Given my lack of updates over the past few weeks, I sat down with my computer last night hoping to start a new post or two. I ended up encountering a bit of a mental wall. As my fingers sat ready on the keys I tired in vain to think of a good opening sentence. My mind kept wandering. Lost in thought, my eyes glazed over. For a solidten minutes or so I sat motionless, completely oblivious to the world around me. I was absorbed. Absorbed in something, that, up until now, hadn't frustrated me enough to want to write about. But last night was different. Try as I might, I couldn't rid myself of the ever growing disdain I’ve developed for my roommate. I didn’t intend on spending my free time ruminating over this seething hatred, but after having spent nearly every moment of my life, night and day, for 8 months with such an incredibly perfect example of a blundering idiot, I couldn’t help myself.
This hasn't always been the case.
We first met at O’Hare waiting to board our flight to Bahrain. We initially had a fair amount in common being the same age from the same metropolitan area. We didn’t speak much on the flight or the ensuing chaos of our first Saudi customs experience, but we generally got along and the first few days figuring out our new life were generally peaceful. He wasn’t big into socializing with the other teachers and spent most of his time with his girlfriend, another teacher at the Girls’ School (who happened to be the reason he took this job). This was all fine and dandy, but by the end of the first month we started getting a better idea of just who he really was.
He preferred to spend his time at home in his room on his computer, safely tucked away behind noise cancelling headphones. Come Wednesday afternoon he would quickly change and shower at our apartment, hire a cab, and accompany his girlfriend to her mother’s apartment on a distant compound (who happened to be the only reason the girlfriend took this job), only to return at the end of the weekend late on Friday night. What he did during these weekends remains a mystery, but I never bothered to find out. Shuttering himself in his room and disappearing on weekends meant I basically lived alone. Life was good.
The first of his many interesting quirks started popping up once I refused to share groceries with him. We tried sharing food for a week or two, but his hefty appetite and unwillingness to accompany me to the grocery store prompted me to rethink the situation. We had a relatively lengthy conversation about how it wasn’t particularly fair, and how it was better to resolve these small issues before they got out of hand. Several days later, after coming home to find he had eaten most of my newly purchased food, having the exact same conversation about how we would no longer be sharing food, and a very stern yet appropriate warning that things weren’t going to work out well in the long run if it happened again, he washed his clothes using my detergent, took a small notebook from my room to doodle in, and helped himself to a few hefty spoonfuls of my peanut butter. I was furious, and over the course of the next four days I had a total of 7 conversations, for lack of a better word, with him about this. He finally stopped when I grabbed his guitar from his room while he was sitting next to it, brought it into the living room and proceeded to loosen all the strings. Suddenly he understood.
Interestingly enough, this string of incredibly passive aggressive events didn’t really affect him. Several minutes later he was back in his room, laughing at the Disney movie I had interrupted. He wasn’t frustrated or upset, and he carried on as if nothing had happened. Numerous other situations similar to this occurred over the next several months, both at work and at home, and after every incident he carried on as if nothing had happened. I started paying closer attention to what was going on, and realized something wasn’t quite right with this person.
Aside from his massive size, he’s 6’4” and well over 300lbs, his actions and thought processes resemble those of a small child. He has little common sense, struggles to work through new or unique problems, deals very poorly with pressure and even worse with confrontations. His speech is accented with the words ‘cool’ ‘like’ ‘man’ and ‘dude’ in varying combinations, and I have yet to speak with him without hearing them. When he stumbled into a conversation in the foyer of the school when we were first being introduced to our Vice President (whom he thought was a general laborer) he raised his eyes from his phone, eyed him up and down, put both hands in his pockets and said “Oh, so you’re, like, our boss. Yeah, that’s cool, man… Cool…” He then walked uncomfortably through the middle of the circle of people he had interrupted, took a cup of water from the water cooler, and wandered outside as if nothing was amiss. To this day he still cannot recognize the VP.
As time went on and the New Year arrived, he began to spend his leisure time sprawled out in our living room, relaxing in his preferred tattered gym shorts, sans shirt. I never saw him watch any movie rated higher than PG-13, and he never swore, but it wasn’t until he started leaving his bible on our coffee table did I then realize he was quite religious. I don’t have any particular problems with someone expressing their faith so long as they respect my beliefs and leave me alone, but when he started pressuring me to join his prayer group and attend ‘gatherings’ I grew suspicious and was a tad annoyed. Having never figured out that our compound has a free bus service to different stores, he hired private, and expensive, cabs to tote him around town. He amassed a large collection of religious books, ranging from Christian lifestyles to how-tos on proselytizing to marriage advice, and began leaving notepads with his scribblings scattered around our apartment. They ranged from simple bible passages to rambling paragraphs on various punishments for ‘darkness’ and ‘badnesses.’ He purchased a songbook with accompanying sheet music for guitar and started practicing on a regular basis. It’s not uncommon for him to come home, walk into his room, quickly throw off his one set of work clothes, grab his guitar and play as loudly and as passionately as he can sitting there with the door open in his underwear, apparently never having learned to tune a guitar or sing on key. I usually spend this time at the gym.
The night before our spring break he bought a plane ticket at the last minute and flew back to the States to visit his parents. Before he left his girlfriend came over. They spent a few minutes in his room with the door closed. She emerged teary-eyed and quite out of breath, then quickly walked out the door. He came out a few minutes later with his bags and a weirdly content look on his face. He came back to Saudi late the last night of the break and hired a rental car so he could drive himself to work the next morning. It wasn’t until a few weeks later, when he interrupted a meeting the Brit and I were having with a group of parents, that he loudly boasted that he was no longer dating his girlfriend. As it turns out, he realized that he wasn’t ready to marry her after dating for 5 years, so he ended things and went to visit his parents to make sure his decision was ‘pure.’ They advised him to stay away from her as much as possible, hence hiring a car so as not to ride the bus to work with her twice a day. His collection of books continues to grow, and now that he no longer spends the weekends away from our apartment he has plenty of time to study his ever expanding library.
Overzealous religiousness aside, his everyday thoughts and actions continue to perplex and annoy. He rarely cleans up after himself, taking days to wash his dishes, put away his food or tidy up any areas he uses. He’ll pour himself a glass of milk, only to leave it on the counter, wander around, play his guitar, surf the interwebs, read his books, then return to the glass several hours later and dump it down the sink. He’ll start a load of laundry, colors unsorted, absolutely filled to the very top. He’ll add 4 cups of detergent, and set the knobs to oversize load and permanent press. He’ll move them to the dryer a few days later, completely unaware that the washer overflowed and was so unbalanced that it never finished its cycle. I have yet to see him take a load out of the dryer, as I usually toss them on the floor of his room whenever it comes time for me to do my laundry. He grabs clothes from various piles on his floor, regardless if they’re dry or not, and usually attempts to smooth them out with his hands before he heads out the door. He only has one pair of trousers and one collared shirt that he wears for work. He washes them every other week or so. Aside from the smell, they’re usually the driest and least wrinkly of his entire wardrobe.
These lovely snippets only capture a very small portion of what it’s like to live and work with such an interesting human specimen. I've kept a running mental record, and as the months have passed I honestly find myself overwhelmed thinking about everything I've gone through.
I snapped out of my daze yesterday evening only to realize that I wasn’t going to be able to write anything without him becoming the focus of a post. I decided against trying to put any words on paper. I went down to the pool for a long swim in an attempt to release any mental trace of him. I laid in bed reading for a few hours before calling it a night, much later than most, but I was at least somewhat satisfied with my attempts at keeping my mind focused on other, more positive things.
I suddenly awoke to the sounds of metal banging against metal. I looked at my clock: 1:30am. My roommate was in the kitchen making himself dinner. It was a fairly long process involving quite a bit of preparation, at least based on the noise, so I rolled over and tried to fall back asleep. I awoke again to the sound of shattering glass and the shuffling of kitchen furniture: 1:49am. I sighed and closed my eyes, only to be awoken by the vibration of a forcefully slammed door: 2:14am. I laid there for awhile listening to the drone of the air conditioner. At 3:05 I closed my eyes. I was startled awake by the creaking sound of my door and immediately blinded by the fluorescent ceiling lights. Before I was even able to adjust my eyes, my roommate’s half naked body slinked out of my room back into his, slamming his door behind him. 3:28am. I had forgotten to lock my door, and, per usual, he had gotten too cold sleeping half naked without any sheets, so he barged into my room in an attempt to fiddle with the thermostat. I got up from my bed, checked the thermostat (he randomly pushes buttons so he rarely ever actually turns it off), and turned off my light.
Today, I was sitting in the Brit’s office trying to catch a quick nap before my prep ended. I was startled by the clip clop of heavy footsteps and awoke as the door slowly crept open. My roommate waddled in looking overly eager, clearly wanting to share something. He stood around for a moment then quickly pulled out a baseball cap from the back pocket of his trousers, a relatively new Detroit Tigers number, and slapped it on his unshowered, dandruff flaked crown. Halfheartedly, and for lack of something to say, I asked him if he followed the Tigers. He stared blankly back at me and said “Huh?... Tigers?... No, man,” taking the cap off his head, a newly formed smile beaming across his pockmarked face, his limp wristed hand pointing to the front. “this is, like, a D” tracing around it with his dingy uncut fingernail. “It’s short for David, man, cause, you know, that’s, like, my name… It’s, like, pretty cool right... I know..." twirling the cap in his hands. "Cool…. Alright, so I’ll see you, like, later man…” and slinked out the door back into his own little world.
Very cool, David. Very cool, indeed.