The Roommate
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Several times people said, “You should write about him.” I would always respond that, sure, I could but he’s such an exaggerated person that no one would believe the character if he were fictional. I mean who talks like he does? Who nakedly brags so much about his family’s wealth without any sort of self-awareness?

Wait. Stop.

Never tell a story for revenge. I heard that somewhere.

When I first thought of writing this post, I just started free writing. I thought, I’ll just get it all out. I’ll exorcise all of the demons, all of the resentment that I have toward my old roommate. I wrote it all. I started listing all of the little anecdotes and instances, anything and everything he ever did to piss me off. I thought, I won’t refer to him by his real name, I’ll give him a pseudonym. I chose “Dick.” Classic stuff.

Then I took a step back and looked at what I had written and thought, what the hell am I doing here? What is this even about?

Never tell a story for revenge. When I first heard that idea, I rejected it. What’s revenge? When I talk about an ex or about my old roommate, I’m not telling a story for revenge! I’m just telling the truth. These things actually happened. It’s not like I’m making anything up.

It’s only through the silence of a crowd, however, that you come to realize the difference between a story and a public airing of grievances. I’ve talked about my old roommate before, recounted the things that he did that pissed me off. In an article I wrote I outed him as the kind of person who, when learning about my father’s death would ask, “Are you getting an inheritance? Can you buy us a new TV?” I’m fine repeating that one, that one’s special. The rest of the stuff, though, was on the order of “he played video games too much” and “he once opened my bag of Newman O’s without asking.”

Never tell a story for revenge. If you do, you’re probably not telling the whole story.

In physics, it’s called the normal force. When an object that has mass rests on another object, it exerts force, but the object it’s resting on also pushes back. Or, as Nietzsche once said, “…when you gaze long into the abyss. The abyss gazes also into you.”

That’s just my smartypants way of saying that it takes two to tango — and, brother, you’ve gotta let some shit go.

While I was still living with the roommate, who I’ll refer to as RM and not “Dick” despite how clearly hilarious that is, friends who hadn’t seen me in a while would inevitably ask, “So, what has RM done lately?” I would get into it, rattle off a bunch of infractions. I used to joke that I was turning into an Edgar Allan Poe short story where a guy talks so much about an insufferable person that eventually, in a crushing ironic twist, he comes to find he’s the insufferable one. No one ever laughed at that joke.

So, I want to go the other route. I’ve dwelled on the negative enough. There were three times when I thought, “you know, he’s not such a bad guy.”

One

On one of my first attempts to quit smoking, RM asked me how long I had going. I told him I hadn’t had a cigarette in three weeks to which he replied, “I’m proud of you.”

Now, usually being proud of someone confers on the bearer a certain status or seniority, so, I could have resented this. But I didn’t. It actually struck me as oddly sweet. He had quit smoking himself before I even knew him, so, maybe he was sympathizing. I don’t know. It always stuck with me, though.

Two

Once, while playing soccer, I pulled both of my quad muscles. I came home and was in pain. When RM got home he saw me on the couch, and without even a suggestion, he went out and got me some Advil for the pain.

Now, this is a guy who would text me “get milk” simply because I was out of the apartment and capable of running him an errand when I knew damn well that he was home, shirtless, playing video games and drinking bourbon. It was the lack of hesitation that struck me. He could see I was really in pain. In lighter circumstances, he might have messed with me but in this instance, he didn’t. I appreciated that.

Three

I once had a game night for my friends. This was when, among my Brooklyn friends, there was only one baby and my Brooklyn friends still lived in Brooklyn. We played Sir Francis Drake or Celebrity or whatever the hell you call it (bowl full of names, you can say whatever, then one word, then charades, etc.) and generally had a good time. RM came home after his usual revelry, out drinking with friends or at some exclusive, expensive restaurant he would surely tell me about.

He came home earlier than expected and, when he came in, he seemed genuinely intrigued by my friends. He offered everyone some of his bourbon and was nice. I mouthed “sorry” to my friends when he was out of the room but they didn’t care. RM could be quite charming in small doses, which, incidentally, is how I think I came to live with him but that’s neither here nor there. In the kitchen, as I was getting a drink, he said to me, in the sincerest tone I ever heard from him, “you have really nice friends.”

He was right. I did then and I do now. And it occurred to me that RM always had people over but they were never the same people. He would have some friends over for drinks, play hip hop way too loud, and then head out for the night. Then I would see those friends for a month or two. Then there would be some sort of falling out with those friends. Then a new set of friends would appear and RM would hang out with them for a month or two. Then another set and then another.

He didn’t have friends like mine. Maybe he struggled with that.

I recently got a text from RM and I actually thought, “Huh, here’s someone I haven’t heard from in a while,” rather than imagining a vivid scenario in which I kick him down a flight of stairs.

I’ll be honest, what it comes down to is I’m just bitter that he still lives in the Williamsburg apartment that I found and that I had lived in for six years before he moved in. I chose to keep living there for six more years, though, stubbornly waiting for circumstances to change themselves out of some sense of cosmic justice that I thought I was owed. That’s not how things work. I’m in a better place now. That, in a nutshell, is the story of the roommate.

Never tell a story for revenge. I bet if he ever reads this, though, he’ll totally threaten to sue me.

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