There is no boyfriend application. There is no way to screen the men we let into our lives without breaking a few laws. Dating will always be a “you live and you learn” experience. In retrospect, it looks like living with a complete stranger who may or may not murder me at any moment would have been the safer alternative than moving in with a boyfriend without a contractual agreement. Tenancy laws don’t apply to relationships. The only upside to a landlord-tenant relationship is that there is a due legal process. No such recourse exists for two people living with each other, out of economic necessity or love, whichever applies.
I did the smart thing by waiting to get to know the person I was dating before we decided to move in together. He paid his half of the bills, I did all the cooking and cleaning. I paid my half of the bills, and he worked. It was a team effort. I will never forget the butterflies he gave me when he told me he liked the way I folded his shirts, that he could never do work as good as me. I had a gift. Surprisingly, it was not money that ended our non-nuptial bliss. He paid me back every cent I let him borrow. He kept leaving town without telling me. Forget an invitation, I didn’t even know he was gone. Of course, we were not married, so I had no right to know his whereabouts. His half of the bills, afterall, were paid.
Worst roommate ever.
Seeing as the waiting period with the first one didn’t work out, I thought I’d try something a little different with the next applicant and skip the screening period altogether. It just so happened that his lease was expiring and I just so happened to already have my own place I could barely afford to keep paying. It didn’t make any sense fiscally to both pay for rent neither of us could realistically afford on our own. Of course, back then I was only paying half of what I pay now. You never know how good you got it. It also just so happened that my lease expired in six months, and I thought this would be a great trial period.
It worked like a dream. It didn’t make sense to go through the trouble of putting his name on anything if things went south. I divided everything up, and he handed me the money at the end of every month. This changed. I made the mistake of putting his name on the lease with mine, and what I didn’t have to allow before, I now had to learn how to live with. Somewhere in between and much too soon, he proposed, we had a baby, and five years after sharing our first apartment, we moved into the house on Kenton. The place still haunts me.
Here is where I make the biggest mistake of my life. I don’t sign. For anything. We’re about to get married. I’ll gain my rights that way. No big deal. I hand him trust. I am about to give him my name, so I just pass all the finances over to him in the same breath because why not? He has no record to speak of. He had no bank account when I met him, no credit report, no car, and he was living in someone’s basement, but somehow in my twisted little mind, I thought that this is how things were supposed to go. What I did was hand him the keys to my kingdom, and he usurped me.
To this day I still don’t know how this conniving bastard managed to play me for the long con (mind you, he cooked for me), but what I do know is that he was by far, by a mile, the worst roommate I’ve ever had in my entire life. I shall tell you why.
We purchased our little fiefdom a few months before the Great Pandemic of 2020 for practical reasons: easy commute, good school districts, resaleability. Alas! We were not nestled into a corner of the kingdom with snug banners encouraging us to stay home and be safe, an irony to be sure. No, we and all the people on the south side of Chicago were in full lockdown mode, not a rare occurrence for us, what with Cook County penitentiary and escaping inmates nearby. (More benign reasons include a simple shortage in staff.) The pandemic contributed to extending this saga long past its expiration date. We were, in every sense of the word, locked down together, almost never to part. Everything happened very slowly, gradually, like cooking a frog that doesn’t yet know it’s being boiled.
For reasons I shall not explain, the wedding was called off. We found ourselves in limbo, but the pandemic proved to be a worthy enough distraction, and it all started off very smoothly. Up until that point, the castle had been mine, and only mine, during daylight hours. He crept up on me. I had spent most of the spring cleaning, as people are wont to do, and throwing away shit he still doesn’t realize is missing. He did his thing and I was doing mine, his figuring out how to work from home and me trying to figure out how to be unemployed for the first time in my life. By summer, I had won the bedroom, he took my office, where I wrote and used to do teacherish things, and we slept peacefully apart for several months. He slept on the couch. It was working out just fine. We probably could have gone on like that forever. We didn’t though.
One night we had an epic battle. By “epic,” I mean he broke my nail. He didn’t chip my nail. He didn’t break off the acrylic. He broke the whole damn thing. He pushed me, I pushed him back, and we tussled. He took my phone and my keys, so I broke down his door. Plus, he got blood, my blood, on the wall I had just finished doing touch-ups to. It took me months to pick out the precise shade of gray I wanted. I had even done the painting myself, and I thought this is no way to treat a lady. Our feelings out of the way, we were now having it out over some territory. For months, he refused to let me paint the wall in what was now my bedroom. I had to be proactive. I bought some crayons that wrote like lipstick and I scribbled all over the walls. Finally, he gave in and let me paint the wall so as to cover the mess I had made. Talk about the writing on the wall. But I was fooled. It wasn’t to be my bedroom for much longer. I had left for a short time, and when I came back, he had painted over my entire wall with a new color as if I had never even been there. It’s the first time I’ve ever seen him so motivated to finish a project.
Meanwhile, we went on, avoiding fights by avoiding each other. It was working out well, here and there. If we so much as looked at each other, all hell would break loose. He’d say something like “What the hell are you looking at?” and I’d say something like “Why don’t you want to marry me,” and he’d counter with “There you go bringing up the past again.” We were merciless. He managed to avoid me most of the time by simply locking me out of the house. Whenever I wasn’t around, he’d grab my keys off the wall, take off the house key, send me on my way, and I’d come home to yet another door locked in my face. I’m not sure you’re technically allowed to kick a tenant out. At this point, I wasn’t even sure that I was a tenant. We never had a talk about what we were after the wedding was called off. I figured it was probably none of my business. He yelled at me a good while for not paying him rent. I only found out later he wasn’t paying the mortgage, and where some of my money went, I could never tell you. What is no longer a mystery is how he managed to open up two more credit cards during a pandemic. I now see clearly where funds must have been transferred.
This wasn’t nearly as grand as the furniture war. He had an obsession with moving things after I had deliberately moved them somewhere. If I had the table centered under the light, he’d push it up against the wall. If I had made a play area behind the couch for our kid, he moved it against the wall. If I put the bed somewhere we could all get some feng shui, he pushed it up against the wall. One time he even pushed me up against the wall. By that point, I already knew better than to call the useless city cops. Believe me, I tried. He was aggressive over the barest matters, too. I bought a bag of potato chips and we had yet another epic battle about what food could and could not be brought into his house.
To be fair, it was his house, as the police so kindly reminded me each time they, like him, threw me out of there. Even though that’s where I lived. He was also smarter than he looked. I woke up one night to him standing over me. I had slept in his bed while he was out partying for the night and locked the door behind me, not that this did any good. I couldn’t even tell you what the fight was about. I wake up, and he’s standing over me with a Mike’s Black Cherry in his hand (it was not even 9am yet). What is he doing in the room when I’m not even dressed? He did this to me all the time. He would just walk in while I was taking a shower or doing my make-up. This roommate had no sense of personal boundaries. He was always in my face, locking me out, or on this occasion, he very literally threw me outside at 9am.
I don’t wear pajamas to sleep.
I called the cops that time. They asked me what he was wearing. I told them what he was wearing. When he walked outside, he was wearing something different. He is no stranger to the police. Of course, I’m the hysterical one; I wasn’t wearing anything. The police kindly offered to call me an ambulance, not because I was bleeding. They told me I had to leave. To pack up my shit and leave. I did this under the eye of a sleazy ass officer. I had no idea there is no due legal process where I live. After all of this goes down, I do what any sane person does. I call the one person you can always count on to be there for you when you need him.
I called my dad. Mistake number three coming up. After the wedding is called off, after we have been in physical fights, after he lights my credit report on fire, after I step down from teaching to stay at home with our daughter, after locking me out, throwing me out, after moving all my furniture, after every microagression he throws at me, my dad says:
“I think you need to work on your relationship.”
Personally speaking, I don’t feel like I should be forced to date a roommate, but here I was, considering that I was perhaps in the wrong after all. If you wouldn’t break down a door to get back your phone and your keys, then you wouldn’t understand.
I will never have another roommate again.