In the summer of 2001, shortly after graduating with a master’s in politics, I landed a one-year internship with the Congressional Hunger Center to study poverty and food banks in Phoenix, Arizona. I was young, idealistic, and wanted to save the world. Although I was earning close to nothing, the fellowship did provide rent-free living in a swanky furnished two-bedroom apartment near Scottsdale.
I arrived at the apartment a few days after my roommate and immediately noticed that she had taken it upon herself to claim the master bedroom and the majority of the shelving space. The coffee table in the living room was decorated with personal photo albums. When I finally met her — Marisa — she offered no apologies and no excuses, just a blank look on her face.
The girl and I never hit it off. She suggested that we carpool together to the food bank but never volunteered her vehicle. I dropped the carpool after a couple of weeks. Although constantly bragging about what a lavish upper-class upbringing she had had in Chicago, she lived as miserly as possible.
The first couple of weeks I took the trash out several times before realizing that she never did. I stopped taking the trash out. The trash piled up, doubling the size of the trash bins in the bathroom and the kitchen. I think the only thing I liked about her was her long, beautiful, silky hair — however, it shed in the shower and would clog the drain. She never bothered removing the hair from the drain, either. My options were to stand in inches of tub water while showering or remove disgusting gobs of mildewy hair from the drain.
One Friday afternoon I set out to meet my boyfriend from San Diego in Yuma. Before even exiting the parking lot, I realized that I had forgotten something and returned to the apartment. There was Marisa, angrily mashing a chocolate cake that I had made a couple of days prior down the garbage disposal.
“What the hell are you doing?” I said. She, without skipping a beat, and with that blank look on her face, said only one thing: “The cake fell.”
The straw that broke the camel’s back was when I ordered a bottle of perfume online. I received an email notification that the perfume had been delivered and signed for at the apartment-rental office. I dropped by and was informed that the package had been signed for and picked up by my roommate. When I questioned Marisa about the package, she adopted that blank look and said, “I did pick up a package, but it was a birthday gift from my boyfriend.”
But I had proof that the perfume had been delivered and signed for! I accused her of stealing it. She denied everything, saying only that the package she had picked up was one from her boyfriend. I told her that I would believe her if she could come up with proof that her boyfriend had indeed sent her a package. Of course she could not. What was I to do?
While at work the next day I decided to go back to the apartment at lunch to search her belongings. Marisa was never home for lunch. As I was entering the front door of the apartment I realized that someone was right behind me. It’s Marisa! She ran into her room and then dashed right back out, past me and out of the apartment. My biggest regret is not tackling her down the stairs from our second-story place, retrieving the perfume that I know she had stashed on her.
I called the program directors of the Congressional Hunger Center and told them what had happened, sending them proof of the delivered perfume and my roommate’s thievery. I requested that they relocate her to another site. They preferred that we mediate the situation. I opted for quitting and moving back to San Diego, but not before exacting my own revenge — I urinated into her bottle of shampoo.
I could have handled the situation better, but every time I think of her beautiful hair, I smile.
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