.
Months of living like this took its toll, though, and by the following spring I was at a breaking point. I was venting to my friend at work about how tense it was at my place when she took me by the shoulders. “We have got to get you out of there,” she said.
So she did. One Saturday she and five of my other friends descended on the apartment. I was relieved to find Kurt gone; that meant we could pack in peace. We boxed as much stuff as we could and hauled it to a storage unit. The plan was that I’d couch-surf until the beau’s roommate moved out, and then I’d move in with him.
Afterwards, sweaty and tired, we went out for celebratory Mexican food and margaritas. I felt lighter than I had in a long, long time. So of course I came back the following Monday to get the rest of my stuff only to find Kurt had changed the locks.
I eventually got my things, but not before paying him more money first.
I think of Kurt every time I see a white Mercedes, which is not an uncommon occurrence in this town. I consider this as all kind of funny now, in a wincing kind of way. At the very least I got decent stories to share at parties out of the experience.
LESSON LEARNED: Not every deal on Craigslist is a good one, y’all.
Okay, your turn. Who was your worst roommate?
1 Come on, you’ve seen pictures of him. He may be the same height as me, but he is not “fat.”