“I can see them now! They’re coming over the walls!” Chilling words, made even more frightening by the fact that they were coming from my roommate’s bedroom.
Steve had shown up out of the blue a year earlier. I was working a 3 to 11:30 p.m. shift at a local television station, and I came home from work to find him sacked out on the couch. It’s the spot he occupied almost constantly for the next year.
I was in my mid-20s back in the early ’80s and wanted to get away from the P.B./O.B. beach scene. One of my coworkers had a two-bedroom condo in Del Mar for rent. I took it and then placed an ad in the newspaper for a roommate. After talking to a number of people I settled on John, a low-key accountant who had recently moved out to San Diego from the Midwest. Then John’s brother Steve arrived.
“He just moved out here, and he’ll only be here a couple of weeks until he can find his own place,” said John. What the heck, it was only a couple of weeks, and Steve seemed nice enough.
But John had left out one crucial piece of information. Steve was a full-blown alcoholic with a festering drug problem. His entire day consisted of drinking Jack Daniel’s until he passed out, sleeping for a few hours, waking up, doing crystal meth, and then drinking himself to sleep again. It didn’t help that the condo we lived in was really nothing more than a small two-bedroom apartment that had been converted during the previous real-estate boom, so there was no way that I could avoid Steve or the smell of his unwashed body and the reek of alcohol.
Steve did somehow manage to find a job as a draftsman, but it didn’t improve the situation much. On work days he would return home at four in the afternoon with a brown paper bag under his arm. By five he would be falling-down drunk, slurring unintelligibly, and yelling at the television. On weekends the only time he would move was to go buy more Jack.
A month after John moved in he met his future wife Janice and began spending more and more time with her, away from his drunken brother. I tried to spend as much time away from home as I could myself. I could never bring friends over, or God forbid, an actual date. It was too scary a thought. Every time I tried to bring up the subject of Steve moving out, John would sidestep the issue and disappear, and Steve was always too incoherent to talk about it.
Then came the night when Steve freaked out. At two in the morning I was awakened to the sound of Steve yelling, “Here they come, sergeant! They’re coming over the walls!” I learned later that he thought space aliens were attacking. I armed myself with a baseball bat and slowly opened the door. Steve was naked, jumping around and swinging a hammer at nothing but air. “Steve!” I yelled. He dropped the hammer and then looked at me as if nothing was out of the ordinary. Without saying another word, he lay down on the bed and immediately feel asleep.
I’d finally had enough. The next day I told Steve that he had to go. He moved out a few weeks later. I found a new roommate, a Navy pilot who didn’t drink.
Three years later, my phone rang in the middle of the night. It was Steve, calling to thank me for kicking him out. “You helped me clean up my life,” he said. It was hard to understand him with the noise of the bar in the background and the slurred speech.
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