the worst

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?

RIGHT. ROOMMATE.

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.

Oh… kay?

***

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.”

15 Responses to “the worst”

  1. Shit, that’s scary.

  2. This doesn’t come close but…
    My alcoholic Japanese roommate regularly let food/pans/pots burn/melt/catch fire on the stove when he passed out each night. He also was convinced we were a couple and took my moving out as a brutal break-up. This is how he described it to our joint academic department head and I was brought in for a ‘conference’ to discuss the ‘inappropriate relationship.’

  3. For the same reasons you mentioned, I rented a cheap room from a really creepy older dude. Highlights: He was super OCD, he re arranged my box of tampons in the bathroom we did not share, and I later found out from his equally strange ex girlfriend that he was a convicted sex offender. Lesson learned: Google does not crawl the sex offender registries, you have to look that stuff up specifically.

    • That is INCREDIBLY disturbing. Yeesh. I hadn’t even thought of the sex offender aspect at the time! Rearranging your tampons? I am seriously skeeved.

  4. I made the really stupid decision to move out of the house the summer before college into a house with way too many people. People thisclose to vagrants. People I knew through going to far to many terrible garage/punk shows. The plan was to host said shows in the basement and not have to pay much rent. It worked brilliantly. At least that part did. I went on vacation as usual for a week over the fouth of july with my family and came back to find that some loser dude had moved into my room, The room had been completely rearranged, my stuff rifled through (I had locked the door before going away for the week). The story ended similarly a few weeks later after a few particularly bad days in a row except it was my dad that helped me move out, in tears, at 6 am on a Sunday.

    • Who the eff just MOVES INTO SOMEONE’S room? Like, oh, I’d like the dresser over here now, and I wonder if they have any good shit in any of these drawers.

      ????????????

      Mind. Boggled.

  5. Sweet weeping Jesus! What a nightmare! I happily have no roommate horror stories — the closest I come is having a terrible Bulgarian neighbor with awful taste in music in my student housing in Germany (singles on a hall, common kitchen, etc.), which seems like a breeze compared to this.

  6. my very first roommate did many things including:
    * regularly threw hippie ragers in our apartment where he would empty the contents of the fridge (that contained only food purchased by me) to hold the 5 gallon of beer. i would come home from my second shift of the day to passed out hippies all over my living room and my food rotting in the bathtub.
    * while i was away, threw a party and broke into my room in order to have a “nitrous room”, which when i came home, contained a 6 foot tall empty nitrous tank and a million little pieces of balloon that had exploded.
    * sold weed out of our house that ended up with the police rifling through my underwear drawers at 2am as well as our apartment getting broken into and dirty bong water being poured all over my couch.
    * allowed his friends to move into the living room (with all of their belongings- including 2 couches) and then left town. only came back to move his belongings out after the lease ran out.
    * didn’t tell anyone he had adopted 2 turtles and was keeping them in his (hoarders style) room, so when he moved out, they just…died.
    it is amazing the environment one will allow oneself to live in when rent is cheap. sigh. at least i made it out alive.

    • Holy crap Jessica, that is TRULY AWFUL! Oh my god. Is it bad I’m laughing? It’s all so ridiculously painful.

      And those poor turtles!

      • oh laugh away, i regularly do (through the tears). the saddest part is i remember at the time thinking it wasn’t THAT bad.

  7. This is actually Tony’s roommate story, but since I regularly stayed there, I own it a bit, too. When Tony and I first started re-dating, he was looking for new roommates. He placed an ad in Craigslist, and ended up with 2 new roommates. The first roommate was this crazy girl who would wash her clothes in the bathtub and then leave them draped all over the (only) bathroom and the (only) living area. She had the sofas and chairs covered with her crap and her computer (with hideous World Culture musaac blaring) on the dining table so that we had no place to sit, cook or eat. She cooked everything in tons of oil and never cleaned anything in the kitchen. Every kitchen item he owned had to be scrubbed before he could move into my place because it was coated in oil. She placed non-biodegradable stuff in the composter and effed it up completely. Worst, though, she spent gobs and gobs of money on imported Italian water in glass bottles and other “groceries,” didn’t have a job and then didn’t pay her rent. For months. Tony agreed to let her off the hook for the last month’s rent if she would organize the moving sale and run that for him. She didn’t pay rent, FLAKED on the moving sale, and then got pissy with me when I accidentally put a couple of fancy coasters out for the sale (she had left them laying out with Tony’s stuff).

    The second roommate was a guy who seemed nice enough, but brought fleas home from his job (he worked at the zoo) and then withheld rent from Tony for months because of the flea infestation that was sourced back to HIS CLOSET. There were no pets in the house.

    Between the two of them, they cost Tony THOUSANDS of dollars in rent, cleaning and pest-control fees.

    I only use Craigslist for finding yard sales and furniture.

  8. That’s way scary. Way.

    My worst roommate: Angela. A Winnie from the Wonder Years look-alike, but taller.

    Angela was my first ever roommate and we met up by good ol’ luck of the draw my first semester in college. Soon after her parents left, her boyfriend moved in. I didn’t know it though because he lived under her bed (we lived in on-campus housing in a room the size of a matchbox. The room contained a bunk bed, a sink and one closet that could snugly hold three good-sized coats. Showers and toilets were communal and down the hall). I didn’t find out about his moving in until three weeks after school had already begun.

    Angela was also a vampire (at least I think she was because she would sleep all day and stay awake all night). During the day, because she was sleeping, I spent as little time as possible in the room. And at night, because I’m such a sound sleeper, their nighttime shenanigans occurred unnoticed by me – which is why it took me so long to know he’d moved in.

    Angela only ate raw brownie dough and she ate it in the closet. Each night (ok, almost every night) as I got ready for bed, she would whisk up a box of brownie mix. I’d wash my face and turn off the light and she’d sit in the closet (so as not to use a light and offend me? I really don’t know…she didn’t speak much) and eat her brownie mix.

    Angela flunked out after the first semester and that’s how I scored a room all to myself the second semester of my freshman year.

    Now that I think about it – if Angela hadn’t been a brownie eating under the bed boyfriend hoarding vampire, I might not have had that room all to myself, which might have precluded me from ever experiencing that ohmygodthisisawesomewhoohoosexytimeswithagirl feeling.

    Wow. Angela is the reason I’m gay.

    Yeah, probably not.

    Still, every single line of what I just wrote is true.

    Thanks for the memory! 😉

  9. Oh my GAWD.

    I’ve had some really sketchy roommates. My worst time was similar, when I lived with FOUR of those guys instead of one. I cried almost every night. I was also 19 and not nearly confident enough for that situation.

  10. Holy crap, these stories are insane! This makes my freshman-year roommate (who gabbed on the phone with her boyfriend until 2am EVERY NIGHT even after I asked her to take the cordless phone outside our room so I could sleep) look positively angelic.

  11. OOOOH! I love the worst roommate stories! I moved into a shit apartment in Burbank with a guy friend. Turns out:
    1. He was total whore and there were strange girls, DIFFERENT girls making coffee in my kitchen every morning. One was named Deja and iI asked her, “As in vu?” She didn’t like that.
    2. He had been in a terrible car accident when he was 18 and no longer had a sense of smell. He was super paranoid about the kitchen trash and keeping dishes clean, which was nice. He didn’t have the same concern for his bedroom/bathroom. Ew.
    3. Drunk constantly and pee’d on my couch once when he passed out there.
    4. I spent a lot of time at my BF’s house. I came home one night to an eviction notice on my door. Apparently, he’d had loud parties in my absence – so many that the warnings has become a reality. I convinced the landlord to let us stay.
    5. We moved in together in October. We got a Christmas tree for the holidays. The tree had to be moved out with our stuff in APRIL. We were just too lazy to take it down.
    6. He was a little guy and we could actually wear each others clothes. There was a permanent trade when we parted ways – he took one of my belts and I took his Kangol hat, which I still have and wear.

    He wasn’t a BAD guy, he was just well on his way to creepy. He found me on Facebook a few years ago. He IM’d me there and said he was coming to Nashville “for a while” and could he stay with me? I immediately unfriended him with no response. I mean, I hadn’t heard from or seen the guy since 1995. WTF?

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