I think I’ve finally figured out why I can’t recycle: my roommate doesn’t like to see how much she drinks.
When I get home after work, she tends to vanish at the sight of me, jerking upright from the couch with wide, deer-in-headlight eyes, something clutched to her chest as she scurries in the opposite direction. Before I can take off my shoes and set my things down, her bedroom door is closing or she’s outside in the darkness on the porch where cigarette butts and old cans get hidden away. Some nights, she reappears a minute or two later, talking rapid fire as if I’m the audience for her verbal diarrhea. Some nights, she acts like a prairie dog, her head popping in and out of her room, seemingly waiting for me to settle in my own.
“He doesn’t like when I’m drunk,” she tells me of her boyfriend. Yet he laughs as he talks about drinking tequila on the skateboard ride over, nearly falling into traffic, and offering us shots as I try to ignore them and make my dinner.
“I’m drinking so much less,” she tells me, false pride in her voice. It’s interesting how the words coming from her mouth don’t match up with the empty shooters of vodka that appear haphazardly left in the lawn.
“I’ll be right back,” she says as she darts across the living room, b-lining it past me on her way out the door. She shows up again with half a six-pack of smirnov ice and I wonder where the other three went in the fifteen minutes she’s been gone. Maybe she gave them out to the homeless. She has a kind heart. I hope she gave them out.
I set aside boxes to use as makeshift recycle bins. That way I can take the entire bin out and toss it all, knowing the whole thing is recyclable. Plus, though I wash all my bottles and cans, the bin will catch any spills and won’t get sticky or nasty over time. When I wake up in the morning, after she’s left for work, the box is gone. If I’m lucky, it was there 48 hours. The trash, meanwhile, has four new cans buried in it since I made dinner last night. “It attracts ants and mice,” she says when I ask where the mostly empty box went.”
“I always rinse out the recycling, so it shouldn’t. Plus, it was only there for a day or two.”
“Yeah, well, it looks bad,” she says, as if the crud she spills on the floor and the yogurt covered spoons she leaves sitting on the counter don’t add to the Courtney Love aesthetic she seems to adore.
“You seem to be drinking a lot more recently,” I say to the room, to the hallway, to the door to her bedroom swinging closed behind her as she moves. It’s not the first time I’ve tried to discuss her drinking.
“It goes in phases,” she yells, turning her music up. “Ups and downs, but it’s not bad. It’s so much better.” I sigh and give up. I can’t have this conversation with her again because she won’t let me.
She doesn’t make eye-contact with me anymore. She prefers to yell conversations from the other room. When I enter and try to talk to her in our common spaces, she tends to turn her back to me, or begin moving elsewhere. I feel like I’m embarrassing her just by trying to look at her. I’m slowly not trying anymore.
I can’t blame her. I feel angry and hurt watching her maintain this lugubrious existence, as if every part of her life has to be lubricated. I hate myself for trying not to care, for telling myself it’s not my place, not my role, to help her. I just wish she could pull herself together, but it seems she hates what she sees when she looks in the mirror. I know that feeling.
Ultimately, I wonder what makes us different? Why do I respond how I do when I’m scared and unhappy? Why don’t I drink like she does, like so many do? Why do I tend to eat, or exercise, or play games, or write?
At the end of the month, I’ll be moving to a new place, settling in for the winter and spring. I’m excited to take out my nice kitchenware since I know it’ll be treated with respect. I’m excited to have a nice quiet home where I don’t have to turn up the TV to drown out the dubstep blaring in the bathroom down the hallway. But most of all, I’m excited to be able to recycle again.
I hope someday, she can be happy recycling too.