This is a brief story about the miserable 3 months I spent living in off-campus student housing while attending summer classes. This tale takes place immediately after moving out of the House From Hell and before moving into the awesome apartment in which Roommate Jessica and I lived for the remainder of our 2 years of college.
Living Away From Home Year 2.5
Off-Campus Student Housing
(The Curse of Creepy Roommate Mary)
On the day I moved out of the House From Hell, I was filled with relief and minor apprehension about moving into my temporary apartment. I had found an add for an off-campus university-owned apartment sublet on one of the student bulletin boards on campus. I met with a girl who was spending the summer semester abroad, but returning for the school year and didn't want to move out permanently, but didn't want to pay 3 months of rent on a place she wasn't living in or leave her roommate in a lurch. Fair enough. I met with her and she seemed really nice and pretty cool. (I think her name was Amy. It's not important, but for all intents and purposes of this story, her name was Amy.) Amy showed me the first-floor apartment, where my room would be and also offered to let me store any extra furniture I had that wouldn't fit in the already-furnished apartment in her storage unit she rented in the rental facility next to the apartment building. In other words, Amy was awesome and when she vouched that her roommate, Mary, was really chill and down-to-earth, I took her at her word and signed the sublet lease without ever meeting my new temporary roommate, Mary. Let me repeat that-I agreed to live with a stranger without ever meeting said stranger. A word of advice: Never ever do this.
Now, the University Apartments (known on campus as the UA) had a very strict no pets policy, so unfortunately my furbaby ferrets had to live elsewhere for 3 months and I missed them terribly. Fortunately, Brian let them stay in one of his spare rooms and gave me a key to his house so I could visit every day, and I returned the favor by feeding his kitty and sugar gliders when he went on vacation. I actually credit this time spent with Brian for why we still stay in touch to this day. He drove me a little crazy when we lived together, but he was a damn good friend. So, with the ferrets taken care of, I just had to move the rest of my crap from the House From Hell over to the UA, a short distance away.
The UA complex was a few blocks further away from campus than the House From Hell, but it wasn't the worst walk in the world except that is was mostly uphill on the way to campus. The UA buildings were built in the 70's, so aside from the outdated style of the buildings, and the probability that they were filled with lead-based paint, they were nice. My apartment was cozy and pleasant enough for being in a building that sat directly next to a very active railroad track and a drug rehab halfway house. (I wish I was joking.) With all of these oddities, I figured I was only going to be there for 3 months, I could handle living with a stranger in a slightly outdated building next to a train track and recovering drug addicts. No problem.
Those were the longest 3 months of my life.
Map not to scale
I was mostly moved into the apartment on my first day when Mary the Roommate came home from work or wherever she was all day. I had my arms full of stuff when I encountered her for the first time in the living room. Our initial exchange went something like this:
Me: (Arms full of clothes or something)"Oh hi! Are you Mary?" Mary: (Looking at me as though I were an alien) "Yeah." (Note: she said this in a suspicious, yet snarky tone as if to say, "well duh who else would I be? But who the shit are you?!") Me: (Slightly taken aback at her lack of outgoing-ness, but determined to be friendly)"Oh. Well, hi. I'm Jess, I'm subletting for Amy." Mary: "Hmm. Hi."(After standing there awkwardly for a beat, we exchanged a couple more pleasentries like "what's your major?" etc. Then, I went to put my stuff down in my room and by the time I came back out to the living room to make conversation, Mary the Roommate had gone into her room and closed the door)
Being so relieved to be out of the House From Hell, I was willing to give Mary the Roommate the benefit of the doubt -maybe she was shy, maybe she was tired from being at work, Amy had said Mary the Roommate was quiet and down-to-earth, so maybe I just caught her off guard. This would be one of many lessons in my life that taught me that sometimes people are just creepy assholes for no reason.
In the 3 months I lived in that apartment, Mary the Roommate and I were rarely home at the same time. In fact, in the entire 3 months we lived under one roof, our total time spent conversing with one another would equal about 5 minutes. Despite not being around each other a lot, this eerie unwelcome feeling hung over me especially when Mary the Roommate was home. I was fairly active during those 3 months, I went to summer classes and worked as a delivery driver for Pizza Hut at night (that, alone deserves it's own blog entry, so I won't get into it now) and I spent as much time with my ferrets at Brian's house as possible. Any free time I had, I spent looking for a more permanent apartment to move into with Roommate Jessica, who was on a mission trip all summer. Even with all this activity to keep me busy and distracted from myself, it didn't change the fact that I felt very empty that summer. I felt this unpleasant aura and a cold pit in my stomach any time I was in the apartment, and that feeling increase exponentially when Mary the Roommate was around.
With the stress of searching for a better yet affordable apartment all on my own, not having my "babies" around all the time, feeling super lonely, and having a major bout of depression and anxiety after a trauma that happened at the end of my sophomore school year, I was in really bad shape. Mix all of that with a roommate who not only wanted nothing to do with me, but would go out of her way to passive-aggressively remind me that I was only a temporary resident in her apartment, and you get a nervous breakdown waiting to happen. Never mind the fact that I was paying my fair share of the rent and utilities on time, in Mary the Roommate's eyes, I was an intruder. That summer marked the beginning of my downward spiral of poor dietary decisions mostly due to depression, which wasn't entirely Mary the Roommate's fault, but she certainly seemed to know how to add fuel to the emotionally distraught fire. Here are a few examples:
-The apartment was equipped with cheap fluorescent lighting, so if I opened the curtains to let natural light in, Mary the Roommate would close them if I left the room, even if it was only for a moment. This convinced my mom that Mary the Roommate was a vampire.
-Aside from our first conversation the day I moved in, she made little-to-no effort to get to know me. I know i was only a temporary resident, but would it have killed her to be friendly? I don't know, maybe it actually would...
-She never sat and watched Friends re-runs with me after I asked her if she wanted to, even though she owned several of TheBest of Friends dvds in the entertainment unit. I finally stopped asking after a while.
-If she was watching TV in the living room and I joined her, she would go to her room and close the door at the commercial break. I could then hear the rest of the show playing on her TV in her bedroom.
-If we were both home at the same time, and I was eating in the kitchen nook or in front of the TV, she would eat her meals in her room with the door shut.
-If there were 4 dishes in the sink and 3 of them were hers, she would only ever wash her own, even if my dirty "dish" was only a spoon. Whereas, I washed all the silverware in the sink so there would always be enough clean spoons/forks to eat with.
-If I got home later than she did, she would never even leave the porch light on for me. In fact one evening I was sitting on the porch with a friend of mine when Mary the Roommate came home. I said "hi" and she said nothing. After she had been inside for a few minutes, she turned the porch light out, leaving my friend and I sitting outside in the dark.
Finally, the glorious day came when I got to move out. As usual, Mary the Roommate left early that morning without a word (no doubt to go buy champagne to celebrate my imminent departure.) My mom came into town to help me move all of my things to an awesome two bedroom apartment where I would end up living for the next two years with Roommate Jessica. My mom and I spent all day moving everything out of my UA apartment, except my vacuum and some cleaning supplies which I left in my room to signify that even though my stuff was gone, Mary the Roommate could see that I planned to come back to clean up. When my mom and I finally returned later that afternoon to do some final cleanup in the apartment for Amy, it was clear that Mary the Roommate had returned for a brief amount of time and left again. There where newly dirtied dishes in the sink and, true to form, Mary had closed all of the curtains in the apartment. My mom clucked her tongue and reiterated her belief of Mary the Roommate's vampirism. We laughed about it, finished cleaning, returned the key to the apartment manager, and left without a second look back.
I never did learn what horrible offense -whether real or imagined- I carried out that caused Mary the Roommate to loathe my presence so much, but nor do I really care; and much like Fucking Joe, I don't care enough to remember her last name either. I sort of wish I had some amusing tale to tell of how I exacted my revenge on her, but I don't. Life's too short to stay pissed about the little shit like that. For years afterward, though I simply referred to her as Creepy Roommate Mary.