Since I was “in between” apartments and sleeping on a friend’s couch, I was overjoyed when Steve, a regular at the restaurant I was waitressing at, offered me the sublet of his room for the summer.
I arrived early in the morning with my car stuffed with my few belongings (including two cats) to meet the residents of my new home for the first time. The marijuana smoke curling out of the door when they answered it should have been a sign. But I was in a jam, and they were awfully nice, all three of them — Ian, Matt, and Bridget. And they continued to be awfully nice, although after a few days I couldn’t help but notice that most of the time they were also awfully naked — and often engaged in sexual relations in communal areas that I would have thought were off limits, such as the kitchen table and the living room couch.
I often wore a bandanna over my nose and mouth — looking as if I were about to hold up a stagecoach — in an effort to try to breathe through all the secondhand smoke. I endeavored to be polite and offhand upon awakening to various naked and unfamiliar people sleeping in the living room. The situation eventually started to rankle.
The main bathroom (boasting the only shower) was located between Ian’s and Matt’s bedrooms, with no access but through one of their rooms. This was a bit of a challenge for several reasons.
One, having seen things happen in our shared public spaces that I did not wish to see, I was loath to discover what my lascivious roommate Ian might be doing behind closed doors. Two, Matt’s room resembled the aftermath of a massive piñata party, with some risk of personal injury in any attempt to cross. Regardless of which room I chose, I also had to be fearful of both occupants, either of whom could possibly lurch out of the darkness like a giant spider and engulf me in a druggy amorous embrace from which I would find it difficult to extricate myself.
Despite the incessant burning joints, frequent and elaborate tea ceremonies, and continual birthday suits, all was not peaceful in this hippie haven. There were frequently tearful, naked women about, each one distraught at having discovered another naked woman emerging from a bedroom or bath.
At one point, unbeknownst to me, my roommates applied a home-remedy salve to a minor rash that one of my cats had — keeping it nice and moist until sepsis finally set in. He required a sizable quantity of antibiotics to recover.
One morning, emerging from my room, I ran into Matt, who, as was his custom, was clad in a very short blue robe — so short that one had to hope that he wouldn’t reach for anything while wearing it. He came forward to greet me in his usual ethereal, enthusiastic manner, stopping barely a foot from me, smiling placidly, large brown eyes all pupil.
“There were some evil spirits on your cat this morning, but I chased them off.” He said this with the self-effacing smile of a person who has done a good deed and expects to be thanked for it.
“Thanks,” I said weakly. “That’s great.” I quickly escaped to the bathroom through his bedroom minefield.
The final nail in our living-situation coffin was the Coconut Incident. One day Matt, audibly upset, called me at home to ask if I had “moved [his] coconut.” I ran through the contents of the fridge and scanned the countertops and told him that I didn’t see it, nor did I recall ever having seen it.
“No,” Matt replied, in a perfectly rational voice. “It was behind the back door, near the clothes dryer.” Matt explained that he had placed the coconut there to “absorb the destructive spirits” in the apartment and that moving it had caused “damage to the dimension to which it was connected.”
He seemed to indicate that the necessity for this protection had something to do with absorbing Ian’s bad energy (or something — I didn’t really understand what he was saying). Of course, it didn’t help matters when it was revealed that it was Ian himself who had discovered the rotting coconut behind the door and tossed it in the garbage.
Matt tried to explain the gravity of the situation to me, but as he frequently began his sentences with “I realize that this deals with a dimension you don’t understand,” I found it difficult to appreciate the situation as much as he would have liked. I tried a gentle tack, suggesting that if he felt the need to hide fruit in the common spaces of the apartment, he should to let us know — otherwise, a logical person might conclude that the coconut had rolled out of someone’s grocery bag.
No dice. “This is war!” declared the usually peaceful space cadet, and I found myself spending the better part of the evening mediating the disagreement between Matt and Ian. (“Now, Matt, tell Ian how it made you feel when he touched your coconut.”)
In the end, Matt was placated only after we placed a coconut in every room. This was somewhat inconvenient, as it was August, and the coconuts turned syrupy and soft within hours and attracted fruit flies that appeared out of nowhere. No one had the audacity to throw the decomposing “destructive-spirit absorbers” out.
“It’s me or the coconuts!” was an ultimatum I couldn’t bring myself to deliver. I was worried I’d be on the losing end, having — as far as I knew — no powerful dimension connections to offer.
As a courtesy reprieve to my replacement, albeit a probably temporary one, I tossed my room’s coconut out as I vacated the premises. I do not know if the next person suffered the attentions of extra-dimensional evil spirits.
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