Roommates Part 1

This is the post I promised to write ages ago about why I ended up living in a bathroom-less "studio" above a mentally unstable masturbation-superstar and down the hall from an overly friendly heroin addict and his suit of armor.  If you didn't read that one, here it is.

If you've already read it, you are probably wondering "what on Earth could make a person voluntarily subject themselves to that kind of living situation?"

And this is the first installment of my four-part answer:


I shared a room with my younger sister for 15 years.

Sibling cohabitation is not something that I would recommend to parents who aren't trying to foster animosity between their children.

But, to my parents' credit, they had noble intentions.  They made the decision partly out of budgetary restraints and also out of the hope that living in such close quarters would force my sister and I to resolve our differences - which is an admirably optimistic point of view.

Unfortunately, the theory did not take into account just how much my sister and I disagreed with one another.  We fought constantly- sometimes violently - about everything from how loudly she breathed to how much my feet stunk.  Neither of us slept very well because I think we were each afraid of being murdered in our sleep by the other.

But my sister's cat was probably the worst part of all of it.  This particular cat felt that it was necessary to be making loud noises all of the time.  It even made noise in its sleep.  And the noises it made weren't cute little noises, either - they sounded like a duck with a speech impediment choking on a car accident between a truck full of squeaky toys and an ambulance.  Go back and reread that sentence.  It was a work of art.  Okay, now carry on...

When I tried to solve the problem by putting the cat outside, one of two things usually happened:  First, my sister would fly into an animal-rights-inspired rage and say something like "you aren't treating the cat with respect!  She should be treated the same way you would treat a human being!"  And then I'd retort with something along the lines of "Yeah?  Well guess what?  I used to put you outside when you were a baby and were still too stupid to get back in by yourself.  I would definitely put you outside with the cat right now if I thought you wouldn't eventually find your way back in." And we would go back and forth like that until someone either got stabbed with a fork or distracted by a phone call from a boy.

But what usually ended up happening is that the cat would be locked out of the bedroom but not outside of the house.  It seemed like a compromise, but it wasn't.  The cat - having been thrown out - would begin clawing on the door and screeching, which was even worse than the other noises and usually prompted my sister to begin crying and yelling "See? See what you did to her?  She needs me!  And she's all alone and scared out there in the dark!"

In essence, I was forced to choose between a noisy cat and the same cat only noisier plus an angry, angry little sister who didn't have the sense to know that she was being manipulated by a cat who was nocturnal and therefore not at all afraid of the dark.

I chose a tent.

The idea was born out of an epic battle between my sister and myself in which I threatened to move outside and live in a tent "even though I'll probably freeze to death" because she was being so pig-headed.  Obviously I had to move out to the tent or else I would risk losing the argument.

My family owns a good-sized chunk of property in rural North Idaho, so it was not difficult to find a suitable tent site.  I set up my tent close enough to the house to be visible to those who may pity me but far enough away to give the illusion that I may be in actual danger and therefore worthy of pity.

It actually turned out to be a pretty cool little setup.  I began spending more and more time in the tent and one by one, my worldly possessions trickled out there with me.  I think my parents began to fear that I liked living in the tent a little too much and that maybe this experience would lower my standards for future living arrangements (which it did) and that I would eventually settle on being a bum (I have not yet resorted to that, but it is not out of the question.  I think I would be pretty good at being a bum because I am resourceful and fairly unencumbered substance addictions.)

For almost four months, I lived in the tent, as happy as a clam (apparently clams are quite content with life).  All the while my poor mother fought a three-way internal battle between her desire to let me express myself, her natural instinct to keep me from freezing or being eaten by a bear and her fears that I would spend my future as a vagrant because of some gross oversight on her part.

Sometime around November, my mom finally cracked.  She told me that she had decided it was too cold outside for me to be sleeping in a tent.  She never mentioned her fears about my future as a hobo.  I argued with my mom, saying "but Mom, I want to live in the tent!  I like the tent!  Don't you want me to be happy??"  I could see her sanity crumbling, but I had no idea that I would drive her to do what she did next.

She built me a box.

She built me a sound-dampening box in my room inside the house.  I don't know how she made the leap of logic that this wouldn't turn me into a hobo, but she did.

I came home from school one day to find my mother in a chipper mood.  She was cooking and humming and smiling like someone who had just recently been granted a reprieve from their lifelong sentence in a mental institution.   She greeted me as I walked in the door:  "Hi sweetheart!  How was your day?"

Me:  "Good...."  I was suspicious already.

Mom:  "Did you learn anything in school?"

Me: "Oh, just the usual - like how to cook meth and give a blow job... what's going on?"

Mom: "What?  Oh, nothing..."  (She looked away and began chuckling to herself)  "Are you going to go into your room?"

I dropped my books and backpack on the floor and sprinted to my room, at which point I noticed the sound-dampening super-fort that my mother had built for me.

Me:  "Mom?  What is this?"

Mom:  "That's your new home, Sweetie"

Me:  "But I live in a tent... remember?"

Mom:  "Oh, your dad and I already packed up the tent.  We thought you wouldn't miss it once you saw that we made this for you instead."

Me:  "You want me to live in a box in my own room?"

Mom:  "It's made out of soundboard so you won't be able to hear the cat.  It will be fun!  Like living in a fort.  You used to love forts when you were little."

Me:  "Yeah, but that's because I was five, Mom."

Mom: (looking a little hurt) "You don't like it?"

Me: (feeling guilty for hurting my mom's feelings) "No... I... I like it.  It's just that... I don't know how you think that this is a better idea than a tent."

Mom: "It's November, Allie.  We live in Idaho.  It is going to snow soon and there are bears and mountain lions. They are going to be attracted by the food you are hoarding out there and then they will eat you and you'll die."

Me: "What do I do when my friends come over?"

Mom: "Ask them if they want to see your awesome fort?"

Me:  "Normal parents don't do this to their children, Mom."

Mom: "Just go check out your fort.  I put up all of your pictures inside of it and everything."

I reluctantly crawled inside the box/fort.   It wasn't actually as bad as I thought it would be.  My mom had indeed hung up pictures of me and my friends.  She may have tried to sneak in a family picture or two.  I couldn't stand up inside of it, but I could crawl around comfortably.  And my mom was right - I couldn't hear the cat.

I lived in the box-fort for close to six months before we moved and I finally got my own room for the first time in my life.  It almost seemed cruel that I had to go away to college to live in a cramped dorm room with a passive-aggressive crazy person so soon after finally discovering the freedom of having my own space.

Up next: The passive aggressive roommate.