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Worldwide Ace » A Full House Divided

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A Full House Divided

30 May, 2011 (13:07) | Social Commentary

I burn.

Superficially my skin is pink and tender. Beneath the surface, however, it’s rage and anger that causes the gut-wrenching fire blazing inside of me. The two are unrelated—the former brought upon myself from a long day in the sun and my ill-prepared approach sans sunscreen—but their coincidence seems nearly fortuitous. Despite the raging inferno within, my rosy complexion humorously balances the intimidating words impatiently driving outward.

The heart of the speech centers around “inconsiderate bitch” and “show some respect” with a healthy dose of “grow the fuck up” mixed in for good measure. It’s a collection of words I don’t relish using, but the situation has tempered my normally diplomatic approach. No matter how far removed from my home I get, I still feel the clenched heat searing inside me.

There’s a certain amount of decency and respect I expect from house guests. Our apartment is hardly large, and while it’s possible to comfortably fit more than the three residents here, our lifestyle is designed and adjusted to having our personal space without worry. With more house mates, however long they’re here for, the situation can quickly become wearisome.

About a month ago, my friend Jeff informed me he was coming to town and looking for a place to stay. I informed my roommates and, with no objections, I offered up the futon that acts as a couch in my room. Two weeks later, my roommate informed me that he was having a house guest at the same time. Suddenly, I hadn’t just offered up my personal space, but had my public space offered up too.

Our two guests arrived the same night. Due to the sudden appearance of a new job, another friend being in town, and a steady stream of social and work-related events, the first few days I was scarce, only interacting when passing through.

While Jeff has consistently been an excellent house guest, respectful and grateful and remaining self-reliant, my roommate’s house guest quickly descended upon our space as if it were her own. The kitchen was in shambles, the living room packed with her friends (and without her host), and a general indifference to us residents seemed her modus operandi. Her personal affronts to me were so minor and inconsequential that I simply attempted to distance myself.

Any of these things, separate or combined, were not enough for me to take action. The unquantifiable, indescribable instance that changed that was the way she treated my roommate, her host.

SIDE NOTE: I’m not sure I ever would have described my roommate as a close friend. Before we lived together, we were friends, playing games together, traveling in the same circles, and while we weren’t close, we enjoyed an amicable relationship. As with nearly every roommate I’ve ever had, living together changed how and when we interacted. We’ve remained friends despite our arguments and contentions; we know each other better, spend more time around each other, but hang out less. Our interactions are, in many ways, more a matter of happenstance and circumstance than they are of desire. I spend a lot of time complaining about my roommate’s flaws and idiosyncrasies, so readily apparent at times that I’ve had thorough conversations with friends about their issues with him. He’s a kvetch lacking in social graces, who quickly closes doorways to opportunities and experiences out of stubbornness and unhealthy and misguided hedonism. Beneath the surface, he is like so many of my friends, a truly kindhearted man whose intelligence, antisocial tendencies, and personal demeanor have led to a seemingly alienated and lonely existence. It’s a condition against which I’ve struggled, albeit for different reasons, and for which I have a great deal of empathy.

I have often watched the way people are treated and silently shaken my head. Occasionally, I’ve spoken up and attempted to bring recognition to a transgressor, yet almost always respectfully and privately. Only twice can I remember taking a direct and confrontational route to the same end, both times when a good friend was at fault. In every case that I’ve taken action, I’ve felt the problem was egregious.

It’s hard to say how exactly my roommate has been mistreated, but I can see the anguish on his face and hear the disappointment in his voice. To a certain extent, I know he lets himself be taken advantage of, simply as a cost of interaction. I’ve had my share of utilitarian relationships where I’ve provided a service in exchange for friendship or offered friendship in exchange for a service, but never have these interactions been disrespectful or inconsiderate. His stress level trying to accommodate his so-called friend, the adjustments to his busy schedule, and her steady dismissal of his kindnesses have gone above and beyond anything I’ve ever seen.

What’s worse is that she may well be unaware that she’s doing anything wrong.

The door opens to darkness, my rage-filled preparations for naught as my home is free of interlopers and welcome guests alike. In a way, I’m relieved. I have no desire to tell her off. As I go to close the door behind me, I hear my roommate holler from the parking lot.

“I had a talk with Erin last night,” he tells me as we settle in.

“I’m glad,” I reveal in response. “If you hadn’t, I was getting ready to.”

“Well, it wasn’t so much a talk as it was me breaking down, but I think things will be better.” I can hear the relief in his voice, as if everything will be just fine. I have my doubts, but already I’m feeling more sedate. He laughs. “Wait. Why would you talk to her? What did she do to you?”

My roommate’s naiveté is refreshing, a return to normalcy in a hectic week in which I’ve struggled to remain comfortable in my own skin. I’m torn. If I reveal my anger at her treatment of him, I risk emasculating him and possibly myself.  “She’s just seemed really inconsiderate in general,” I tell him.

“Really?” he replies, unconvincingly surprised. “In what way.”

“She borrowed a water bottle last night. This morning, I found it in the sink full of sticky gunk.” I hope it’s a good enough explanation, but already he’s apologizing for her.

I let his words flow by unheeded, nodding a phatic understanding.

For the remainder of her stay, she will get no kindness from me. The fire within no longer rages, but it still smolders. All she needs do is stoke it, my fury held back until I have cause and kindling.