I was 21 years old and a junior in college. I had been living with The Girls, Liz and Diedre, who were awesome, but timing and circumstance meant I would have to move out at the end of the summer. They had two more roommates moving in, something arranged before I’d even started living with them.
I hadn’t really even started looking for a place when out of the blue, a friend of mine, Tessah, contacted me. She was looking for a roommate and was just calling around to see if anyone else was looking. Tessah already had a place lined up -- a condo that belonged to a woman her mother worked for as an accountant.
The arrangement seemed great. I would be living with a friend instead of a stranger. The price was right. It was conveniently located on a bus line to school in a great neighborhood. I could bring my cat. The condo had hardwood floors, a dishwasher and an enclosed courtyard.
But as I hung up the phone after agreeing to move in with Tessah, I had a very bad feeling about it. I immediately ignored that feeling and started packing my stuff.
I moved in a week after the fall semester started, the first week of September. Tessah had signed and magneted the lease on the refrigerator. I asked Tessah if she wanted me to sign too. She said no. She claimed I didn’t need to sign the lease because we were renting from someone she knew. At some point, the lease disappeared from the fridge without my signature.
Tessah was...spiritual? Alternative? Esoteric? I’m not sure what words describe her, but she was into things that were different. Energies, astrologies, auras, past lives. Having been raised by hippies who believed in this sort of thing, I was fluent in the lingo, so it wasn’t weird to me that she claimed she could see energy.
I came home one evening and Tessah told me she’d been communicating with my cat, Sheba. The cat, Tessah informed me, had been a warrior named Ichobar in a past life and from that point forward, Tessah would be referring to Sheba as Ichobar. I shrugged noncommittally, but suggested the cat still preferred to be called Sheba.
Another night, my boyfriend, David, was over and while Tessah cut vegetables in the kitchen, the three of us talked. Tessah authoritatively informed David that his aura was yellow-greenish, and very strong. She then asked his astrological sign.
According to Tessah, as a Carpricorn, David was incompatible with her sign, a Leo (I think). David rejected the legitimacy of astrology, and the conversation took a confrontational turn. As I tried to think of a way to change the subject, the two of them traded barbs that got more and more personal.
The argument ended when Tessah slammed the knife down into the cutting board, made a comment to David about ending his life and then laughed. Before she strolled off to bed, she assured us she was just kidding about all of it.
As uncomfortable as it was, I decided to give her the benefit of the doubt that she really was just kidding, and the knife slamming was her bizarre way of ending an awkward, confrontational conversation.
In the meantime, we clashed over typical roommate things. She had a bird that she let fly around the bathroom -- I didn’t like the shit everywhere and asked her continually to clean up after the bird. She usually didn't.
She also left her uncleaned juicer out during the day which attracted tiny flies. I asked her to clean this, too. She wouldn't.
One night, she told me she’d overheard David and I having sex. Embarrassed, I apologized and promised to be quieter. She assured me it didn’t bother her, but I was quiet from then on.
About four weeks after I had moved in, David was over, spending the night. He'd fallen asleep while we'd been watching T.V. in my room, and I was close to being asleep when I heard a knock at my door. It was Tessah, hysterically crying in our hallway.
“What’s wrong?!” I asked, thinking something had happened to a family member.
Through her sobs, she choked out: “He...has...to...go…” *sob*
“Him,” she choked out, pointing into my room.
“I just...I can’t….*sob* It’s his…*sob*...energy. I just can’t have him here…*sob* with his energy *sob*.”
With that, she ran down the hallway into the bathroom and vomited into the toilet. When she emerged, she told me should couldn’t deal with David’s energy anymore and he had to leave. Then she started sobbing again, ran into her room, and slammed the door.
Not really knowing what to do, I woke David up and explained what was going on. I asked if he could go home so I could talk to Tessah about what was going on with her.
Pissed, sleepy, and more than a little annoyed with me, David agreed to leave. As soon as he did, Tessah came out of her room, puffy, red, and tear-stained, but obviously in a much better mood.
We sat in the living room as she explained that she'd been sensing his energy and it had become overwhelming for her. She didn’t know what to do, so he had to leave.
My years of hippie parenting guided my advice to her, which was to learn to block out energy from others. There would always be energies -- good, bad, intense and otherwise -- and she needed to learn to block them out so she didn’t become overwhelmed. She agreed -- she did need to learn that.
I went to David’s house that night to try and assuage the situation on his end. I was only marginally successful.
Maybe a week or less later, Tessah emailed me to tell me she was moving out and I would need to find another place to live. Caught off guard and confused, I called her and asked why she was moving.
She had a litany of reasons (finances, nearness to campus, space). Not wanting to move again after a month, I suggested that instead of both of us moving, I would stay and get another roommate. She said she’d have to ask the landlord who was in Australia. Maybe the owner’s son could make that decision, Tessah suggested helpfully. She would call the son and ask him, she told me.
In the meantime, October rent was due. Because Tessah’s mother was the condo owner’s accountant, our checks went to her.
Before I left for campus the morning of the last day of the month, I gave Tessah the rent check, a day that also happened to be a Friday. My parents were helping me out and would both deposit some money in my account by the end of the day.
By 10 a.m., I had a voicemail from her mother informing me the account didn’t have sufficient funds for the rent. She really needed me to call her back and let her know how I was going to pay the it.
I called her back, explained my parents would deposit money that afternoon and by the time the check hit my account on Monday, it would clear. All seemed fine, and my parents put money into my account that afternoon as promised.
A few days later I received another email from Tessah. She wanted to know when I’d be moving out so she could tell her next roommate when they could move in.
Feeling like a crazy person, I called her and asked what was up. "I thought I was going to stay and find a roommate, and you were the one moving out," I reminded her.
"Why am I moving out if you are just going to find another roommate to live with again?" I asked.
She blustered and made some excuses that didn’t make sense, and the way we left it, I thought we were both staying and the situation was resolved.
An hour or two later, while at my campus job, I received another email from her. She didn’t want to live with me. According to her email, she couldn’t deal with my loud sex anymore and suggested that if I wanted to sleep around having loud sex, I should go to a cheap motel.
She also couldn’t deal with my “constant” money woes. She also wanted me to know that none of this had anything to do with her being jealous of me having a boyfriend — she wasn’t jealous, she insisted. She ripped into all the vulnerable and insecure parts of me, things she knew about because we were friends.
Just like all her other emails to me, the tone was very formal — strikingly different from her in person. This cruel letter, meant to cut deeply, was delivered in a detached tone that had none of humanity I thought my friend possessed.
She ended the email by informing me that she had become close with the cat, and if I didn’t want to take her, I could leave “Ichobar” with her.
By the time I reached the end of the email, I was sobbing. I excused myself from the production room of our student newspaper and went into the bathroom to cry. At least two other women I worked with followed after me to offer hugs and support.
Fine. She wanted me out for no other reason than she didn’t like living with me. I didn’t think most her reasons were valid, but I wasn’t going to change her mind. I sure as FBOMB wasn’t leaving my cat with her.
I went on Craigslist, called a few people and met a guy, Shawn, who was living in a bungalow in an up-and-coming area. We clicked, and this time I had a good feeling about him, so I agreed to move in.
When David found out I had agreed to move in with a man who was essentially a stranger, he flipped. He broke up with me after I refused to revoke my promise to move in with Shawn.
The day after Halloween, November 1, I moved in with Shawn.
David and I reconciled briefly, but he was controlling and possessive. Perhaps some of Tessah’s vibes about him weren’t wrong. We broke up, dramatically, and despite his pleas, I refused to get back together with him.
The October rent check that had been the cause of the money woes was never deposited. I canceled the check after three months. Almost four months after I’d moved out, I received a call from the condo owner. She was livid about the canceled rent check and wanted extra money to pay for the cleaning because the condo was trashed when Tessah moved out.
I explained why the check was canceled and told her I hadn’t been living in the condo for nearly four months. The owner didn’t know this and seemed surprised to hear it. I told her I would pay for October (since I did live there for at least part of the month), but not for the cleaning.
Six months passed before I saw Tessah again. While having breakfast with a co-worker at a local restaurant, Tessah walked up to our table. She casually greeted only me, then immediately launched into an apology and explanation for what she’d done.
The doctors thought she had bipolar disorder. She was taking medication for it, but only the amounts she thought she needed. In the end, the dosages weren’t right, causing her to act erratically. She felt the doctor was wrong about bi-polar, and was no longer taking any medication. Instead, she was using yoga, meditation, and past-life therapy to heal herself.
I thanked her for her apology.
After she left the table, my wide-eyed co-worker asked “Was that your ex-roommate?”
“Yep,” I replied. He gave me a sympathetic smile.
I never talked to her again.