College is, if done right, an adventure. In my case, it was the kind of adventure where you
- swallow a birth control pill with rum and yell “F*CK YOU RUSH LIMBAUGH!” in someone’s living room
- sleep with a girl who posts about it on Facebook the next day
- receive an email from a visiting Indian professor wishing “a grace-filled thanksgiving” signed “love”
- explain to a grown man how Daylight Savings Time works
- eat a kidney your literature professor fries on a hot plate in class, and
- start a birdwatching-esque group that tracks a certain person on campus and photographs him
Which is to say, half-baked but generally harmless.
But all of this good-natured tomfoolery pales in comparison with the sheer, batfuck insanity of my sophomore year rooming experience.
The players (names changed):
Liz, who considered an outfit with less than five clashing patterns a failure
Andrea: a mildly terrifying girl who I have lived through beginning acting with, who was dating Liz
Me: a naïve second-year who still believed in the goodness of humanity
Karen: my best friend, who saw all of this coming
The central conflict: veganism and cleanliness
The stakes: sanity, the moral high ground, the dorm Karen, Liz, Andrea, and I lived in.
The outcome: I slept on a floor for a month.
The real story begins with the Mysterious Case of the Teleporting Cheese.
I eat vegan butter. I actually prefer almond milk to dairy milk. I love cookies made with flax. But the one vegan substitute I cannot wrap my head around as a concept is vegan cheese. The daiya company is run by sadists and patronized by masochists.
I unwittingly made a grilled cheese with it once, figuring It shouldn’t be that different and felt like I was eating melted plastic. As I choked it down, I wondered what on earth I had done in my past life to deserve such suffering.
Because of this character flaw on my part, I began buying dairy cheese for my grilled cheeses, which were rapidly becoming the one and only source of joy in my tightly regulated life wherein the sink was not for dishes and the couch was sacred ground.
Rules for our dorm included but were not limited to:
- No alcohol
- No dishes in the sink. Either they were washed and in the dish drainer or they were in the dishwasher, but never the sink.
- No clutter. If, say, you left a laptop and notebook on the couch after doing homework, they were unceremoniously dumped on your bed. I attempted to bring up the unreasonable nature of this policy with Liz. This conversation allegedly launched them into a panic attack, so I dropped it.
But back to the Mysterious Case. The first indication that something was afoot was when I couldn’t find my cheese in the large communal fridge in the kitchen. (Background: I was forced to buy a mini Guilt Fridge that was kept in my room to keep meat in.)
Now, I am an absentminded creature. Not once, but twice, this past summer, I ran our dishwasher with a tide pod instead of a cascade one, thus making our dishes soft and fresh.
I assumed, reasonably, that I had just put the cheese in The Naughty Fridge and forgotten about doing it. I retrieved the cheese and burned a grilled cheese.
Fast-forward a week later. Same scenario. I go on my merry way.
Fast-forward a few weeks later. Same thing.
“I could’ve sworn I put this in the fridge,” I said.
“That’s a funny thing to go missing,” said Karen, with a mid-western edge to her voice.
I, a blockhead, wondered what she was hinting at. Then I found my cheese and went on my merry way yet again.
Fast-forward one more week. I am looking for cheese again and worrying about my short-term memory.
Karen, through grated teeth, as the other two sit in the living room, making vague kissing noises at each other and reciting tumblr posts: “They moved it!”
Me, standing at the refrigerator door, non-plussed and cheeseless: “Oh.”
At this point, I was annoyed. Not enraged, not livid, not criticizing-the-gym-teacher’s-grammar-before-bursting-into-tears mad like when I was sixteen. Just vaguely annoyed. For two months, my cheese had been moved, my room and my fridge disturbed, and no one had told me. If nothing else, it was weird as hell.
Then came Bagelgate.
Liz consumed what could only be called an irrational number of bagels. In the week leading up to Bagelgate, I had harangued my father into buying us two full sleeves (ten bagels) on Sunday, they had disappeared by Tuesday, and Karen’s boyfriend brought another sleeve (five bagels) on Friday.
On Wednesday morning, I ambled out of my room and began looking for the bagels. After a few minutes of not finding them (and having learned my lesson about disappearing foodstuffs) I asked, in as casual a tone as possible: “Hey, where’d the bagels go?”
“Oh, said Liz, “we put them in our room to save them for the dinner party.”
“Right,” I said. The weekly vegan dinner party. How could I have forgotten?
My mind began to calculate how much Liz and Andrea had not spent on groceries lately, and maybe this showed on my face because Liz retrieved the bagels, did a careful count, and said that there was enough that I could eat one.
It was at this point that I began pointing out to Karen that Liz’s heritage was British and they had thus far: invaded my space, taken and hoarded my food, and spread rumors that I was ignorant in comparison to their enlightened mindset.
Karen was not amused by my allegory about colonialism because this was around the time Liz nearly killed Karen’s cats.
It happened like this. Liz and Andrea had been the ones who found the cats to begin with. Well, they had catnapped them, really, because they saw them by the side of the road with their mother, slowed the car down, and when the mother ran away, abducted the cats. Karen and her boyfriend were over the moon, though, because they had been wanting kittens for a while. Liz and Andrea handed them over.
Because the kittens were so young, they had to be fed in two-hour shifts. Karen and Ben set up camp out on the futon, set an alarm, and placed the cats in a laundry basket with a heating pad on one end.
At one point, during the night, Liz apparently took cats and heating pad and placed them both in a small carrier while the unwitting Karen slumbered. Proclaiming “I just want safe kitties!” Liz commenced cooking them to death.
The cats were fine, but Karen was pissed. Karen was even more pissed when Liz, for the aesthetic of it, sprinkled green glitter into one of the kittens’ fur.
But the beginning of the end was when the pyrex dish exploded into millions of tiny pieces on the kitchen floor.
I was getting ready to go to a poetry reading. I had made chicken tenders (at least a venial sin) and, in spectacular defiance of the laws of physics, placed the glass dish (very hot, out of the oven) on the metal sink (very cold).
It (the dish, not the sink) exploded.
After shrieking, I elected to cram food in my mouth and then clean it up, but Liz grabbed the broom. I took to emptying the sink of tiny shards with oven mitts on my hands.
Finally, I ate the chicken tenders, left one (1) plate and one (1) fork in the sink and ran off, slightly shellshocked, to a friend’s reading.
That night, we got a very tersely worded message about “all doing better’ about cleaning from Andrea.
(In mid-October, Andrea had asked me how to use the dishwasher.)
I decided it was time to have a reasonable conversation.
“Listen,” I texted, “I feel like cleaning is coming before school, work, and social lives. I understand that we need a clean apartment, but right now I’m not comfortable with the situation.”
This devolved. It devolved so much that apparently, Liz had a panic attack. After that, they refused to be in the same room with me. If I entered the apartment, they would theatrically dash back to their room. I figured out that this was theatrical when I realized they were making a point of coming back out and running away again every time I went to the bathroom.
At this point, I fled. I couch-hopped until I landed on the living room floor of some friends. They plonked a mattress by the TV and everyone played Mario Cart over my bed. I told reslife to house me anywhere else that wasn’t hugely more expensive, and at semester turn, I moved. Some friends helped, and Andrea stared us down the entire time.
Karen, however, was still living there. She told me things were Not Improving.
Her boyfriend’s mother (who, admittedly, is a Piece of Work) had dropped by unexpectedly. This threw Liz and Andrea into a tailspin. As a solution, they gave Karen a lecture on asking before people came over and, for protection, placed a salt ring outside their bedroom door.
It did not succeed in warding off the demon that was a middle-aged, wealthy woman who just wanted to see her son. It did succeed in pissing her off.
I heard this story with mild amusement. I then asked Karen if she could grab the silverware I’d forgotten.
She sent me a picture of the drawer. It was nowhere to be found.
Over the course of the next few weeks, Karen looking when she had a chance and me being snuck over to look every so often, we hunted everywhere for it.
But it was gone. The silverware was fucking gone. Karen never found it. I never found it.
My mother never let me forget how I lost her classic fiesta silverware. Frankly, I considered a loss of cutlery getting off easy.
I ended up moving in with some people I knew vaguely (one of which I would go on to hook up with after binge-watching Cake Boss together). Senior year, I moved into a rickety old house in South Minneapolis with some friends. In all of these situations, I had to be solemnly reassured that I would never be kicked out for anything that had to do with bagels.
Andrea and Liz continued pretending to be afraid of me for the rest of my college career. I don’t know where they are today, but I hope their new life is cheese- and stress-free, at least, for the sake of everyone else around them.
But I still want to know what they did with my f*cking cutlery.
Previously Published on evetaft.wordpress.com