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Strove to find a way to punch people in the face by using the Internet.

6/28/2004

DIARY OF INDIGNITIES
More Fun with Roommates
One time I narrowly missed becoming another man’s woman. Apparently.

It all started with my old high school buddy Chris Robertson. Chris was a great guy, and one day after a couple of beers, he took my hand, unexpectedly kissed me full on the mouth and, eyes full of tears, said, “I want you to be my woman. I’ve wanted it for a long time, and there’s nothing in the world I want more. Be mine.”

Ha ha! Not really! …As far as you know.

Anyway, Chris was kind of moody. He was significantly younger than his two older brothers and diabetic, and had been coddled by his parents to some degree, making him a bit spoiled. And when he’d drink, his blood sugar would go awry and he’d just become a total mess, alternating between sloppy rage, crying jags and an incomprehensible, yet vaguely menacing, sort of mumbling and giggling.

This stuff was all in good fun, really. He attacked me with machetes and butcher knives a few times, and I had to knock him unconscious once or twice… And there was the time he drank half a bottle of cough syrup at a party and decided to strangle himself by using a necktie tied to his bedroom doorknob… That was sort of funny and pathetic at the same time, something a slightly more sober Chris readily admitted a few hours later, laughing at himself with a self-deprecating cackle. In fact, even when these little dramatic episodes occasionally got out of hand, the fact that Chris himself would be the first to mock and belittle his shenanigans was a huge mitigating factor. And it always made for a good story.

But it’s one thing to have a buddy who has a fat sullen streak and the propensity to freak out every once in a while, and it’s another thing entirely to live with a buddy who has a fat sullen streak the propensity to freak out every once in a while.

Yes, Chris eventually moved in with me. And living together was a challenge. When he moved in, it was his first time leaving the nest. He had never developed certain life skills most people take for granted.

Once I saw him use a metal fork to fetch something out of a plugged-in toaster. I hollered at him, telling him that he could kill himself doing that. He told me to fuck off and went to sulk in his bedroom. Later, he called his mom to complain about me, but she confirmed the potential dangers of the deceptively placid toaster and even sent him a special non-conductive wooden tong he could use should he ever again need to pry a goodie from the machine’s infernal maw.

Another time, while sitting on the back deck of a local punk club eating hamburgers, I warned him to slow down on the booze… Predictably, he told me to fuck off, and not long after I saw him vomit on himself. Not feeling particularly compassionate that night, I lost track of him, but when I staggered home at 4 a.m. he was passed out on the bathroom floor, curled around the cool, comforting porcelain of our toilet. This wouldn’t really be notable except that months later while we were doing laundry he discovered a chunk of semi-digested burger from that night in the rolled-up cuff of his jeans. It was remarkably well-preserved.

You know, I just remembered… Not long after the toaster incident Chris started dating a girl who was his match in the life-skills department… He met her when I brought her home and had sex with her, but decided not to pursue a relationship after she smacked me in the face full-force when I told her I thought the Dead Milkmen sucked. A day or two later she turned up in his room. I snickered a little, but tried to conduct myself around them with as much politeness as I could muster. I couldn’t muster too much, of course, and as a result the tension around our place increased.

A week or two into this and, unbelievably, I caught her doing the very same metal-fork-into-the-toaster thing. Once again, I screamed, and she ran crying to Chris. He very gently explained that she could hurt herself that way, and demonstrated the use of the wooden toaster-tong. It was kind of heartbreaking and sweet, really, like watching someone with Down Syndrome teach a monkey to wear pants.

They seemed perfect for each other, and eventually got a place together. However, she was an English major at the college, and soon after entered her society-mandated humorless lesbo-commie phase, parading around with a vaguely militaristic cap, overalls, a stern expression and armpit hair. I didn’t see Chris too often around this time, but when I did he looked even more miserable than usual. Chris had always hated commies.

Anyway, before he moved in with her and had his balls removed, we were living together and it was a little tense, but it’s not like we didn’t still hang out. One night we were drinking on the porch and decided to hit the town. At one point during the revelry Chris says he’s going home. I find another ride, but remind him that I had lost my keys, so he’ll need to leave the door unlocked. A pretty straightforward exchange.

Complications arise when I make it home, a little after the bars close at 2. The front door, you see, is locked. I commence to pounding and yelling, hoping to rouse Chris, but it’s to no avail. Perhaps because of an alcohol-induced coma, or possibly just out of meanness, he’s refusing to let me in.

I’m drunk, pissed-off and panicked. My ride, a vague acquaintance, tells me that she wants to get home soon, lest her husband become enraged at the late hour and beat her, but she’s willing to give me a ride to a friend’s place or something. Pondering that creepy fucking statement through the drunken haze in my brain, I ask her to take me to Ben’s house.

Ben is quiet and reliable, the kind of person you can count on in this sort of crisis. He’s also deeply, deeply weird. Before I met Ben, I used to work with a jolly fratboy who referred to his mysterious, nocturnal roommate as “the vampire.” The first time I went to Ben’s place, I thought it looked familiar… I looked around for a minute, then remembered I had been there for one of the fratboy’s parties. Two and two came together in a flash and, delighted, I exclaimed, “Ben! You’re the vampire!”

“Yes,” he replied. Ben never said much.

But he was as demonstrative during sleep as he was reserved in the waking hours. He’d sleepwalk like a motherfucker, creeping around performing arcane, inexplicable tasks and having detailed, peculiar conversations with people while totally unconscious. A girlfriend once woke him during one of these esoteric somnambulant rituals and asked him just what he was up to… “I was holding down the blue rays,” he said, sighing.

So I had this strange woman drive me to Ben’s, thinking he’d be awake, or at least involved in some ghastly mockery of wakefulness, and I could use his phone to call Chris and wake his stupid ass up.

But Ben isn’t home. The abused wife leaves. I stagger around Ben’s neighborhood for what seems like hours, drunk and tired and wondering what I’m going to do. I decide the best course of action is to go back to Ben’s and sleep on his lawn.

I get there, and Ben’s home. He was out running errands, buying groceries and, possibly, draining blood from his victims. As best as I could in my state, I mumble my way through an explanation, and he lets me in to use the phone.

I call home, and after a few rings get our answering machine. Fuck, Chris still won’t wake up. I call back again — still nothing. On the third call, I try yelling into the machine. “Wake up! Chris, wake up! I need to come home and sleep! I have to work tomorrow!” No response.

Desperate, I call back a few more times. Ben sits on the edge of his bed, quietly watching. “You know,” he says, “It’s possible that Chris never made it home.”

Never… made it… home. The idea fills me with anger. He knows I don’t have my key! He promised to leave the door unlocked! And he never even bothered to go home!

“Give me the damn phone,” I say, finding a sudden focus in my rage. I dial our number again. “Chris, I know you’re out there, partying, even though you said you were going home and would leave the door unlocked for me. Well, this is it — I’m really pissed this time! Really pissed!” I slam down the phone.

After about 30 seconds, I decide that my message didn’t sufficiently convey the extent of my feelings, so I ask for the phone again. “Chris, I don’t think you know how pissed I am, man. I’m going to get you,” I growl. “I’m going to get you, and there’s nothing you can do about it. You can’t hide.” I slam the receiver down again.

I sit there for a minute or two, thinking about the situation and becoming even more enraged. I grab the phone and dial. “Chris, I’m going to beat the holy living shit out of you. You’re going to wish you had never been born. I’m not even going to give you the chance to make an excuse. I’m just going to open up and start hurting you the second I see you.” Slam!

And, predictably, a minute later I dial again. “You’re going to feel pain like you’ve never felt before, you miserable piece of shit. I’m going to break every bone in your worthless body. You’ve done a lot of crummy shit to me, but this takes the cake. I’m going to beat you, and beat you, and beat you, and there’s nothing you can do.”

This pattern repeats itself for about 15 more minutes, with my invective getting increasingly violent and detailed. “I’m going to peel your skin off, Chris. I’m going to light your fucking head on fire and piss it out, and then do it again. I’m going to rip out your right eye, but leave it attached, so I can point it at your other eye, and you can watch that eye being ripped out up close and personal.” Etc. Ben sits there, amused and a little alarmed. I finally tire, and crash on the floor.

The next morning, after a few shitty hours of drunken, uncomfortable sleep, Ben takes me to work. We stop by my apartment, hoping Chris will be there and I can grab a quick shower and change of clothes. Sure enough, he’s there. I throw open the door and burst into the room, snarling. Chris, who’s standing at the answering machine, jumps a few feet into the air and starts trembling. I push past him into my room and get ready for work. When I come back out, Chris is sitting on the couch with some kind of a homemade bandage wrapped around his head. I glare at him and leave, thinking, “If he thinks pretending to have some sort of head injury is going to spare him a beating, he’s got another thing coming.”

On the way to work, Ben tells me how obviously terrified Chris was. He was just shaking and pacing, Ben says, and wouldn’t say a word. “Good,” I say, but inwardly I start to soften. The guy was a fuck-up, but he’s still my pal. The scare ought to be punishment enough. I’d let him stew until I got home, and then make up with him.

I’m at work a few hours when Chris calls. He’s crying, and I feel terrible. “Dude, I’m not really going to beat your ass,” I say, trying to console him while wondering why he’s being such a blubbering pussy. He’s sobbing, making weird mewling noises and incoherently mumbling. The first articulate thing I can make out is him saying, “Last night I took some acid…”

Oh boy.

It turns out Chris had given this girl a ride home when he left. She invites him in for a drink, and he accepts. After some drinks and foolin’ around, they decide to go to a party, and she offers him a hit of LSD. He accepts that too.

So they get to this party, and he starts tripping, but gets freaked out by “these weird paintings of monsters” all over the place. Before long, he’s in the midst of a full-blown, drug-induced panic attack. He wants to go home, but is in an unfamiliar part of town, and is afraid to drive. So he decides to wait it out a bit.

A few terrifying hours later, he makes it home. He’s still feeling kind of wobbly and nervous, but decides to listen to the messages on the answering machine. Not surprisingly, he finds the tape of insults, screaming and violent threats somewhat less than soothing. He starts freaking out again, pacing around and wondering if he’s going crazy. Maybe those messages were just some kind of sick hallucination… He listens to them again to be sure. And a minute or two in, I burst through the door in a homicidal rage.

So Chris isn’t doing so hot.

I do my best to talk him down. I also make a few calls to friends and his girlfriend, who agrees to go keep an eye on him. Apparently, by the time she gets there the crisis is pretty much over. He’s giddy, and dancing around in some kind of homemade tinfoil hat. And he’s back to “normal” by the next day.

A few weeks later Ben and I are laughing about the whole thing. “There’s something else to the story; something I didn’t tell you before,” Ben says.

“Oh yeah? What?”

“Well, that night, while you were crashed on my floor, I did some sleepwalking.”

“Uh oh. What’d you do?”

“Well, I woke up at one point, and I had a hold of your boot,” Ben says. “I was dragging you across the floor by your boot. You slept through the whole thing.”

“What the fuck were you doing? Holding down the blue rays again?” I laugh.

Ben suddenly turns very serious.

“I suspect you were fixin’ to be my woman,” he says.

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