STORYGLOSSIA    Issue 25    December 2007


The Roommate


by Stephanie Beebe



I met the roommate the night I learnt my father had been struck dead. I couldn't conjure an image of his defeated body glued to the street, and this depressed me; I had waited years for news this great. I called past selling hours, fingering the hand-written calling card, boasting he dole exclusively in hallucinogens, God blessed goodness. I buzzed him into my apartment, unlocked the front door then shuffled back to bed and lit a cigarette, forgoing all hopes of pleasantries. He came inside, squinting in the blue darkness of television misery.

Everything you have.

Nice, he laughed, opening a black Eastpak, you having some sort of party?

A graduation of sorts.

That's cool, he smiled, reaching inside his satchel, and without looking, removed a Ziploc container wrapped carefully in laundry softener sheets. He opened the box of stinky-sweet from a room away bud, and said, you look like you need some taking care of, then sliced open a White Owl.



My apartment is balmy from smoking long, juicy blunts. He suggests we leave for food, or movies, or a friend's party, but instead we watch fuzzy Simpson's reruns and play chess. If he gets up to cook, I pull a chair near the stove and weed seeds from a bag of smoke. When he excuses himself to pee I sit on the tub and watch. The first few times he complained I was getting him hard.

We live in squalid circumstances; the floors are covered in sticky grime, and sneaker marks, cat litter pulsating with shit, cigarette burns and butts, soda rings, opened, fermenting delivery bags, and unidentifiable, black hairs. It is nothing less than foul. I've watched documentaries where rabid animals live better. We sit on the couch, insistently squishing thighs, forearms and feet together. At one point he hangs heavily across my arm to ash his cigarette and I stop breathing. As he leans back I smell his cologne, and suddenly I am thirteen-years-old again, sitting uncomfortably, hoping lightly, on the jutting knees of my eighth grade crush in the backseat of his mom's car. I am swooning inside as I press an unlit cigarette to my mouth. He torches the brown, extending his index finger to briefly graze my bottom lip; and I can only think, oh, I would let him chew the fat off me. I pull a bit of turtleneck over my mouth to hide the unremitting smile. Don't do that, he says tapping my hand; I can't see you like that.

I do not deny that I would readily be this man's slave, but he snickers at my every remark. He has freckles and spots, and easily I see how he could rearrange me into someone I wouldn't recognize, calling his mother earlier than dawn, begging her to tell me how he liked his sandwiches cut, down the middle or sideways? She'd pretend not to understand the big deal, and avoid the question, keeping the secret for her and him. He is all that I will never accomplish; too occupied with my well constructed hell, face down in a pillow praying for the strength of suicide so he would know how he fouled me.

Yet, admittedly, I am intrigued. I anticipate that all which is hidden inside me will be dug loose by him. He is convenient and effortless, closer than any neighbor.



He looks at me with cowboy intention, removes his Trilby, then grabs my jaw in both hands and makes himself at home. For the rest of my life, every time a man initiates the purpose of removal, my body will tense in remembrance of this plunder. I kiss the rough thread of his cheek and the green vein bright in his neck, lips perfectly bowed in cherry chapstick sweetness. I can't look at anything but the strained veins in his disappearing forearm as I crush myself against the nearest wall for support, and eventually, bombardment. There is no greater rush than being pinned and stapled, feet and legs; laid flat by the weight of him. My ribs clean the floor as he pushes up and in, and every cell runs to greet him. He tosses an arm over my head in approach of the wall, holding my mouth open with two fingers. I linger face down on the floor, all of me soggy like long neglected cereal. He says the grotesque, and I have no words to describe my happy horror; his declaration of worship the sure demise.

I accommodate him against my better judgment, not knowing what he does without me. Hiding from daylight, too ashamed to answer my friends because the roommate has reduced me to cud. I should have him at my feet, ready for me at all minutes of the day. Instead I pine; accustomed to him like an afternoon shit. I'm not really like this. He's doing this to me. I stock the fridge and buy some condoms. I pace the kitchen floor, gripping sanity like fading light, motherfucking him up and down. I smoke a bowl to relax, then shut the lights and climb into an early bed. I can sleep through him. Nothing more than a boy, I chant quietly, scribbling down my interior monologue so tomorrow I know whether or not I am crazy.

I spend my time walking aimlessly into traffic, stomach aching, haven't eaten in days. A suit in a SUV pulls up short at a stop sign. I puff on my one-hitter, staring indignantly at him. This is a showdown. Do I accept his compliment, raise a dainty hand and skip hurriedly, politely across? Do I fudge the invite, walk around the back of his car and down the opposite street? I continue puffing, too stoned to move, taunting him with a smirk. He taps his horn twice, in case I had missed the gallant act. I close my eyes and wave a deft hand in his direction, imitating, fuck off; offended, he beats the car horn then peels into traffic. Immediately I feel better, powerful.



I only wanted to be close to him, and now I want to tear my hair out by the roots. The building anger deafens, eases, and then ascends with further fury and determination. I hate his tiny, insignificant core and low accent, his dressy scarves, and the way he tells me to, stop biting my nails. I hate him straight to his ankles and then again. I lay on the floor hating his footsteps, the dirt he ground into my house, his exuding filthiness. I hope he dies a mule drawn carriage of agony and suffering.

I thought about returning to us, gathered the lines I would speak and the eyes I would make. I was prepared to grovel for my position, show him that I was remorseful and prideless, that I had been deaf to his wonders. I imagined what we do that night, how easily I could come home; he wouldn't make me beg.

Tell me our story, I'd say.

Aren't you tired of that yet?

No, tell me. No one else can.

And he'd like that.


Copyright©2007 Stephanie Beebe