Johnny America


Ad­ven­tures With My Room­mate: My­Space Man, Part II


My eaves­drop­ping abil­i­ties are spec­tac­u­lar. I’ve spent a con­sid­er­able amount of my life rel­a­tive­ly friend­less, so I’ve learned the val­ue in be­ing able to en­joy oth­er peo­ple’s dra­mat­ics. And so, through a rig­or­ous course of lis­ten­ing-with­out-look­ing-like-it, I knew pret­ty much every­thing about my room­mate’s beau.

For ex­am­ple:

  1. high school ed­u­ca­tion? Not for him. He re­al­ized that ed­u­ca­tion was over­rat­ed in eleventh grade, at which time he prompt­ly dropped out.
  2. his own place? Not when he can live with Mom for free.
  3. a car? Not when you’re still go­ing through class­es to re­store your stand­ing af­ter that pesky D.U.I.
  4. make mon­ey? ’course. Con­struc­tion pays great.
  5. come vis­it? You bet, sweetheart.

Num­ber five, nat­u­ral­ly, alarmed me the most. Beau —whose name, I have since learned, is Will (pro­nounced by my room­mate with an ex­cru­ci­at­ing­ly thick south­ern ac­cent: ’Wee-uhl”) — was com­ing to a) vis­it, and b) at­tend a soror­i­ty se­mi-for­mal with Roommate.


Of course, be­fore he could come and see her, she had to meet him in per­son. Not that find­ing out what he looked like was an is­sue; she al­ready had scads of pho­tographs to prove that he was, in­deed, “an adorable guy.”

And so her moth­er drove here, picked her up, drove her home, and al­lowed her to go on a “date” with Will. This date fol­low­ing a (I’d wa­ger) pret­ty ex­ten­sive Q&A ses­sion with the folks.

I was lucky enough to met Will a few weeks lat­er, when he made the jour­ney to cam­pus in or­der to ac­com­pa­ny his “ba­by” to her semi-formal.

Will ar­rived mid-af­ter­noon, tot­ing a black duf­fel bag and his shirt, tie, and dress pants on a cou­ple of wire coat hang­ers. My room­mate opened the door with a flourish.

She saw me sec­onds lat­er; I was able to wring some grim sat­is­fac­tion from see­ing her face fall once she re­al­ized that I was present. Will stood awk­ward­ly in the door­way, hunched over and cling­ing to his belongings.

I raised my eye­brows. Room­mate re­al­ized that skip­ping in­tro­duc­tions is tech­ni­cal­ly rude and pro­ceed­ed to rem­e­dy the situation.

“Det­gen, this is Will. Will, this is Detgen.”

“Hey, Dutchin.”

“Det­gen. Rhymes with ‘Gretchen.’ ”

“Oh… wait. It’s Gretchen?”

“Rhymes with. It’s Detgen.”

“Spell it fer me.”

(As if that would help.) “D. E. T. G. E. N.”


“For­get it. Nice to meet you.”

(Dis­claimer: Typ­i­cal­ly I’m not that un­for­giv­ing when it comes to peo­ple mis­pro­nounc­ing my name.)

We shook hands — me with the vice-like grip my ex-step­fa­ther drilled in­to me at the ten­der age of eight, him with the fish­like frailty of an eighty-year-old woman. (I judge by hand­shakes. Will was­n’t do­ing too well on my Me­ter of Merit.)

He’s a tall fel­low, with a long face and a large nose and rather un­for­tu­nate teeth. I typ­i­cal­ly try to avoid crit­i­ciz­ing peo­ple’s looks, but I can say with some cer­tain­ty that Will is pret­ty much an all-around un­at­trac­tive per­son. He wore a fair­ly ex­cit­ing T‑shirt: HE DIED FOR YOU writ­ten in “bloody” let­ters across the faint out­line of a cru­ci­fix. His shoes were sparkling white and his ear lobes ap­peared to be most­ly miss­ing, due to the rings of met­al that were slow­ly (but sure­ly) stretch­ing them out. I’m sure on some folks rings-of-met­al look pos­i­tive­ly badass, but Will looked rather ridicu­lous. And his eye­brow pierc­ing was just overkill.

Af­ter drop­ping his things by the sink, Will col­lapsed in­to a desk chair and swiveled around to face me.

“So, Dutchin. What d’yah do?”

“I’m an Eng­lish major.”

“So you…read an’ stuff.”

“Yes. I read and stuff.”

“What d’yah do wit an Eng­lish major?”

“I go to grad school. Or I write. Or —,” I smiled sweet­ly, “I work construction.”

He blinked. I like to think that I hit a nerve, but it’s pos­si­ble, even prob­a­ble, that the barb went right over his head.

He de­cid­ed to try an­oth­er tack.

“Yah drink?”

“On oc­ca­sion.”

“My ba­by here don’t drink — ever. I’m gonna change that.”

His ba­by squealed “Wee-uhl!” and looked at him rev­er­ent­ly. Sac­cha­rine ado­ra­tion oozed from her very pores.

“She’s gonna un­der­stand that a bit o’ al-kee-hol kin be fun.” He took a minute to heft my room­mate on­to his lap. It was awk­ward and dif­fi­cult to watch — but im­pos­si­ble to look away. Some­what like a train wreck.

“Mebbe we’ll drink to­geth­er some time.”

“I doubt it,” I said, turn­ing to my com­put­er, “I’m very busy this weekend.”

That was the end of my Will-In­ter­ac­tion for the mo­ment. I had as­sumed that that was it, for life — it was­n’t as if he was go­ing to want to sit around and dis­cuss Chaucer with me. Fur­ther­more, I had as­sumed that he would­n’t be spend­ing time in the room when Shel­ley was away.

But that was just too much to ask.

I re­turned from my Ger­man class on­ly to find Will sit­ting at my room­mate’s desk, study­ing his My­Space page. Slip­knot blared from the speakers.

Oh, no.

I closed the door with a bit more force than ab­solute­ly nec­es­sary and dropped my bag on the floor. He looked up distractedly.

“Oh,” he said, nod­ding. “Yer back.”

“Yes. I’m back.”

He turned to face me and set­tled in­to his chair, as if he was prepar­ing for a conversation.

“…d’y­ou ever… smoke?”

Oh. This was too de­light­ful. I glanced to­wards his bag; a pack of Marl­boro Men­thols was rest­ing atop a pair of dis­card­ed box­ers. I was of course aware that he was­n’t re­fer­ring to to­bac­co — no one talks about just-to­bac­co with that sort of in­to­na­tion — but it was go­ing to be so won­der­ful­ly awk­ward for him if he had to spell things out.

I blinked. “Cig­a­rettes?”

He looked around ner­vous­ly. “I was ac­tu­al­ly re­fer­rin’ to, uh —,”

I blinked again.

“Um… pot?”

“Oh,” I said, mak­ing a great show of recog­ni­tion. “I see.”

“Yeah. So, do you?”

I shrugged.

“What does that mean?”

“Do you?”

“Don’t tell my ba­by — but — yeah, I do.”

At this mo­ment in time, I want­ed to know two things: a) why did­n’t he ever call her by her name, and b) why the hell did he want to tell me this? I was­n’t able to get an an­swer for ei­ther inquiry.

In­stead, the fair­ly weighty si­lence was bro­ken by my room­mate burst­ing through the door. Her enor­mous grin — pos­i­tive­ly face-crack­ing — dis­ap­peared once she saw me.

“Hi,” she said, clos­ing and lock­ing the door be­hind her. (It’s some sort of re­flex. Ap­par­ent­ly oc­cu­pied dorm rooms are ir­re­sistible to thieves.)

“Will and I were just hav­ing a chat,” I said, sit­ting down on my bed.

“Uh-huh,” he af­firmed, shoot­ing me pan­icked looks.

“That’s nice,” Room­mate in­toned, walk­ing across the room and putting down her siz­able purse. “What were you talk­ing about?”

“Bands,” Will blurt­ed, grab­bing her and lug­ging her on­to his lap. “But that don’t mat­ter now that you’re back.”

They pro­ceed­ed to suck face for rough­ly sev­en to nine min­utes. I gath­ered up my things as quick­ly as I could and left, slam­ming the door be­hind me.

Un­for­tu­nate­ly, that would on­ly be the least of it.

Read Part Three

Filed under Non-Fiction on May 11th, 2006

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