Dead End Job: A Louisa Hallstrom Novel(7)

By: Ingrid Reinke


To add to the misery of my living situation, I had a roommate. I hated having a roommate; it was so college-y and embarrassing, but my current reality was that I just couldn’t afford to live by myself. Her name was Kathy, and she was a short, troll-ish woman who had been a fellow student in my International Economics program. Our average class size was only fifteen or so, which meant that in addition to a great education the students were either blessed with extremely wealthy parents or graduated with debt up to their eyeballs and a twenty-year repayment plan. Kathy was one of the former types of students, and because she didn’t have to work for a living, last year she moved back to Seattle on a whim after four years in her home state of Colorado. This move happened just when I was having my “life crisis” and leaving Orange County with all of my worldly belongings packed into a U-Haul. So of course, we found each other through Facebook. While Facebook told me a lot about what she had been up to since college, it didn’t tell me that she had, in the years we’d been apart, become a complete and total slob.

Kathy grew up with very wealthy, workaholic parents, and always had nannies and, apparently, housecleaners. She did not know how to take care of herself in the real world at all. I remember distinctly the moment when I figured this out: a couple of weeks after we moved in, she dropped a glass jar of spaghetti sauce on the kitchen floor and stood staring at it for several minutes, visibly upset. Then she started to make whimpering noises. It was the most pathetic thing I’d ever seen. Her entire being froze and she stood there staring at the mess with absolutely no idea what to do next. Finally, sighing, I jumped in, grabbed the broom and mop and took care of the mess.

Additionally, while Kathy and I had been renting the place together for a little over a year, as far as I could tell she had yet to wash her sheets or towels. I knew for a fact that when we moved in, her bath towels had been ivory, and now they were a dim grey color, and the smell wafting from them reminded me of aged Parmesan. Occasionally, I would sneak into her bathroom and pour a capful of bleach into her toilet to kill off some of the mold. I did this for two reasons: one, because I couldn't stop myself, and two, because when people walked into my house as guests, I didn’t want them greeted by a moldy, poo-smelling potty and some dingy towels covered in pubes. I don’t know, I just didn’t think it sent the right message, especially if that visitor was one of my dates.

Other than her hygiene, Kathy was an OK roommate. She had lots of friends, and she even tried to get me to do the “roommates/best friends” thing. She gave up after a couple of months of asking me to do things like go to a water-conservation-themed drinking night at the Zoo Tavern with a bunch of nerdy strangers, eventually accepting that I was generally too depressed to be social most of the time. Also, because financially she was fully supported by her parents, she was never late on the bills. She spent most of her time editing a new magazine with her group of hipster friends. From what I could gather from her ramblings, the content the magazine fit along the lines of the super-liberal-Seattle-anti-government-keep-your-hands-off-my-fetus-let’s-grow-some-medicinal-marijuana-and-save-Africa-while-doing-yoga-poses theme.

I considered myself just as liberal as the next person, but Kathy’s friends took political activism up a quite a few notches to the point where most working people would consider them fanatics. It was a bit odd because most of her friends belonged to the same social group that Kathy did: unemployed, credit-card hippies, supported by their mommies and daddies. It was frustrating for me because: A) I actually had to work for a living (corporate America was a big no-no in this social circle), and B) I wore non-organic clothing in addition to eyeliner, so no matter how I voted, I would never be an acceptable member of this group. For all of the all-inclusive conversation, in the end they were very clique-y. In fact, I was pretty sure that they found each other on a forest-green Subaru meet-up website. So even though I knew my friendship with Kathy could never fully flourish, she was nice enough and didn’t drink my wine, which was central to my tolerance of her messiness and social circle.

I highly doubted that I would bring my date home tonight, but just in case, I grabbed the bleach I had hidden in the built-in cabinet in the garage and poured a capful into her toilet. I told myself I was being sneaky because I was trying not to hurt her feelings by pointing out how much of a disgusting human being she really was. The truth was, I was just chickenshit. I didn’t want to have the conversation with her because I knew that any type of confrontation gave me heart palpitations, and I wouldn’t be able to sleep for days if we’d had a fight about it. Plus, I didn’t want to create any drama that might ruin my living arrangement.