I had a really bad roommate my senior year of college. Like, come-home-drunk-every-night-walking-into-walls, making-enemies-with-all-my-friends bad. But she had nothing on my first roommate in New York.
Jess (not her real name) and I had met each other briefly a couple of summers earlier in Boston, where we'd both dated Irish guys who were living there for the summer. I reached out to her two years later when I was thinking of moving to Brooklyn, where she was currently living — and she was all about us getting a place. It was a total relief, since I had been planning to move there alone.
Things started out normal enough: We looked for apartments with my mom shuttling us around to different realtors and Craigslist posters, until we finally settled on a tiny, practically window-less apartment in Greenpoint on a really cute, tree-lined street, only a block away from the G train.
In the beginning, I was psyched to have Jess as a roommate. She was tall and pretty, with light eyes and super long, dark hair, well-dressed in that minimalist, New York-y kind of way, and had a ton of international friends who always seemed to be taking artsy pictures of each other. She owned the Balenciaga platform knockoffs I'd wanted forever but couldn't justify buying and had a collection of vintage fur jackets. I was dying to be part of her scene.
Once I asked her for fashion advice while combing through the milliards of party dresses hanging in my closet. “Your clothes just aren't very . . . New York,” she said.
Only about a month after we'd moved in (along with a guy she somehow knew, who worked part-time as an elderly person's aid and the rest of the time did his best to fill every available corner of our apartment with jars of homemade kombucha), she ended up going away to Europe for work and was gone for another six or so weeks. I couldn't wait for her to come back so we could finally settle into our apartment — I was envisioning, like, home-cooked roommate dinners and loft parties with French people. Or something like that.
But as I'm sure you've guessed from the title of this story . . . things didn't really work out that way. As soon as Jess got home, I sensed a change in her — that change being that she suddenly hated my guts. She and our other roommate would go out together without inviting me, she'd close her door whenever just the two of us were home, and yeah, we obviously never made dinner.
She also, apparently, had made plans to go back to Europe permanently — though she never mentioned it to me, directly. I found out via a Facebook status she posted, looking for a sublet.
Awkward as things were between us, I approached her one afternoon to let her know that I had a friend who might be interested in taking her room if she was, in fact, leaving. Bad move.
The conversation somehow quickly escalated into a heated Real World–esque, hands-in-my-face blowout. She told me that, unbeknownst to me, she had “lost all respect” for me a while back over an off-color comment I'd made about a former friend from high school (Jess didn't know her).
She also said that once, after I had spoken to her in her room while she was wearing a bath towel, she had gone to a policeman asking if I'd sexually harassed her in doing so (he told her I had) — and that, from now on, I was no longer allowed to knock on her door or speak to her in person. Instead, I should write her emails or notes.
I told her she was batshit crazy. Then, she very, very loudly and in my face, called me a “lying, bullshitting c-nt.” That was enough for me.
I got dressed and went to our landlord's office (bawling my eyes out, natch) and requested to move out and got approved THANK GOD. But my 24th birthday was only a week away, and several of my girlfriends from home and D.C. were planning to come for the weekend to celebrate.
In an attempt to be courteous, I slid a note under Jess's door a day before their arrival letting her know that I'd be having a few guests for my b-day. Then I went to work. When I got home, there was a note from her on the fridge saying that she wouldn't allow my friends to come because she “had the flu,” and that there were several hotels nearby if they needed places to stay.
I knocked on her door (the nerve!), my heart beating insanely fast in my chest. “Look, I know you don't like me,” I said to her when she finally answered. I was legit shaking, “but this is my birthday, and my friends have already bought their tickets. No one's going to be in your way, we're going to be out most of the weekend anyway, and . . . they're staying here. They just are.”
She looked me in the eyes and told me that if my friends, did in fact, come, she'd take all of their belongings while we were away and donate them to Goodwill. As one does.
I went outside and called my mom on the phone and cried forever. The kind of crying where people stop you on the street to ask if you're okay and you're so embarrassed you start crying more. It wasn't pretty.
The next morning, my puffy eyes and I went to the hardware store to buy a lock for my bedroom door, but nothing would really do the job. I had visions of Jess getting up in the middle of the night and cracking eggs over my friends' sleeping faces — exactly the kinds of thoughts you want to be thinking on your birthday, ya know?
My friends arrived, and piled all their bags into my closet of a room while I warned them all that my roommate was kind of crazy — but Jess, who, remember, was utterly dying of the flu, was nowhere to be seen. Had she left for the weekend?? Was victory mine?? It seemed too good to be true.
Whatever — the five of us got ready to go out, and ended up having an awesome night with an impromptu limo ride and everything. Yay, birthdays!
But as we've all learned from the movies, anything that seems too good to be true, is. When we walked into my apartment at 2:30 a.m., Jess — who'd apparently taken a break from vomiting and sleeping off her life-threatening illness — was standing in the kitchenette stirring ramen or something of that ilk.
“Oh, hi guys,” she said in a creepy serial killer voice (my own interpretation, of course), smirking. “Nora — can we talk for a minute?” She was going to murder me. And maybe my friends — that was clear. But just how, exactly, I wasn't sure.
My friends retreated into my room. What happened next was a total blur. After a heated exchange of words and some maniacal pleading on my part to “PLEASE Jess JUST LEAVE US ALONE IT'S MY BIRTHDAYYYYY,” and two of my friends coming back into the common area, lest some boiling pasta water be hurled our way, Jess called the police. As in, the effing NYPD.
“Hi, I'd like to report trespassers in my apartment. I don't know who they are and they're standing in my kitchen and I need you to come here right now,” she said calmly, me quietly cussing her out (“are you F--KING KIDDING ME RIGHT NOW?”) through tears of exhaustion and humiliation in front of my friends who'd traveled four hours to see me possibly get arrested at the hands of my psychopathic roommate.
Twenty minutes later, two NYPD officers arrived at my apartment, and — once they saw that the “trespassers” were really just Jess's roommate's girlfriends, all wearing pajamas in her bedroom — basically did the R.A. thing and told us to stay out of each other's way if we couldn't get along. Totally embarrassing, but at least partially fulfilling. I still really hope no one who was actually in trouble that night was slighted by the police because of Jess.
She ended up moving out before I did, and even sent me a seemingly heartfelt message on Facebook (heaven forbid we speak in person or on the phone), acknowledging that we'd “both said and/or done hurtful or offensive things,” but that she “didn't hate” me and was “sorry for the dramatic outcome” on my birthday. It seemed sincere, anyway.
Fast-forward a month-and-a-half. I'd finally moved out and left that sordid apartment literally empty, aside from a single, unassembled Ikea chair (no joke, I'd provided every piece of furniture in there). I gave Mr. Kombucha three-days' notice that I was leaving — it was the only revenge I could think up — and even then, he managed to swindle money out of me and the girl who was taking my place. Good people all around.
Jess was also back in Europe — meaning I had no chance of running into her anywhere. But there was one last thing I wanted from her: The electric bill she'd owed me for the last several months.
Her response? Well — after refusing to pay me, and berating me for my semi-unannounced move-out, of course:
“Good luck surviving in New York. You should realize when you don't fit in and never will. You're not New York material. You should go back to whatever toy store you came from where being brainless, talentless, and drenched in peroxide is socially acceptable. It annoys me enough to know that there's someone out there wasting as many resources that could go to decent people, as you. I don't need to be reminded.”
Well, my four-year New York City anniversary is next month. I'm still deciding how to celebrate — but it'll probably involve a party dress, and maybe even a fresh dye job.
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