I’m trying not to stare at his testicles; they are hanging out of his shorts while he sits defensively cross legged on one of the living room chairs. His name is Chester, one of our roommates, and he is surrounded by the four of us telling him why he’s not wanted here anymore. I feel awful, I want to speak for him, tell everyone to back off, but, unfortunately, what little time I have spent knowing the accused has left me very little to offer in his defence. To say he is odd would be delivering you a picture of cute and quirky, which he is not. Sadly, he is irritating in a strange and opinionated way. His mode of communication is mainly through notes, notes that he leaves throughout the house. Pieces of paper that greet you every morning, left in strategically placed locations like an angry trail of dog shit he has managed to vomit out every night. These notes informed you of what you are doing to upset him. Things like noise coming from your room, dirty ashtrays, the position of food in the fridge or dishes in the sink. When confronted with his complaints he usually stares at the floor and sputters angrily then retreats to his room. I, of course, feel we can get past this, but my opinion is not valued, I have only been living here for a month or so, and my testicle exposing friend has been here less than that.
The meeting is being spear headed by Kevin, a short, bearded, pasty academic who has lived in this house for almost six years. He collects the rent and has laid claim to the living room and dining room where he teaches clarinet. He is probably paying the same rent as the rest of us but it appears the heart of the house belongs to him through the gift of time. I don’t care, as a person with an extensive resume of roommate experience I have learned not to fight with the person who has peed on everything to mark their territory. Like everything else in my life, this is temporary. But still, it bothers me that Kevin is using all of us to present the illusion of a united front. There is something sneaky about it. He did not ask our opinion, because really, he does not care. He feels entitled to his cheap rent and full reign on the house and will run it accordingly.
Chester squeaks and grunts, offering explanations that come out as defiant and obtuse as he is. I kind of envy him just a bit. Here he sits, everyone supposedly against him, balls hanging out and he doesn’t seem to be backing down…good for him. Truth be told, I don’t know if Kevin can legally throw him out, technically he is not the landlord, but what do I know? I hope Chester proves to have the balls he is currently exposing. I hope he screws Kevin and lives here for the next ten years, dethroning him and putting his own stink on every piece of Salvation Army furniture in the house. I can see it now, Chester turning the tide with softer kinder notes, winning the hearts and minds of Kevin’s own army. At first we’ll laugh at his attempts to charm us but then we’ll start to picture a different world, a world where we can actually sit in the living room without being accosted by some god awful clarinet student barking out something that resembles a wet fart. Yes, this could be good, go Chester go, hit him where it hurts, start the mutiny.
Chester eventually retreats to his bedroom, sputtering something under his breath, probably words like mass murder, revenge or arson. He doesn’t agree to leave but he doesn’t say he is staying. We are now stuck in roommate limbo, stuck with an angry nut job Kevin has now turned into an enemy for all of us.
The rest of us disperse to our assigned locations, leaving Kevin to review his options…buy a gun, leave. I sit in my room and listen for any signs of packing noises coming from Chester’s room, his room is attached to mine and right now it is too close for comfort. I’ve never been in his room and now imagine devises of destruction stored in his closet for just such an event. I listen carefully, but nothing. When I think about it, staying quiet could be Chester’s easiest revenge. If he can take the heat and doesn’t leave, he could force the rest of us out by using the one thing we are using against him, his own personality.
I sit and wait.
One o’clock in the morning, I have decided to venture to the washroom and bring back a plastic container to pee in for the night. I tip toe pass his room and notice his light is on. He is usually asleep by now, one of his many issues is that he goes to bed early and complains via notes to me about the noise. I don’t have a TV in my room and I don’t listen to music on speakers, only on headphones. When he leaves his morning note he refers to noise but never specifies what kind. I have always been ultra cautious about noise levels since as a child our entire family was on alert as soon as my father went to bed. Any noise, especially dishes hitting each other could send him into a fit; he would stomp downstairs and express his anger by slamming doors while getting a glass of water than stomping back upstairs. Every time I would accidentally drop a fork or allow a cabinet door to close just a bit too loudly I would freeze and wait. This reminds me of that time, except now I am just waiting. I take one of my chairs and gingerly prop it against the door then check the window for a possible escape route. I can go out the window onto the second story porch, hang and drop. If my legs or feet don’t get broken I can run. If all hell breaks loose it’s every roommate for themselves, rule number one, never move in with friends.
It’s three o’clock in the morning, I am still awake. I have managed to find a bat like instrument to sleep with. It might be the leg of a piece of furniture left here by the last tenant, I’m not sure, but it will do. I have never in my life had to fight someone and I don’t know if I could, I think I could, I mean, wouldn’t your most basic of instincts come out if your life is threatened? There is the flight or fight response and if someone barged into the room while I was sleeping I wouldn’t be able to take flight so fighting would be my only option. I try to picture myself, while lying in the dark on my fold out bed, hitting Chester over the head, disarming him and tying him up for the police. I see myself stepping out of my room only to discover the dismembered body of Kevin, an arm here, a leg there. I try not to step on the chopped up corpse as I make my way downstairs. It’s then I realize that I was the last one on Chester’s list. Everyone else is dead, guts and blood spread on the walls, letters, word. I try to read some of it and then realize, he is still leaving notes. Some of the blood stained walls read “Clean the ashtray” others “Move your cheese”. It is all very Helter Skelter, and come to think about it, Chester does kind of look like a red haired version of Charles Manson.
Five o’clock in the morning…I think I can see the sun coming up. The grip on my weapon loosens. I can now hear noises from Chester’s room. I start to panic, did I fall asleep, is everyone else dead? I hear his door open and close; he walks down the stairs and out the door.
I open my door and look down, no note. I look down the hallway, no blood. I go down stairs, no Helter Shelter.
Over the next week Chester packs and leaves. He has a few friends helping him, and I, of course, assume that he has just hired assassins. I sneak a peek at these people, wondering what kind of people hang out with a person like Chester. They seem nice, kind and helpful.
I realize then, what kind of people hang out with a person like Chester, they are the kind of people that help you when you’re in a jam, the kind of people that would ignore your obvious failings and dig a little deeper. They are the kind of people that possess qualities of character I have somehow become immune to.
I should have said something, like, put your legs together. I should have allowed him a chance to move from notes to actual verbal communication. I should have been a better person.