I found a black cat in my apartment the other day, and I don’t know whose it is or where it came from. Granted, I’ve seen this cat before. My roommate Dan tells me that his name is Benjamin. However I’ve taken to calling him Eldridge Cleaver. Though a bit suspect, seeing strange creatures in my apartment has been a far too common occurrence during my tenure here. For a while, I would head downstairs in the morning to find a middle aged Indian man sleeping on my couch unannounced, and once I came home to find a completely foreign, Garmr-sized German Shepherd sleeping in my bed, but the apex of these type events happened about a year ago when our roommate Phil decided he wanted to join the military.
Given his transparent femininity, hostile veganism, and affinity for not succeeding at anything, I didn’t have high expectations for Phil’s military adventure. The decision was apparently to combat his failed plan to become a truck driver, which was to combat his failed plan to graduate college. However, Dan and I gave him a congratulatory ‘cool man’ anyway, and quickly reminded him of his responsibility to fill the absence of inconsideration and hostility that he was leaving behind. Dan and I then headed to our respective hometowns for Christmas while Phil stayed in the apartment, hating his parents for turning him into such a weirdo and looking for a roommate on Craigslist.
A day or two after Christmas I was back in Boulder. Before I even had the chance to unload my belongings, I was introduced to a nervous looking man, apparently my future flat mate. Unbeknownst to us, Phil had invited a Craigslist stranger into the apartment for a roommate audition, which I guess I was unexpectedly interrupting. He was a gaunt fellow, with the look of a weathered 40-year-old. His eyes gleamed with immense insecurities, and based on the looseness of his skin and poorly managed teeth, I assumed he was hiding a few poorly drawn tattoos. Though these were admittedly premature judgments of my new roommate, they were quickly realized within 2-3 minutes of our initial interaction when he told me that immediately after college he lost his Chicago finance job due to an unremitting affectation for cocaine, and was imprisoned for grand theft auto.
“Hey Phil, I don’t want to be weird but like, that new roommate guy just told me he was in prison for grand theft auto and had a coke addiction. Maybe we should like, look for someone else.”
Phil gave a feigned look of surprise. The next day, when I asked him how he handled this new development, he told me that after he slipped the piece of paper under the new fugitive’s audition bedroom door saying “Hey can we talk? Ben’s concerned about some stuff you said,” the slip of paper was returned with “I’m also a terrorist.”
“Yeah. Ok. I don’t think this guy is going to work. Can we keep looking please?”
“I understand. Listen though, I don’t have a lot of money right now, so is it cool if he stays in my room and splits rent with me until I find someone else?”
“Phil. Really? (Sigh). Fine.”
At this point, Dan wasn’t due home for three days. So feeling devoid of allies, but ripe with the understanding that bomb vests and/ or stolen cars could be in the bedroom adjacent, I slept poorly.
On the day that Dan returned, I came home from work to see that Phil had vanished. His exit so seamless that the only evidence he had ever inhabited my house to begin with, was the light smattering of poor parenting self-help books in the basement. Apparently while Dan was gone, Phil borrowed his car to move a dirt pile for a day’s worth of petty cash. So, Dan returned to find his SUV filled with the remnants of a lazy attempt at moving a dirt pile. This, and Phil’s increased financial debt to everyone, justified an ultimatum; either Phil cleans the car or leaves immediately. So, Phil chose the latter, taking his lonely-themed oxford shirts and closeted homosexual insecurity with him. You know what he didn’t take though? Yep. The felonious Craigslist Roommate.
For about two weeks, Dan and I ignored him. It’s worth noting that the reason I keep referring to the guy with such generic names is because although I learned his criminal record, I never learned his name. After two weeks of sloth and cowardice, Dan and I decided that the only way to remedy the situation was to find a replacement. So, I brought a new coworker to the apartment and told him to pretend he was “just hanging out,” though I didn’t explicitly explain why.
For reasons unbeknownst to me, he decided he wanted to live with us. So, Dan performed a pre-determined monologue, including “Sorry dude. Phil was a dickhead. We need you to move out by Wednesday.” On Tuesday, the stranger and his belongings were gone, having vanished much the same way that Phil had. Relieved, I did my laundry.
I walked to the basement with a basket full of darks, to find that the fugitive stranger had annexed a corner of the concrete basement, sleeping on his mattress.
“Dan, you know that that guy is living in the basement now?”
“What’s that all about?”
“He told me he needed a few days to look for a place and asked if he could just sleep down there until he finds one.”
I didn’t tell the new roommate, hoping that the strange man would be out before it became an issue. As pattern would suggest, he wasn’t out in a week. A week passed before I bothered going downstairs again. When I finally decided to do the whites, there was a small blanket separating the fugitive’s new living quarters and the laundry room.
“Hey man, how’s that search coming?”
“Oh yeah, it’s good. It’s tough to find a good place though so I’m going to need a little more time.”
“Cool. Do you think you could be out by the end of the week?”
Once again, another week passed before I even entertained the idea of going into my basement. However with no clean underwear, my choices were limited. After my last sock, I closed the washing machine door with a loud metallic crash, triggering a frenzy of dog barks coming from the more criminal side of the basement. I pulled back the blanket to find a small caged dog, a nearly fully furnished room, a color TV sitting on one of Dan’s old shoe racks, and, sitting on the mattress, our fugitive roommate and a haggard, skeletal women with a nautical star neck tattoo.
“Oh hey man. Doing laundry?”
“Yeah. Hey how’s that search coming?”
“Ahhh man. It’s super tough. I haven’t had a lot of time.”
“Ok that’s cool. I need you out of here by Wednesday.”
“Yeah. See ya around.”
I informed Dan that our apartment had officially crossed the line it was already teetering on, and become a shelter. I once again slept like my house was a three-bedroom Sarajevo, until three days later when I reluctantly walked down to put my wrinkled mess of damp underwear into the dryer. I sulked down the steps, assuming I’d quickly be hearing the sound of dirty children at the bottom of the stairs. But alas, there was no such thing. The fugitive stranger and his burgeoning family had vanished, leaving only the mattress and a Petri dish for addiction, regret, and poorly thought out tattoos.
I found a cat in my house the other day and I have no idea how it got there or whose cat it is. To some people, this is alarming. To me it’s refreshing, mostly because it’s a strange cat instead of a strange man. However, the next day Eldridge was gone, and I haven’t seen him since. Despite the new inventory of fancy cat food that Dan bought, I hope I never see him again. I like the idea that as these strangers leave our nest and re-enter the outside world, they leave with the confidence needed to never look back. Also, I don’t like to entertain the idea of the fugitive and his girlfriend coming back to steal my things. They know we don’t lock our doors.