The steady pounding resonated through the entire house.
Each contact was made with such force that I felt anxiety resonate in the pit of my stomach . . . and no small amount of concern for the floorboards. My roommate, Blair, was demonstrating what Caitlin (my other roommate) likes to call her “T-Rex impression”.
Welcome to my Week Three True Confessions of an Annoyed Roommate, inspired by nearly 11 months of living with Blair, or what I sometimes like to call:
The Blair Witch Project.
It has been a long year, and living with two Craig’s List Specials is always a regular roulette game, but this year brought some particularly interesting spins of the barrel.
Rewind to that first e-mail . . .
So unassuming, no?
A few short months later it is October, Blair’s then-boyfriend Sam and she were constantly on the fritz because she didn’t really care about him and was just dating him because she didn’t want to be (gasp) 24 and single. At this point some of the niggling issues from the summer months started to really blossom into full-blown concerns.
How about the time that one of my very best friends and her fiancé were visiting from Virginia and, on a Saturday morning, when she had nowhere pressing that she had to be, Blair was unbelievably rude to both of my guests. She actually asked if they could get out of the bathroom and get ready somewhere else because she wanted to shower immediately instead of waiting 5 minutes. Later, when I brought it up with her, she said, “Well, I should get priority, I mean, I live here. I get priority over, like, guests.”
These friends have visited me since that unfortunate run-in and opted not to stay with me, based solely on Blair’s presence in the apartment.
Or there was the time that Blair blew up at me for sitting on the couch next to her, because she needed personal space, which I clearly have little to no respect for, considering how I “always have to use or take” whatever it is that she is using. Like the couch. Or the living room.
There was also that time that I was peeing. You know Peeing; it’s an activity that takes around 2 -4 minutes typically? Well, in that time, Blair managed to knock on the bathroom door three separate times. The third time she knocked she said, “I’m sorry but on a scale of like 1 to 10, it’s like a 9!!!”
Still not seeing why life with Blair has its difficulties? Maybe you have to be there, or hear the interchanges for yourself. Here is a conversation that actually took place, to the best of my ability to jot it down:
Blair: Um, can you not put my bike in the back pantry area? I don’t want people to move my bike.
Me: Oh, sorry. Actually, I moved it because It’s kind of driving me nuts to have it in the middle of the kitchen, and my niece Izzy actually pulled it down on top of herself by accident the other day [Izzy was 2 years old at the time], so I think we need to figure out a new place for it.
Blair: Hmm. Well, it’s a really expensive bike and I use it, like, every Saturday for triathalon training. It’s a really high quality racing bike and so it needs to be well-taken care of. I’m not sure where else it could go.
Me: Well, there is the back pantry area, but then there’s also the basement, or upstairs in the hallway outside your room, or even under the front porch, bike-locked where my bike used to go.
Blair: Oh no. No, there is no way it is going outside. It needs to be completely protected from the elements. The tires can’t get to hot or too cold because that will mess with the air pressure, no. It’s not going outside.
Me: Well, what about the basement?
Blair: No, I am not dragging it up a flight of stairs every Saturday morning when I want to use it.
Me: Are you sure? I mean, there is always the bulkhead door, which is right on the side of the house, we can just leave that open for you on Saturdays, it would be easy enough to lift it right out of–
Blair: No. I – I don’t want it anywhere where I need to bring it up or down a level in order to use it. I already have to carry it down the front stairs, that’s enough.
Me: Okaaaaay, well that pretty much leaves us the back pantry area, or, I guess if we really had to have it in the dining room area, we could.
Blair: Or the kitchen.
Me: I’m not okay with it being in the kitchen anymore Blair. It’s a high traffic area with a lot going on, and we all have to use the kitchen daily, it’s just not working.
Blair: Well if we lived in Boston or Somerville, it would be normal. Lots of people who use their bikes all the time keep their bikes in the main entryway or one of the main rooms. I don’t think it is that unreasonable to keep it in the kitchen. Maybe I want it in the kitchen.
Me: Well, we have half of a house available to us, and we live in the countryside, so I think we can probably manage to find another place for it. Now, if I have everything straight, your requirements for your bike’s storage are, that it be safe and protected from all of the elements, that it be on the main level of the house, that it be accessible, particularly on Saturdays when you need to use it. Is that right?
Blair: *pause* yes.
Me: Well, then it sounds like the only place that will work for both of us (as a compromise) is the back pantry area. It is fully protected from all the elements, it has a lock for safety, it is on the mane level, and it’s about five feet total difference from where you had already been storing it, so it fits all your location requirements.
Blair: *pause* Hmm. Yeah, no. I just don’t like that. I just don’t like it.
And that was the end of the conversation.
You get the picture. I could go on and on. We could talk about her one-hour bath habit, or the leaving-beer-bottles-in-the-bathroom habit. We could shoot the breeze over her passive-aggressive notes and catty methods of handling confrontation. Ultimately, though, what it boils down to? Blair is not somebody that I can live with in the future. We actually asked her to move out once, back in November. It was a long and difficult conversation, and what did Blair do to handle it? She ignored it completely, and called our landlord up, telling him a sob story about how it just wasn’t possible for her to move in the near future. Clearly, the only two times when it is remotely possible to find a roommate or an apartment are in September and June (???). On top of that, she had a really big test to study for . . . something related to her work (like the business person’s equivalent of the GRE). She was quite clear that she could not possibly move out and also efficiently prepare for her exam . . . the exam that she conveniently rescheduled. Twice. Before taking it one Saturday morning after she had been out drinking beer at all hours of the night with Sam. Needless to say, Blair’s nonexistent “studying” paid off, and she scored embarrassingly low on her test, proving how much of a priority the whole thing really was. By that time, we had all but given up hope and moved on as far as the whole roommate conflict went. It wasn’t like we could force the issue – we all signed the lease and our resident manipulator clearly had no plans to allow herself to be ousted before the our term was up.
After Christmas there was a clear shift.
Blair’s tactics changed dramatically post-conflict. She realized that picking on me was counterproductive since the landlord had 5 years of positive experience in my favor if lease renewal became a question. Instead of challenging my every word, Caitlin became the target of every sarcastic jibe, caustic quip, and passive-aggressive comment that Blair could produce. Simultaneously, Blair started to butter me up like I was a fresh white roll and she was Paula Deen at a Cracker Barrel on Thanksgiving. Despite all the flattery, friendliness, and fawning, there were still moments of clarity when I could see (cue Cindy Lauper) Blair’s true colors shining through . . .
Even in the little “jokingly” sarcastic things she said, I could tell she was biding her time and biting back the negativity that comes so naturally to her. One day she cut her finger while slicing veggies – not a big cut, but I’m a baby when it comes to getting hurt, so when she came running upstairs to show me the tiny cut, I gave her all the sympathy I could. She asked if I thought she needed stitches, and after looking at the very small cut, I proclaimed her in need of a Band-Aid and some triple antibiotic ointment, both of which I provided. After cleaning up her finger, putting ointment on it, and putting a few bandaids around the cut, she said thanks and went down the hall to her room. Every few minutes, though, she would call out, “It really huuuuurts! I’m such a baby!”. After the third time or so, I chuckled and replied, “Yes, you kind of are.” She stopped mid-complaint in front of my door and let out a miffed laugh, saying, “ You are SUCH a fucking bitch.” This is the second time that she has used this come-back on me “jokingly”, and I called her out on it. “Wait, I clean and bandage your little cut and when I agree with you that you’re being a little babyish about it, that makes me a fucking bitch??? I don’t think so.” “No,” she admitted. “It might make me honest, but not a fucking bitch.” I left it at that.
I thought the label was a nice touch.
A few weeks ago, I was just finishing prepping all of the recyclables to put them out the following morning – Neither of my roommates are much for housework or recycling – when Blair called upstairs to me, “Hey, Abby? Do you return our bottles?” Not sure where she was going with her question, I answered, “Well, sometimes I’ll return the returnable ones, although not very often!” There was silence for a minute, and then she called back, “So, what do you do with that money?” I’m pretty sure I let out one of those sort of disbelieving laugh/breaths where you just say “huh” on a laugh. . . and I said, “Well, Blair, last time it wound up being like 45 cents. So . . . I think I spent 45 cents on something?” She waited another minute and said, “Do you think we should pool that money?” I laughed again – I couldn’t help it! Pool all of our 45 cents in some kind of a jar so that we can, what, buy something off the McDonalds dollar menu by the end of the year? I said as much and was met with only silence, Blair’s favorite communication tool. So, I followed it up with the statement, “Well, you’re welcome to take things back to a recycling center and get the return money yourself, I’m not going to keep track of the extra nickels and dimes.” A few minutes later, after much rustling and clanking, Blair was off the subject and had moved on to something else. BUT, the resolution she had found might just say it all . . . She had decided to take a bin (that I was getting rid of) and repurpose it for herself (see right). I wish she had just taken them all back and kept the money for herself.
It would have been nice to have some help with the recycling.
So, the weeks passed and finally the time came to have that conversation. You know, the one where Blair got told to start the hunt for a new place to live when our lease comes up next month. I even wanted to have the dreaded Conversation two months in advance so that she would have plenty of time to search for a place, and because I was about to get my tonsils out and my doctors said talking would be difficult for a while.
Little did I know how dramatically the talking quotient in the apartment was about to change . . .
Blair was the person who initiated our little talk. After weeks of being unavailable, she suggested we all chat while we were home one Sunday night. With a sense of foreboding, I agreed that this would be a good time.
Caitlin’s dread-filled eyes stayed glued to her bowl of Easy-Mac while she practically shook from anxiety on the opposite couch. She sat in silence for almost the entire discussion, while I attempted to explain the situation to Blair in as nice a way as possible. Whenever Caitlin did speak, Blair reacted à la Mean Girls and the two would immediately start to bicker, listing past grievances and citing old spats as ammunition. I had to intervene three times to get us away from devolution into bratty teenaged behaviors, but finally all was said. Blair’s response, however, was a little unexpected.
“Well, I’m not ready to accept that,” she stated abruptly, “It’s not a convenient time for me to move.
. . . what are the odds that you and Caitlin will be moving out of this place?” I floundered for a moment, feeling like a middle school boy who had just tried to break up with a girlfriend and she had refused. Rallying, I finished the conversation, saying, “Well, I understand it isn’t ideal. Moving is always inconvenient, and that is why we wanted you to have two months to get prepared. There is not chance that Caitlin or I will be leaving come June.” So began the silent treatment. In the three weeks following the break-up conversation, Blair said exactly two things to me. First, “Can you move your laundry over?” and, second, “Yeah, I saw it on the calendar.” Other than that, there was no eye contact, no conversation, and no interaction whatsoever. Just a lot of stomping.
This leads me to the part of my story that went badly; the part for which I am partially to blame.
It was a sunny Saturday morning and Blair had risen early and, I’d thought, left, although her car was still in the driveway. Caitlin and I woke up later than usual and chatted pleasantly in the hall while we got ready for the day. As it is sometimes wont to do, conversation turned towards our now-silent housemate.
Cait: How’s she been with you since we talked?
Me: Dude, I think she’s said a grand total of like two words to me!
Cait: Is she really gonna give us the silent treatment for two months?
Me: I know, it’s a little ridiculous, but – Hey, it could be worse.
Cait: True, she could get crazier on us.
Me: I have a feeling we’re going to see several Blairs over the next few months, unfortunately.
Cait: Yeah, lets just hope she doesn’t break and go totally nuts – I could see it happening.
Me: Well, I think she’ll probably exhibit a lot of different behaviors, but we’ll just have to deal with them as they come. . .
I’m sure more was said, but this was the bulk of it, as far as I can remember. Cait has a tendency to say things like they are, a good quality for a roommate, but a bad one if you happen to be a mean person who is eavesdropping on the conversation . . . which Blair apparently was. Oops. It turns out she actually cracked her door open to hear better what we were saying about her. Once we figured it out, we both felt bad, but thinking back to the conversation, it was relatively un-bitchy and fairly accurate.
Well, fast-forward a week. It has been 5 days since my tonsils were removed, and I am on 24 hour pain pills and not exactly loving life. Blair has said absolutely nothing to me concerning my surgery or anything . . . amazing lack of reciprocation for a person who asked me to take care of her on numerous occasions when she was sick. So, it was my first day home after staying with my incredible sister for a week. I was on the couch, watching a tv show with a friend who was kind enough to drop by and keep me company for an hour. Which is when Blair came home.
THUD THUD THUD
THUD THUD THUD
I could tell she was miffed when I asked a quick question directly to her, and she ignored me entirely, walking away from in the process. The sound of her bedroom door slamming signaled her final exit, or so I thought, until my phone buzzed.
Now, I know that there is nothing good that can come of a response . . . I know all the rational reasons for why NOT to engage in a texting battle with people who exhibit characteristics of a narcissistic personality disorder (at least, that’s what I, and all my other friends who work in the mental healthcare field think might be going on). Ultimately, though, sometimes you just get annoyed. And I was pretty darn annoyed at the massive quantity of passive aggressiveness represented in this one short text. So, despite all my better-person-instincts, I texted back rather snarkily. Complete with accidentally saying “want” instead of “wasn’t”, I thought this might shut her down, but I should have known she would be ready with a come back.
Now, once you dip your toes in this kind of conversation, it’s hard to just stop.
So I didn’t.
How could I let her get away with calling herself confrontational ?
Well that was an ouch.
That darned eavesdropped conversation was resurfacing for the first time since it actually happened. It was infuriating on a couple of levels. I mean, first of all, it had nothing to do with what we were talking (or, should I say angrily texting) about – a classic passive aggressive misdirection maneuver. But second of all, she never even brought it up to me in person. There she is, steaming to passive aggressive pieces over something she isn’t even willing to talk about in person. So, I finally came to my senses and realized I was not dealing with a rational person, and it was going nowhere.
There was no response. Maybe she just didn’t read it. Maybe she couldn’t follow my rambling text-patterns.
Either way, it was back to silent treatment the next day.
These have been some of the recent low-lights of life chez moi, and I won’t even bother going into the hour-long baths, dating of a married man, accusing her boyfriend of being a murderer, long discussions of the vibes of Bonaroo, less-than-subtle comments about my weight, or the neverending supply of empty beer bottles materializing in the bathroom. Quite frankly, it has been a long ten-and-a-half months, and I have a sneaking suspicion that the next 45 days (8 hours and 11 minutes . . . but who’s counting) are going to seem even longer. Anyone with insights to offer or advice on how to survive the next month and a half, please feel free to share them! I’ve begun watching The Walking Dead so that I can gain expertise on dealing with inhuman monsters, but since I don’t think this particular Blair Witch Project will be resolved with violence, I’m not so sure it will do me that much good.
I hope we all survive.