My roommate Pat had the same relationship with me as any New Yorker had with a cockroach: we knew the other was there, we didn’t necessarily like that the other was there, and we ate the other’s food; however, we were willing to accept all of this as long we never made contact with the other.
Pat had moved to Park Slope a long time ago, when it was ethnically colorful and loud and affordable. Gentrification later corroded the neighborhood with strollers and Labrador retrievers and franchise coffee bars, forcing everybody else out–everybody but Pat and his revolving door of housemates, of whom I was the latest and the longest lasting, mostly because I was never there. The place was huge, the rent was cheap, and the trains were nearby. If my roommate wasn’t such a penis, my living arrangement would have been perfect.
From the subway, I strolled home, slipped inside, scooped up the mail from the floor, and scurried to my room, sorting through the envelopes in my hand.
“My bill, my bill, Pat’s junk mail, a hand-addressed, perfumed letter from New Mexico, my junk mail, Pat’s bill …” I frowned and backed up a few steps. “What?” Stacked in the living room were dozens of taped-up wine and shipping boxes, all labeled with black magic marker. “Pat?” I called out.
His response took the form of a loud grumble. I followed it past the kitchen to his room, where he sat on his bed, looking like a fire hydrant in a buzz-cut and surfer shorts.
“Pat, are you moving?”
He glared at me with the impatience of a ten-year-old explaining how to play a tricky video game.
“Why?” I asked.
“Because our landlady sold the building.”
“What?” I gasped for breath. “When?”
“I don’t know when she sold it.”
“I mean, when do we have to leave?”
“That’s in two weeks!”
He glared again. “I can count.”
“Our lease said we get sixty-days notice before she can pull this kind of crap!”
“We did get sixty-days notice,” he told me. “It was in a letter she delivered six weeks ago.”
“I didn’t receive one.”
“Sure you did,” he replied. “I saw your name on it.”
“Don’t you think I’d remember something like that?”
“Lifestyle you lead,” he snorted, “I’d be surprised if you did.”
“Wait,” I groaned. “Six weeks ago I was in New Mexico with my girlfriend.”
“And you didn’t think to say something when I got home?”
“Yeah, because we talk all the time.”
On the bright side, there was no further need for diplomacy. “Pat, you are a penis.”
“At least I don’t have a Peter-Pan Complex.”
“I’m not even going to dignify that with a response,” I told him, “you penis.”
On my way back to the living room, I tossed Pat’s mail onto the kitchen table, which was no longer there. Let him pick it up himself.
By the time I landed on the couch, I’d pulled out my phone, called my dad, and explained the situation.
“I just can’t give you the money to move,” he concluded.
“I know that.”
“I can loan it to you,” he said. “With interest. And you’ll have to pay it back on a monthly schedule.”
I groaned. At least I had that hand-addressed, perfumed letter. As Dad droned on about finances, I gently tore my way into the colorful envelope and let my girlfriend’s handwriting take the load off.
But after skimming it, I said, “Papa, I’m going to have to call you back. I think I’m getting dumped.”