Roommates

My sister was my first roommate. My bassinet was placed besides her bed, and I have pictures of her at three years old rocking me to sleep. That’s what she says she was doing, but she says it in a way that means, “Yeah, right. Believe that and you really are the stupid little sister I never wanted.” You can see why I looked up to Dory.

As kids do, I grew. By the time I was nine and she was twelve we were the same size if I rolled her pants up at the waist and ankles and wore her favorite shirt to cover the band. Her clothes were cooler than mine. I had to have them. Eventually, I would, so I figured, why wait?

Dory almost killed me over the tape recorder. I hadn’t bothered to read the tiny words embossed on the buttons, you know, play and stop. In my defense, I was “warned repeatedly” not to touch her precious tape recorder, so this forced me to have one eye on the tape recorder and the other on the door. This is why when Dory burst into our room without even knocking my left eye, the one playing look-out, startled my right eye. Had she come home fifteen minutes later I would have had the reams and reams of tangled tape from the 8 track off my bedspread and back in her stupid tape recorder.

This is what I tried to explain to her as she was screaming, “Ma, Ma! Look at what Miss Pest did now! (Miss Pest was her sweet pet name for me) In reality, the recorder was a goner. Whether I had fifteen minutes or fifteen years there was no way this linguine was getting back in the pot.

Living in close quarters we all have trouble sharing stuff. You learn things about yourself that you would hate in someone else. And certain moments stay with you.

I’m thinking about the time I framed my sister with the evidence my mother was looking for…three silver wrappers from the Hershey Chocolate Kisses we weren’t supposed to have. I hid them in Dory’s pink and white terry cloth bathrobe pocket and never said a word when my mother, a distant relative of Sherlock Holmes found them.

The Hershey Kiss Crime has always stayed with me, and it may sound weird, but letting my sister take the rap may be the worst thing I’ve ever done to a roommate. Oh, wait…when I was about twelve, I let my parakeet, Albie almost starve to death. We ran out of bird seed, and I forgot to mention it to my parents. Albie was a cute little guy, an Albino with pink eyes and pure white feathers. He was very playful until he got very hungry.

I was a pretty good mother to my kids who, I suppose if I count Albie as a roommate, so were they. I let them eat chocolate all day long. See? I’m not a hard person to live with. Just keep me away from parakeets.

I got married after I lived alone for a year which made Jimmy my first adult roommate. I’m not sure if husband falls into the roommate category, though. Rachel, my 30 something single friend has had plenty of roommates of both sexes over the years so I asked her about roommates. Without hesitating Rachel came up with, “A roommate is like being married except you have a chance for sex.”

Rachel confided that she used to seek out roommates who could double as a maid. “Just like men do when they’re looking for a wife” she’d say. When interviewing them she’d ask if they came with a vacuum. Her first anal roommate was like a hurricane that swept through but cleaned up.

It turned out that after the first storm Rachel couldn’t find anything. Rachel had assumed that if she had someone to tidy up after her she’d be more productive. Now she spent all her time tearing the house apart and making a new mess looking for phone numbers and important papers. She had to wait until her roommate came home to get anything done.

I asked Rachel if it’s a good idea or a bad idea to live with someone who’s already a friend. “Well, remember Lisa? She laughed. “We were really close until we lived together. Before when she ate everything in sight, I thought it was funny that she was a pig. She moves in and now it’s costing me.”

I told Rachel I thought that was pretty petty of her and I didn’t realize she was a petty person. She told me what do I know? I don’t live with her. Touché!

The classic complaint seems to be that roommates borrow clothes and then return them to their own closet. It becomes the first place to look. If you find your favorite sweater back in your own closet you can bet it’s got a giant stain on it or stretched out so much you lost a sweater but gained a blanket.

I can only think of two reasons why women have roommates…to save money and the fear of living alone. In the old days, when women were still in the closet if you asked them how long they’ve shared their apartment and they told you they’ve just had their two-year anniversary it was a safe bet they didn’t use the second bedroom.

If we live long enough our children may insist that we come and live with them making them and their family our final roommates. Some adult children insist in a whisper and others use sign language proving this is a classic empty gesture. They really don’t want us around mainly because young people can’t stand old people’s smell.

It’s hard to blame them. Even the best nursing homes smell because the odor is coming from the old people.  Proof that is when you visit your grandmother sitting on a bench outside in the garden something still smells. The only way to make the air fresher in a nursing home is to get rid of the old people.

I don’t understand why you never hear of anyone over 80 suggesting it’s time to sell their house and live out their years in one room playing fun games like, “Who’s that person who just visited me and called me “Mom?” Old folks always go kicking and screaming using energy they claim they didn’t have when you asked them to help you move your piano.

Lots of old people complain and rightly so that they that they don’t want to share a room with some stranger. Often, though, this stranger is their sister-in-law.

Plenty of people live in nursing homes and have their own room, which the nursing home management advertise as a “studio apartment.” When my time comes and it’s coming soon, I would opt for that. Maybe, I’ll get a little parakeet to keep me company.

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