What made Anthony so elaborately cold in those early autumn months? What made him glare so sourly at my exhaustion whenever I slithered past his adonis figure in our overwhelmingly dirty kitchen? Was I the quintessence of a terrible roommate? Irresponsible? Ditzy? Was the kitchen—in its pig-trough pig-sty bacon-grease glory—tacitly my fault, despite the observation it'd been I who had purged the mess last? Or was it my drug habits and the fact that on the night Anthony returned from his impulsive trip to Alaska, I was with Chris—blasting Bob Dylan and the Tallest Man on Earth—cradling my chin on the jean-sand islands of my cramping knees, high as a shuttle in the ketamine nebula? These were all questions that stoked the fires of internal doubt whether I liked it or not. People pretend to talk themselves out of status anxiety as if it were possible to entirely neutralize such a natural reaction—as if it were possible not to wonder what earned such irrational disfavor in the eyes of another. Especially when “another” is a roommate, an almost omnipotent staple in day to day life even if efforts are taken to ignore or avoid—a constant weave of growing atmospheric pressure and a pang of anxiety at the sight of his shoes or the sound of his grunts and clangs while at work on a meal in the kitchen—of course, as is obvious, I can take things far too personally. But there were points in which his silence or indifference would scare me—as if he might've wound up a psychopath and broke my neck in a fit of overboiled passive-aggression.
To be fair and give the reader a clearer picture of Anthony, he had—historically—been an incredibly generous fellow and a relatively close friend long before we approached one another on the idea of potential roommates. He was large in build—not overweight in any sense—but incredibly fit with an active agenda to exercise and eat right, both habits of which I had never had the stamina to maintain. Girls loved him. Physically, he was gorgeous—puffy curled hair deliberately stylized into a modern European pompadour; dark hazel eyes with a constantly evolving dynamism in the way they gazed... and a masculine stubble that seemed to naturally grow-out to look as posh as David Beckham, just without all the effort and pomp. Mentally, he was the perfect synthesis of adorable geek, thoughtful philosopher, and strikingly suave, dapper, athletic, and goofy 'good-guy'—he was always out with his friends or at home reading Terry Goodkind's fantasy novels, and on occasion I would see that his looks were almost burdensome to him. As if they were a superfluous gift and a personal curse—constantly forcing him into social over-exertion as an extrovert when he, at heart, was a closet introvert unable to disentangle his self-reflective image from his internal reality. As if he were unable to process the amount of attention he received.
I had tacitly wondered, at times, if he was also in-the-closet regarding something else as well, though I had always admired his effeminate qualities and mannerisms as he never once hinted at a negative self-consciousness about their strange manifestations in open view of the world. Externally, at least, he never acted like they were problems or indicative of some internal lack of found-definition, even on the comical occasion when I walked in on him bathing on his lonesome, quietly listening to Miley Cyrus and playing with a troupe of three rubber duckies—the bathroom light off and several candles burning in aesthetically strategic corners of the room. He also constantly brewed tea using an adorable teapot designed to look like an elephants head, with the hot liquid pouring from the Disney-like characters trunk. This—I reflected—was most certainly connected to his love for the 1941 children's classic, Dumbo. It was a movie he and I held in common, having watched it together on multiple occasions before our cohabiting turned sour. Of course, what was most indicative of this private wandering judgement of mine was the fact that he worked at the city's only gay bar as the youngest bartender employed. At 1 AM every night, all the bartenders (whom were pre-screened eye candy for the patrons' sake) would peel off their skin-tight neon tops and romp around shirtless, shouting last-call through the bright-eyed frey of top 40 hits and cannonading flirtations.
Not that I wish to put him under the microscope, as if any feminine qualities in a man were something strange or problematic to me—nor do I wish to study his mannerisms like a condescending anthropologist of imperial Britain, establishing pathological definitions for what was never an illness to begin with. No... I ask these questions because he decided, one day, that he didn't like me. I ask these questions because I came upon him in the living room multiple times listening to Alan Watts's lectures on taoism—a strange anxious-emptiness behind his eyes—and when I began to worry he was dipping into some sort of existential depression, I approached him with an Alan Watts book—The Wisdom of Insecurity—in order to make a recommendation and strike up therapeutic conversation on the basis of a philosopher we had in common. As I did so, he would frantically nod and avert eye-contact, hiding any perturbation well enough for me to assume he was still with me as I spoke. I later found the book on top of the fridge and placed it back on my shelf thinking, 'he probably has a ton to read as is.' It only became apparent when I finally decided to ask him if he was unhappy with me—this was about 2 weeks before he finally moved out—and he responded with, “I've definitely been annoyed that you use my stuff and eat my food all the time without compensation or asking,” which I understood at first until I realized I only did so because he did the same—constantly eating my cereal, using my milk, reorganizing my couches in the living room—but I didn't mind because I assumed it was a reciprocal arrangement and thus took his eggs and his bacon on the assumption (and belief) in pooled communal resources. But he continued: “And you talk at me all the time about things I have no interest in which is kinda frustrating,” which confused me even further when it was only friendly concern I was tacitly attempting to translate into his feeling wanted and liked by the person he lived with. These words, in the end, released the built-tension between us like a bursting pressure valve. He eventually apologized for how he'd behaved, and then largely disappeared from my life.
Sometimes I'll be brushing my teeth, and I'll wonder if he's doing alright. I'll wonder if he found his taoist balance in either silence or speech.
originally written as a personal assignment for my Creative Nonfiction class.