It must be because he just rode his bike here to meet me, I thought. Why else would a twenty-something male who appeared to be in good health be sweating profusely on a cool fall day?
Sweating aside, he seemed like a nice enough guy. He was talkative and came across as well versed in history and business. He said he was a co-owner of a business here in town and that he worked a lot. He had the first month’s rent with him, and as I had been having little luck in finding a suitable roommate, I gave him the room.
We didn’t cross paths often, but when we did, our brief conversations were cordial. True to his word, he did seem to work a lot. Or, I should say, he wasn’t around often. By the end of the first month our short conversations had become a quick “What’s up?” on the few occasions that I would catch him whisking in or out of the apartment.
It dawned on me that I never did see him move any furniture in. Must have been when I was at work, I reasoned. He never received any mail, either. I began to feel as if I was living with an apparition.
The only thing he kept in the kitchen was a bag of noodles and a jar of pasta sauce. Neither of which were opened; both of which were expired. My food began to disappear. I’d cook four pieces of chicken, eat one, put three in the fridge — and have only one the next morning. I purchased a 30-day supply of protein powder — it lasted one week.
My “What’s up?” greetings became stern, peppered with suspicion.
In the fifth week we passed in the hallway as he was returning to his room from taking a shower. I feigned a smile as he passed and then noticed a familiar smell. A botanical smell. The smell of my hair conditioner!
That afternoon I took stock of my bathroom supplies; my suspicions were confirmed. My hair conditioner was almost empty, and I had just bought the bottle three days prior. What? Is he drinking the stuff? Same with my shampoo, soap, and toilet paper...he had used half a quart of mouthwash in a matter of days!
I had to confront him. I knocked on his bedroom door. No answer. I tested it: locked. He must have whisked off again.
The first of the month arrived. The rent was due, and there was no sign of my mysterious, sweating roommate — not even in passing. Calls to his cell phone were unanswered. Notes on his door just piled up. Days turned into weeks, and though he was neither seen nor heard, his presence, like a phantom in the night, was felt. Food kept disappearing, bath supplies dwindled, garbage piled up.
Then it happened. I was tired after a long day at work. I stood in front of the bathroom mirror, blurry eyed, wearily brushing my teeth when I noticed an unfamiliar taste. I stopped and took a closer look at my toothbrush — there were flecks of lettuce and carrot in the bristles. But I didn’t have a salad... Then it hit me — he’d been using my toothbrush!
After furiously rinsing my mouth out for 15 minutes I set off to his “place of business,” only to be told that they had never heard of him. Great. Short of breaking down his bedroom door — which I would be financially responsible for replacing — I thought of the next best way to rid myself of this phantom menace: an embargo.
I gathered all my bath supplies, food, utensils, plates, cookware, everything, and stored them in my bedroom with the door locked. With no food or bathing (with soap or shampoo, anyway), it wouldn’t be long before I smoked him out.
At the end of the second month I came home to find his bedroom door wide open. Inside were two plates of food scraps, five coffee-stained mugs (that’s where all my mugs went!), some crumpled paper with incomprehensible scribbles, an old copy of Ladies’ Home Journal (huh?), and a few articles of grimy clothing strewn about the room.
Thank goodness, he had finally moved out! Or had he...?
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