The Romance Man |
Back in 2002 I lived in this great house on Maryland Avenue, with a lot of space and not a lot of rent. It was a 4 bedroom, 2 and a half bathroom, with a huge downstairs living area that was the site of some big parties with bands and beers. The people who lived there were writers, artists and musicians, and the house was always full of a positive energy. In the upstairs living room we were hung out, drank beer, talked, and had fun in a lively environment into which we welcomed anyone who had something to contribute.
I had a vacancy in my house and I knew this guy from the coffee shop. Friends vouched for him, sort of, and I thought nothing of having him move in.
From the very beginning it was apparent that R.M wanted nothing to do with the fun group dynamic of this house. He came in, passed us, and went upstairs to his room, never to be seen again that night. He even had a little refrigerator in his room so he could avoid coming downstairs to grab a beer. For all intents and purposes, he was a hermit…
…except when a girl was coming over. Then, he became the “I’m not like the other guys/I’m so sensitive/Romance Man.” And he would clean, light candles, and suddenly become AVAILABLE. Never mind that he was this fat little Bobby Hill Look-a-like with absolutely no skills. No…when a girl came over he was suddenly one of the guys, even if we never saw him at any other time.
One time during just such an episode, R. M. poured candle wax down the sink…and then lied about it later. I had to call the landlord to get maintenance to come and extract a big hardened ball of wax from the pipe. The rest of the time he was bringing home one of his “friends”--usually some teenage girl, usually not the same one. He swore that he wasn’t sleeping with any of them, they were just “friends,” and it was creepy as fuck. How does a 23 year old manage to only be friends with 16 year old girls? I could understand maybe, just maybe, having one such friend, if you perhaps worked somewhere with one (and even that would be creepy) but a series of them? Did he just pick them up at the bus station? Or was it perhaps true that this age group was the only demographic who could even possibly be impressed by this phony, who liked bad flavor-of-the-week hardcore/punk, who apparently was a hippy only a few minutes earlier, who acted like he was too good for the rest of us (but found us convenient when he was clumsily trying to steal away any woman we might bring over)? And I’m not even getting to the part where I talk about what he did to make me really hate him.
Then there was the matter of the phone. From the time that R.M moved in, he became the guardian of the phone. Whenever the phone rang, it would only ring once, because he would be the first to answer. In effect, all of our calls were filtered through R.M. A minor thing that would have repercussions later.
In those days, I was not quite as diligent as I am now about the bills. While I always paid everything, it was not completely out of the ordinary for me to let something go until I had the money to pay, sometimes even letting an amount carry to the next month. As my name was on everything, I was treasurer of this house. With multiple roommates, it was often difficult to get everyone to pay me on time. It was sloppy, it was careless, and a behavior I would never, ever go back to, but nonetheless, it was how I was.
One month a phone bill came in. I didn’t open it right away, instead leaving it on the stairs. The next day, I noticed it was gone…but I really didn’t think much of it. Given my sloppiness, and given the fact that my bill was never more than 30 bucks or so, I just figured I’d misplaced it in a pile of papers, and didn’t sweat it. Then a month later, another phone bill came. This time I opened it…and my jaw dropped= two thousand dollars! Two thousand! I looked at what the charges were, and discovered hundreds of calls to one number--a phone sex line, at a cost of several dollars a minute.
When I confronted him about it, he apologized (by the way, that never helps: “Hey I raped your wife, but I’m sorry!” or “I don‘t know why he was so mad about running over his mother--I said I was sorry!”) and said it was part of a “recording project.” Right. The Romance Man, guardian of the phone, was running up my bill, in my name, to phone sex lines. And in the months to come, because of this, I was getting junk mail sent to me from porn companies (not even anything good, mind you). Knowing he was caught, he drafted up some bullshit payment plan of how he was going to pay me back. He even wrote me a note saying how sorry he was, and that from here on in he would stay out of the way and hang out quietly in his room and not bother anyone--as if being quiet would somehow erase the debt he had incurred in my name. And at one point the gave me a check to cover his “first payment.” It bounced. He blamed it on a “misunderstanding with the bank.” As in, he misunderstood that when you write a check, you actually have to have money in the account to cover it.
He had a phone line in his room, and another phone bill on the floor (in his name, this time) that he had run up to 600 dollars. In fact, he had over 10 phones in his room, apparently, not understanding that when your phone gets shut off, the solution does not involve simply going and buying another phone.
Meanwhile, I was told by the phone company that because I waited a month to contest the charges, there was nothing that could be done. My phone got shut off while I was on my cross-country trip, effectively keeping me from contacting anyone at home. Damn my fucking sloppiness! I had the choice of cutting my losses and kicking him out, or hoping that maybe Romance Man would come through with his payments. When that never materialized, we changed the locks and held his stuff hostage. When he came back the one night to find his key didn’t work and a note on the door detailing all that he owed me, he didn’t even bother to knock.
1. You owe us 2000 dollars.
2. Until we get it, your stuff is ours.
We bundled up all the shit in his room, which reeked of old pizza and spilled beer. Somewhere in there was a picture of his daughter (this guy having kids brings a shudder to my soul) but somehow he managed to have removed his drum set before we could get to it. Even so, we had enough of his personal belongings to hold leverage over him. A week or two later he tried to buy me off with 200 dollars, but I told him no sale: 10 percent wasn’t enough to make this happen. I also told him that I had about 6 people lined up who wanted to kick his ass. There was truly no room in my heart for another “I’m sorry.”
There is an ironic aftermath to this story. Romance Man eventually came through with half of the money, which at that point I felt was probably good enough, or better than I expected. It still didn’t make everything right (this fucker is DEAD to me) but at least then I could pay off the collection agency that my bill had been given over to. And through some really weird bureaucratic snafu, the phone company wound up refunding me almost 700 dollars. Somehow, someway, I came out ahead.
I didn’t like him, I had no use for him, and I was glad when he was finally gone. The Romance Man ruined my life in 2002, epitomizing the spirit the Bad Roommate.