Amir doesn’t talk much. He’s a painfully introverted guy who avoids eye contact and conversation, and never comes out to the kitchen without earbuds in and a screen in front of his face. The only time I hear his voice is when he’s playing video games: The occasional “YESS!” or a string of profanity echoes down the hall from his room, depending on how his game is going at the moment.
I’ve been meaning to talk to him for weeks, but I just haven’t been able to make it happen. You see, he seems to think the bathroom is a water park. Every time I walk in there, a wave of disgust shoots up through my body as my socked feet step in puddles of water. Soap and water are splashed all over the mirror, the counter, and the floor every day, in unfathomable quantities. I honestly don’t know what he’s doing in there. Does he shower with a Super Soaker, shooting his reflection in the mirror, playing an aquatic version of Call of Duty?
And the stove. He fries EVERYTHING! There’s oil all over the stovetop. He doesn’t wash his pans, he just reuses them and the oil inside, and the oil splashes down on the elements so that every time I turn on a burner, the kitchen gets filled with smoke.
I’ve been needing to talk with him about these things, but I don’t want our first conversation to be me telling him all the things he’s doing wrong. That’s just not a good way to start a roomie relationship, and it might breed resentment.
Well, tonight, after 3 months of living together in silence, we finally broke the ice. I had just said goodbye to a visitor and gone back up to my bedroom and found that my door was locked. I had purposely left it unlocked earlier that night, but apparently, I had gone back and locked it afterward; automatically, without thinking. My keys were inside the room.
It was late. I called several locksmiths, but nobody was answering. I texted the landlord, who lives in another city. He said he’d come and let me in in the morning. In my mind, I had resigned to sleeping on the couch that smells like a thousand badly-cooked meals.
After a few minutes of listening to the hum of the fridge and smelling the ghosts of burnt pizzas past, I thought, “There has GOT to be a way in!” So I started messing with the lock, shoving anything I could into the narrow, crooked gap around the frame, trying to find a way to get the latch open. I used some money for starters. Canada’s sturdy, polymer bills are flexible enough to fit through, but unfortunately, Sir John A. MacDonald wasn’t strong enough to press the latch and open the door.
Just then, my silent roommate walked by, and I caught his attention. I told him what happened, and asked for ideas. We started brainstorming and decided the door was the wrong way to go in. He asked if my window was closed. I remembered that it was indeed closed, but unlocked. So Number 57 and I headed into the backyard.
Below my window was a shelter that had been built to house an outdoor hot tub. The tub had long since retired to a landfill site, but various items laid piled in its place. After some discussion and experimentation, we decided the best bet was to stack our other roommate’s winter tires beside the shelter, then use them to climb up to the window. (At least he had all 4 winter tires. I’d left my set in the back yard the year before, and someone stole not all of them- just one. Who steals one good Michelin tire? Why didn’t they take all four? But I digress.)
I volunteered for the climb, and Amir helped out and held the tires as I climbed. Once at the top, I felt like I was in a bouncy castle. It was difficult to direct my trajectory to get me onto the shelter, but after a few tries, I hoisted myself up, perching precariously.
Now, my window had one of those indestructible screens that does not easily slide out of position. It’s made so you can open the windows from either side, or both sides at the same time, and still be protected from Canada’s National Bird: the Mosquito. It took a fair bit of manipulating, but I eventually popped the screen out of place.
The window opened easily, but another obstacle presented itself- a dozen glass bottles, just inside the window. I had taken cuttings of a plant that has been in the family for generations. All of the cuttings were lined up in front of the window in nice little glass bottles, where they were sprouting new roots, preparing for their day to be planted. I had to carefully lift every little plantlet one at a time, and rest it on the top of the rickety old hot tub shelter to keep it safe before climbing through the window.
Plants safe? Check. Enough space for one foot on the shelf unit side? Check. Amir holding the tires in case I need to step back onto them? Check. With a half-crawl, half-jump motion, I sprung through the window. I placed my foot on top of a book shelf, then sent an alarm clock flying as I stepped onto my desk, then “fell with style” onto my bed. I was in. We beat the door lock. We were victorious.
I thanked Amir for his help, which was very much appreciated. I probably would have broken my neck if I had done it alone. I was also very happy that #57 and I had finally had a conversation, and worked together on something.
But don’t get your hopes up for a tale of newfound friendship, because the next time I saw him, which was only a few minutes later, he had his earbuds back in and stealthily slinked past me, around the corner as if he were a ghost who believed he was unseen. I supposed he could reward himself with another 3 months of self-imposed solitude if that’s what he wanted, because he’d earned enough of my respect to let him be, and I continued to clean the stove and bathroom myself.
Life in that house was always eventful. Come back tomorrow and we’ll time travel to one year B.A. (before Amir), to the day when Nancy the Nudist moved in.