*Names are changed. Yes, even the puppy’s name.
Virtually anyone who has ever had more than a couple of roommates has at least one “roommate from hell” story. Sharing a living space with other people and blending lifestyles, schedules, and personal preferences is a difficult undertaking that, and most of us have roommates when we are young and at a point in our lives where we haven’t completely matured or developed many communication skills. Occasionally we end up in living situations that are hilariously awful.
I found myself in one such situation my sophomore year of college.
I had moved out of the dorm and into a cramped apartment with three roommates– one senior who was responsible, clean, and quiet, and two students my age, one guy and one girl, whom I had spent a lot of time hanging out with my freshman year.
The senior soon moved out to a bigger, nicer apartment, leaving the three of us behind, and I quickly figured out that weekend hang-out friends do not necessarily make good roommates.
Like a lot of college students, the cornerstone of our friendship the previous year had been alcohol. We had spent many Friday and Saturday (and occasional weekday) nights drinking late into the morning and crashing in each other’s rooms.
However, I learned over the course of my six months living with Chris* that he had a legitimate drinking problem. Chris didn’t just drink on Friday, Saturday, and occasional weekday nights; he drank every weekday night, and every weekday day. He rarely went to classes.
He also cross-dressed when drunk, which was not a problem in and of itself, but he borrowed my clothes without asking and it became an almost normal occurrence to come home, say, mid-afternoon on a Tuesday and find him sitting in my tank top and miniskirt on the couch, his too-big feet dangling a pair of my heels, drunk off his ass with a bottle of whiskey in his lap.
He also had a tendency to be very, very surly if you asked him to do anything, like clean up his dishes or replace your beer that he drank.
However, out of my two roommates, Chris was the easier to one deal with. He was fairly quiet and spent a lot of time in his room, and more or less cleaned up after himself.
Laura*, on the other hand, was impossible. She wasn’t just messy.... she was disgusting-messy. She would drop food on the floor and not clean it up. She would smoke inside and ash on the floor, and not clean that up, either. (The smoking inside was a fight in and of itself. As my room was the one closest to the living room, the smell seeped in and made my bed, clothes, etc smell like smoke. Eventually we compromised and I said she could smoke in her bedroom in the back of the apartment, as long as it was next to an open window. It was a non-smoking apartment, by the way.)
One time she and her friends got in a food fight in our white-carpeted living room, throwing chocolate cake with chocolate icing at each other. They left the cake on the floor and walked over it during their party, grinding it into the carpet.
She never cleaned it up—I did, the next day when I finally gave in, or at least tried too, although it left permanent stains. That incident was the epitome of what it was like to live with her.
The worst, though, were the late-night, mid-week social events she would have at the apartment. She also drank a lot and rarely went to classes, and would go out to clubs in a nearby city during the week.
Often she would bring people back to the apartment afterwards around 3 or 4 am, talking loudly, continuing to drink, smoking in our living room, hanging out in the hallway outside my bedroom. It always, always woke me up, and always, always made me tired and put me in a bad mood the following day, sometimes multiple days a week.
No amount of talking to her got her to change her behavior, either the cleaning or the late-night guests. I tried. I was 19 at the time and I’m sure I was not the perfect roommate -- as mentioned, the three of us had become such good friends because we had partied a lot the previous year, and I know my communication skills were lacking. I’m not even the cleanest person in the world, and we often threw parties on the weekend that I was happy to host and participate in.
I did, however, know that I didn’t want to live in a place with ground-up food and cigarette ash on the floor, and I did go to classes and get my work done. To use the oft-cited paraphrase of celebrity divorces, we had irreconcilable differences.
The beginning of the end for us three as roommates came when Laura brought home a puppy. A friend of ours had found it abandoned by the side of the road and Laura, for some unknown reason, had agreed to adopt it. She showed up at the apartment with a tiny white furball that the vet guessed was maybe six weeks old, of indeterminable breed.
(The vet originally said she seemed to be some sort of cocker spaniel mix, but she grew to be a small dog with a long body and comically short legs, and looked nothing like a cocker spaniel.) We named her after a Beatles’ song -- let’s say, for the sake of this story, we called her Penny.
It was a horrible idea. We were three 19-year-olds who could barely take care of ourselves, much less an untrained, un-house-broken puppy that needed a lot of attention, patience, and time. It went about as well as you’d expect.
Chris was fed up with Laura by this point and was barely speaking to her, and would have nothing to do with caring for Penny. He came and went quietly, stayed in his room when he was home, and barely interacted with either of us. Predictably, I ended up taking many night shifts with a crying, small-bladdered Penny, as well as being responsible for her about half the time during the day.
However, there was an even-beyond-imaginable kicker: We lived on the third floor of an apartment building and when I wasn’t around, Laura was too lazy to take Penny out to go to the bathroom… so she started encouraging her to pee and shit on our wooden balcony.
And when our downstairs neighbors complained (unsurprisingly) about dried bits of poop falling through the cracks onto their balcony, Laura encouraged Penny to go to the bathroom inside our house. Like, directly on the carpet. And most of the time Laura wouldn’t clean it up.
Just like it wasn’t uncommon to come home and find Chris wearing my clothes and drunk in the middle of the day, it became not uncommon to start finding little piles of puppy shit around the house. Sometimes in hidden corners, sometimes out in the open.
Guess who got the privilege of cleaning most of it up, while simultaneously trying to actually potty train a puppy to go outside like a normal fucking dog with normal fucking owners?
This all came to a head one night when Chris found dog poop in his normally-closed bedroom. Laura had a few people over and they were drinking in the living room; I was wandering around the apartment, to and from the kitchen in my PJs while working on papers in my room.
Chris came home, went to his room, and, minutes later, came back to the living room, absolutely livid and with the offending poop in his hand.
I honestly don’t remember the exact sequence of events. I know Chris was screaming at Laura, but I don’t know what he said. All I remember is him winding back his arm and then releasing, and the poop soaring -- in my memory, it happened in slow motion -- across the living room towards Laura.
I can’t even remember if it hit her. I don’t think it did. I just remember thinking, Holy shit, my roommates just threw shit at each other.
Any delusional thoughts I had that maybe, just maybe my living situation wasn’t that weird or that horrible were erased in that moment. Not that I really believed it was normal or un-horrible, but watching one roommate throw poop at another really drives the point home.
I moved out of the apartment early and into a house with two clean, rational girls (as well as other roommates) who I lived with for five years. Since then we’ve all been bridesmaids in each other’s weddings and are still in close contact. That part of the story has a definite happy ending.
Laura, unsurprisingly, was completely incapable of taking care of Penny on her own. I had grown attached to Penny (after all, none of it was her fault) and returned back to the apartment several times to check in on her when Laura wasn’t around, and found her living in complete filth, not being taken care of at all.
I convinced Laura (easily) to let me take her, but I wasn’t in a position where I could care for her, either - there were already five people in our house and two cats, and I had a busy academic schedule.
So I asked around and found a family with a farm in my hometown who was looking for a dog. The woman was a co-worker of my mother’s; the family had three kids and lots of llamas on the farm. My mom went with me to drop her off one weekend. Penny was maybe seven or eight months at this point, still an overly energetic puppy.
The day I left her with the family, she hid her face in my lap while I cried saying goodbye, and cried all the way back to my parents’ house. That was 10 years ago and the coworker still gives my mother updates. Penny, it seems, is still running happily around the farm, chasing llamas and getting mud stuck all over her curly white fur. This part has a happy ending, too.
Mostly, though, I’m just happy that I will (hopefully) never be in a living situation again where using poop as a weapon in an argument is even an option.