What A Roommate From Hell Taught Me About Hate
Richard and I found Zach as a roommate through a mutual friend who served in the Army Reserve with him. We had just lost Abbud, a Saudi Arabian transfer student with a quiet demeanor and an Xbox, and were quite desperate for any rent-paying body that would reside in the larger room in our three-bedroom apartment. We had already interviewed a 35-year-old nurse who brought her boyfriend to the apartment, only for him to decide against it after she had agreed upon it because that’s what guys in fitted caps and plastic chains do. The next contestant was a 29-year-old implant from Florida who assured us he had a great job managing computer networks for several businesses, but this became suspect as I learned he also co-owned a failing pirate ghost tour company in Florida and owned an actual sword, which he held over his shoulder — Did I mention he brought the sword with him? He totally brought the sword with him — and said “Do you realize I could probably take off your head right now?” At that point he was actually our most viable option until he told us his dad was paying his rent. You’re 29, dude. Sword wielding against an unarmed stranger is cool and all, but seriously. Grow up.
So it was we turned to friends and family in search of anyone who needed a space to live. Zach arrived and assured us he was a pretty quiet guy, enjoyed going to parties far more than hosting any, and was mostly going to be busy with school as he intended to follow a Criminal Justice degree with law school. Within one week of him moving in, he had thrown four parties in our apartment. And by “party,” I mean “he and three male friends rolled a blunt, drank Natty Light, and played either beer pong or Mike Tyson interview highlights while calling every female high school senior in the area to which they hadn’t already given gonorrhea.” While I made concerted efforts to be social with them (I was admittedly far more interested in drinking the free beer than being involved with yet another Training Day reenactment), I found I was simply just very different from them. This in itself is not a bad thing. I grew up in Las Vegas but lived in Central Pennsylvania, had gone to a boarding school for underprivileged kids from all 50 states, and had successfully existed near every demographic imaginable. A bro with a penchant for being an absolute dick would not be the end of me, and wasn’t I really just being a buzzkill, what with my self-awareness and already-trenchant social anxiety? So he likes to have fun. Who cares?
What was hapless fun came to be blatant assholishness. I suppose I could start with the treatment of my cat Watson, who was regularly the target for lobbed half-filled beer cans (not to mention the time they filled his water bowl with vodka and then again with urine). We’ll move from there to the time Zach threw a 2AM rager the night before I had a job interview at 7AM, the time he threatened the lives of both myself and my girlfriend because I threw out two half-empty packs of cigarettes while cleaning up after the sort of party he would never clean up (which is to say, all of them), the time he let his hobo Bosnian friend have sex on our couch at two in the afternoon, and I suppose will end with the time he nearly got me arrested.
Blaring Wiz Khalifa and having invited roughly 16 people over, Zach found it necessary to make eight of those people under the age of 21. I understand underage drinking happens and that I did it myself, but much like life in general there does exist an intelligent way to do things, and it was not while having a shouting match that could be heard several blocks away. George Thorogood and I drank alone, having the correct assumption that it was easier to puke three days worth of chili in peace when not surrounded by so many people you become that guy who threw up in the middle of a rant about Naked Lunch. Anyway, after a college freshman had successfully shown her tits to everyone in the room — whether they had an interest or not — she got upset at her boyfriend and decided the best way to deal with this was running down the street while intermittently shouting obscenities at her nonpresent mother and the chorus to Taylor Swift’s “Mean.” She also decided that when the cops found her, calmed her down, and asked her whether there was more underage drinking going on at our apartment, the best response was not “I’m too drunk to know which party” or “No, it was just me” but rather “oh yeah! Most of them were underage!”
I was with my girlfriend at the time in my room, ignoring the shitfest going on outside my door and watching The Sopranos. Rather, I was doing those things until Zach knocked on my door and alerted me to the fact cops were directly in the apartment lobby and awaiting a warrant from a night judge. I was an education major with a scholarship and both hindered on me not facing eight counts of supplying to minors. We were cuffed, lectured, and since most of us were first offenders, they dropped the supplying charges in full and even denied me a disorderly conduct when everyone in the room, in a rare showing of empathy, agreed we were not involved with said party.
Let me be clear: I know exactly how prudish and dickish I sound. I also know this is only one side of the story (even though Richard grew to hate him so much he completely moved out before I could). But living with Zach taught me a great deal about what it is to hate and what is hate-worthy. Hate can often be as powerful as love, whereby the target of either can consume your every thought. And, after I moved away from Zach into my own apartment (but not before he stole most of my furniture by relocating it while I was out), I lost the self-control it takes to be mature and move on. I had fantastical daydreams of pouring sugar into his gas tank or tipping his boss to drug test him. John F. Kennedy once said “Forgive your enemies but remember their names.” I have no desire to ever see or speak to Zach again. He treated me as subhuman with little cause, and all for his own selfish gain. And that is what hate is for. We obsess over love as a social necessity, so we remember the sort of people we want around us. Hate uses the same rote understanding; we identify what we despise so as to remove or repel others with similar qualities.
The verb “hate” itself has a bad reputation as something done by the immature and naive, like believing in angels or voting for a third party. I am a firm believer in not denigrating any emotion by itself, as all emotions serve a purpose — especially hate. But in the same way comedian Dov Davidoff compares love to a hardcore drug (“stay away from that shit…you could lose your house, man”) hate can also lead you down a desperate path of disillusionment and ambivalence to your own self-respect. So go ahead and hate. Feel the catharsis of imagining them broke, still living in that college town, and fat (he totally better be fat). But recognize you can risk your own pride if hate becomes all you can be.
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