One of the best things Kristi ever did was to rid us of our aspiring singer. He was bloody awful. Like listening to a herd of cats fighting with an amorous water buffalo.
Singing was all he did all day long. He sang while he made his food. He sang in the shower. He sang as he cleaned. And he only left the house to go to his vocal lessons. I don’t know who his teacher was, but they should have been jailed for fraud.
There was only so much we could take. We played our stereos at top volume to blot out the sound and Kristi started a steady campaign to annoy him until he cracked and left, shouting about how we didn’t appreciate art as he slammed the door behind him.
So we needed a new roommate.
As it turns out Will had one for us. His friend Steve from somewhere in the Midwest. Nebraska, I think. He was just turning 18 and was chaffing to leave the blandness of the prairie and get away from his parents.
The feeling was apparently mutual. Two weeks after we decided to take him in his parents had shoved him on a plane with two brand-new suitcases and a one-way ticket to SFO. They were probably high-fiving each other as he boarded.
Will went to the airport and brought back a tall, chubby, pale kid with a mild case of acne on his cheeks. He was dressed all in black and had hair that looked like it had been inked by a squid. He blinked at us like he only sporadically saw the sun or real, live people and then retreated to his basement room with his suitcases.
Steve went through the next couple of weeks getting his feet under him. It was clear that he’d never A) had a job, B) cooked food, or C) done laundry. Not only had he never done any of these things he didn’t seem inclined to attempt them. (Except for a single ill-fated attempt to boil water where he forgot about the pan and boiled all the water off and I found it red hot and making alarming popping noises.)
He just seemed helpless. When I laughingly told him he was helpless he was offended and told me he wasn’t “helpless” he was just “sad” and found the world “pathetic.”
I had never heard that being “sad” could contribute to not being able to boil water, but what did I know. I was Wonderbread and naive. When I told Sarah Beth about Steve’s being “sad” she just rolled her eyes and said, “He’s such an Emo.”
“It’s that a Muppet?”
She laughed and said, “No. He’s a Goth, silly!”
I was intrigued. I’d never really met a Goth. Goth didn’t happen in my farming community of 7000. Skater punk? Yes. Pot-smoking hippies? Yes. Preppies? Sure. Farm boys? Of course. But Goth was a foreign land to me.
I started trying to observe Goth Boy in his natural habitat. Like Marlin Perkins from Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom and the Lions of sub-Saharan Africa. He didn’t make it easy, though. His door was closed most of the time and I’d catch snippets of bands like This Mortal Coil and Nosferatu coming through the thin wood. And he kept his shades drawn, which made it difficult for Sarah Beth and I to spy on him from outside.
Somehow he found other Goth Peoples to hang out with. I have no idea how it happened. Suddenly I was meeting him comping home at 6am from Goth Clubs while I was on my way out the door to work at the vet clinic. And that was pretty much the only time I saw him. Sweaty and tired and stumbling from God knows what drug he pretended to take.
According to Sarah Beth, my reliable informer on all things Goth Boy, he would get to bed at 7am and then sleep until 4 or 5 in the afternoon.
We didn’t care. People are going to do what they want. We weren’t his parents. Once he ran out of money he’d smarten up.
And then food started disappearing.
I want you to understand. We were poor. None of us made more than $16K per year. Hourly. With no benefits. I could barely afford to keep myself housed and fed. And that was with a diet of instant Ramen and beans & rice. My primary thought each day was “What am I going to eat today?” Next was, “How much can I afford to eat?” And after that was, “What am I going to eat tomorrow?” It was a very tight existence that we shared. So to have food that we were counting on disappear was more than just an inconvenience. It threatened our existence.
The first to disappear were some of the unsold sandwiches from the coffee shop Sarah Beth would bring home when she closed. That wasn’t so bad. That was extra bounty. Then different cartons of leftover takeout food started to disappear. That was much more serious so we had a house meeting. Goth Boy couldn’t be roused from his sleep and so he missed the meeting. It was just as well. We knew it was him and so we bitched about him the entire time.
It was decided that Goth Boy needed to get a job. An income and responsibilities would solve most of his issues.
Duncan flat out refused to recommend him for a job at the game store where he, Will, and Raj worked. I certainly wasn’t going to invite him to join me at the vet clinic. So it was Sarah Beth who offered to get him a job at the coffee shop.
His shift was 3pm to 7pm. Just 4 hours, but that’s all the manager would give him until he could prove himself. Easy work and he didn’t have to get up early in the day. And, bonus, the coffee shop uniform was black so he didn’t need to buy new clothes. In fact, he just added a new t-shirt to his collection of Gothwear.
So here’s how Goth Boy’s new career as a coffee jockey went:
Day 1: Good. He got up, showered, and made it on time. Worked his shift. Came home.
Day 2: Good. On time. Worked. Brought food home. Went to Goth Club with Goth Peoples. Got home at 6am.
Day 3: Bad. Couldn’t wake up on time for his 3pm shift. Chose to not go in as opposed to being just “late.” Went to Goth Club with Goth Peoples. Got home at 7am.
Day 4: Not Good. Sarah Beth drug him out of bed and got him to work. Bitched the entire time about being “sad” and “misunderstood.” How we “norms” don’t get him. Finished his shift in a huff and went out to Goth Club with Goth Peoples.
Day 5: Bad. Did not get up and go into work. Locked door of room so Sarah Beth couldn’t get to him. Snuck out to club. Got home at 6am. Hid behind fridge so I wouldn’t see him as I was on my way to work. Thinks I am stupid.
Day 6: Way Bad. Fired.
We had another meeting, this time with him. (One of Raj’s many talents appears to be lock picking.) We explained how there was this thing called Rent that happened each month and Goth Boy needed to get his shit together so he could pay Rent. Otherwise he’d have to talk to Burt and the caulk gun and that was bound to be unpleasant. He swore he would get a new job. The coffee shop job was just too cheerful for him.
So we decided not to kick him out.
And then more food went missing.
Specifically the peach I was going to have for breakfast. The only piece of fresh fruit I was going to eat all day – maybe for 2 days – and this freeloader has swiped it from me. This is a line you just don’t cross.
I was beyond furious. I wrote an incredibly bitchy note about the theft of my peach and demanded that “whoever” had eaten had better go out and buy me another one. I left it right on the kitchen island for everyone to see and them I went to work. At 6am. Like a muthafuckin’ adult.
Everyone saw the note. And apparently everyone knew what was coming, except Goth Boy. When I got home Duncan, Will, and Sarah Beth were standing in the kitchen with Goth Boy. The note was still there and written across the bottom of it was “IT WAS JUST A FUCKING PEACH!! GET OVER IT!!”
I looked up and glared at Goth Boy. He shrugged and said, “Well, it was.”
The next thing I remember Will had his hands on my ankles and was pulling me back across the island and Sarah Beth had her hands around my wrists. Goth Boy was pressed against the stove, eyes wide, holding his throat. “Jesus Christ!” he yelled, “She’s a psycho!”
Duncan turned to him and said, “She’s right. You have to move out. We’ll help you pack.”
I never saw him again.
And we needed a new roommate.