I open my eyes.
I gradually become aware of the cold winter light, feebly penetrating past the corners of my window blinds. It isn’t sunrise, though. The window faces east, but the sun has long since followed its path across the sky to its current westerly position. It is now late afternoon, maybe two or three o'clock. “Late”, in that it is late to rise at such a decadent hour. But it’s early for me; I’m a first year arts student. I start thinking about what my breakfast might consist of. Fries, maybe some pizza. It doesn’t matter, either one will do. It won't be eggs, though…eggs kind of disgust me.
I roll over to see with annoyance that my roommate Brent is in the room, reading. I’m glad that he’s away a lot, but you can’t get lucky all the time. He looks up as I rustle beneath my blanket, and places his book --"Heroes of the Lance"-- on his bed. He looks as though he has been waiting, and I realize that he’s been making some noises over on his side of the room with the intention of waking me up. Brent has a way of being inconsiderate with regards to my sleeping habits.
"Hey, you're finally up," he says.
With a grimace, I reach for a cigarette, in triumphant disregard for the authority and policies of this dormitory. Where the fuck is the ashtray? Oh, on the floor. I put it on my chest, a memento of a ripper club I went to across the river one night.
"Jim, hey, we have to talk, man. Some things have been on my mind, and I want to kind of clear the air. It's tough enough living with a roommate, and us talking about stuff is important, right?" Brent says.
I notice that a slight tremor makes itself evident in Brent's voice - it seems he has been preparing for this little confrontation. I find his nervousness surprising; having just awakened, lying in bed clad only in my underwear and fumbling around with my usual “morning” routine, I have to believe that I’m pretty unintimidating. Whatever.
"Oh?" I say. I twist my face at the stupidity of my answer. Brent, you idiot bastard. Leave it to you to create a socially uncomfortable situation.
I light my smoke, and put my hands behind my head. I found out a few weeks ago that if I have a cigarette as soon as I wake up, the buzz is intensified, as compared to other, more conventional smoking times. Also, instead of dragging into my mouth, then inhaling, the effect is maximized if the cigarette smoke is just inhaled in one giant drag, like a joint. It takes some practise. I do it now."Ifffffffff",
goes the cigarette.
I chuff a little out my nose, but this breath isn't too bad, and I don’t lose much. My head swims, and I remind myself of the universal truth: anything that makes you feel this way can’t be good for you. I resolve at that moment to continue doing things that feel good. I watch as the blue smoke of my exhaled smoke roils and drifts above my bed like an evil spirit. On the wall beside me, Kurt Cobain kneels eternally onstage with his beat-up guitar, extracting the simple notes that somehow nobody else on earth was able to produce. Saint Kurt, praying on his knees to the god of Rock. I make an “O” with my smoke-trail.
In these few moments, I completely forget about Brent, in the same way I ignore television commercials. Not only is Brent an irritating, moronic, and clumsy bastard, he has absolutely no redeeming qualities to speak of. He could at least be an interesting
bastard. I could likely tolerate the guy if he at least said something once in a while that didn't sound like it came from an after school special.
But there’s more. The thing is, I’ve been unable to forgive him since the day I came home from class a couple months ago to find him masturbating with a book of art nudes I keep in my desk. He'd had to rummage around through my things to find it. That kind of invasion is inexcusable:
“What the hell are you doing?” I yelled.
“Nothing! Ah…I was doing some reading,” he said in a loud, caught-in-the-act kind of voice. He made a sudden, exaggerated scratching motion in his groin under his blanket. “Man, I wish this jock itch would go away,” he said, tenting the cheap yellow wool. He tossed my book over on my bed.
Sure, Brent. I walked in to see you taking care of your jock itch. Fuck sakes, at least go in the shower.
Brent's half of the wall is bare, and the few personal items he displays on his dresser are utilitarian in origin: combs, deodorants, a small photo of his nauseating girlfriend. On his floor lie socks, discarded t-shirts, and his conformist, preppie shoes.
Brent: a generic and forgettable character.
"Ahhh, Jim...ahhh, well listen,” he says.
“I’m listening, Brent,” I say.
“Well, I'm just going to say it. Your attitude, I mean, the way you act sometimes...well, it's really bothering me. I mean, I feel like I can't have friends in here because you're always hanging around. Also, your stuff is everywhere, and the bathroom is always messy. Can't you - I mean, can you DO
something about this? It's been on my mind a while. Don't you even GO
anywhere? And my food in the fridge, the beer. When are you going to get some? Like, well...I guess that's it for now…and you're always sleeping, man! How am I supposed to be in here while you are always sleeping?," Brent says. The pace and volume of his outburst increased as he went on, until he is almost yelling. He runs a trembling hand through his hair, and I realize that Brent is actually upset. He jumps to his feet and begins to pace around.
“What, you don’t want me in my own room?” I say.
I mean, don't get me wrong, man!," Brent says. "You're this great roommate - you play guitar and all that stuff - and that's cool! But, I need some room, man. I mean, we can get drunk some time - cool?- but I'm talking about some respect, y'know? That's all, man," Brent says.
He grabs a CD and heads for the door. I stare throughout this entire episode, wondering how this morning has started out so fucking badly. It’s just too much for me to take in as soon as I wake up. Respect? Did he learn that word from his rapper buddies? All I had wanted today was a nice little cigarette before my breakfast, Christ. Some fucking fries, Brent, you dumb shit. How am I supposed to enjoy those now? Now I’ve got you
on my mind. I'm going to need a milkshake or something with them now, you ordinary, unexciting shitheap. And why can't you enjoy even one fucking song I like?
"I'm seeing Tim next door...ahh, I'll be back in a bit. Think about it," he points suddenly, and closes the door.
Think about what?
I seethe for a moment in silence, and stub out the smoke. I swing my legs from beneath my sheets, and pull on some pants. It’s always cold in here.
The thing is though, I know Brent is right. I can be a very inconsiderate, rude, and difficult roommate. I feel like the room is my sole entitlement, and I hate the intrusion that Brent represents on my privacy. In a million different passive ways, I seek to make his life miserable on a daily basis. But what really galls me is that Brent made the effort to point out the obvious. Of course I do all the things he mentioned. I don’t need Brent's simplistic, clumsy analysis to realize the truth of it. Ironically, Brent's awareness of my behaviour annoys the hell out of me, and the audacity of Brent's speech this morning leaves me feeling even more resentful towards him; it was a tactical mistake, and will only create more tension. I wonder if my application for a single room will ever be processed. I kick one of Brent's shirts on the way to the bathroom for my customary morning piss.
I stop short a moment. Wait, what did he say? The food? That’s a lie. The first week in this concrete cell, Brent ate almost all the food I had stocked the little fridge with. And beer? Brent obviously never counts, otherwise he would see that the consumption is almost totally his own.
I open the fridge to examine the contents - not much food, admittedly, but we don’t need a lot, what with our meal plans and all. Also, plenty of beer stood in the back in their familiar brown bottles. Another dorm rule broken, but who cares, really. We aren't going to throw the bottles around, and beer out of cans tastes terrible.
My bladder cramps, and a sudden inspiration flashes through my mind on this grey winter afternoon. My eyes widen as I consider its possible outcome.
This can all be made right.
But only if I hurry.
I grab a bottle of beer from the fridge, and scuttle into our bathroom. This is going to be the ultimate roommate violation. But it is also going to be satisfying.
I twist the cap off the bottle --Molson Export-- and have a deep slug. Then I gulp a few more. It’s good, better than I thought it would be. My teeth chatter on the bottleneck as I work to guzzle down the foaming liquid. As a matter of fact, this morning beer tastes goddam amazing. I fill my cheeks, and hold up the bottle: half gone. Fucking beautiful.
I unzip my fly, hold the bottle over the sink, and do what comes naturally. I remember the similar scene in Dumb and Dumber when Jim Carey filled a few bottles in that hilarious brown dog truck they were riding around in.
"Wanna hear the most annoying sound in the world?” I say to the mirror.
I roar laughter in the freedom of this moment. Would it work, though? Even just a sip would be total success. The bottle fills quickly, so I finish off in the sink, yet another antisocial, but very satisfying act. Peeing in the sink, I’ve never done that. It’s sort of like a very high urinal, actually. Turn on the water for a second...and, we're done.
Using a bit of toilet paper, I wipe the bottle off in consideration of the possibility of renegade urine drops. Now, this is the critical part. If the twist-top won't go back on, this little stunt is finished before it starts. I carefully screw the top back on as tight as possible. It looks okay. I look at the handiwork for a moment, and then shake up the bottle a bit. I see the familiar bubble of carbonation inside.
I sprint out of the bathroom to replace the bottle in the fridge, putting it prominently in front of the others. I’m just about to sit down when Brent returns, looking apologetic.
"Jim, listen. I don't know if I went over the top there or what. Exams are soon, that's all. I'm just fucked up, man. What can I say?," he pauses. "Want a beer? I'm kind of fucked, man."
This is too perfect.
"Uh, no thanks, man. I just woke up. I think I might have some fries in the cafeteria," I say. My voice is even. I was made
for a life of crime. My mouth twitches, nearly betraying me. Struggling to contain the wild grin that threatens to surface is proving almost impossible. I turn away, pretending to look at my nose in the mirror. I am ice cold
. No way
does he figure this out, because I'm a fuckin' shark.
"Okay, man. Your funeral!," Brent laughs, grabbing the beer.
Hey, Brent, does that beer feel warmer to you?
Do you sense my excitement?
I peek out of the corner of my eyes.
The moment of truth arrives. Brent twists the cap, and we both hear the small, familiar sound:psssk!
Brent pinches the cap, and does that fucking jock snap-the-finger thing, and flicks the beercap at me, zipping it past my head. In that moment, any shred of remorse I might have felt slips from my mind. This is for all other instances of beercap flicking, I think. Bottoms up.
Brent puts the bottle to his lips, and gulps greedily. He must have been thirsty. He polishes off half the bottle in one draught...just like I had, minutes earlier.
"Hunh!," he exclaims. "This beer tastes funny. It's not too fizzy, either," he ponders. He smacks his lips in the way that only a complete idiot could, and scrutinizes the label. As though this would somehow provide a clue for this strange taste. He shrugs. "It goes down pretty smooth, though," he decides. He has another swig, and sits on his bed, reaching for his pulpy book again.
I’ve seen enough. I rise to my feet.
"I'm going to get some fries," I say. "I thought I'd get a milkshake...but I changed my mind.” I walk to the door. "Later, Brent," I begin to strut, hand still on the doorknob.
“Later,” he grunts.
I hear him mutter as the door closes. “What a fuckin’ weirdo…”
Jimmy 1, Brent 0.