With a broken-down oven, in a hotel kitchen, on an uninhabited island
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Honest to God, I am so lucky to have found my current roommate, Brad. Finding a good roommate these days is like winning the lottery.
Brad is exactly twenty years younger than I am, so I was prepared for a bit of late-night partying and loud rock music, but he’s really a sweet kid, the way he barges through the house and stomps around in his black boots, scaring the cats. Well, there is that one tiny problem he has of slamming doors. He’s just so . . . energetic. Even the refrigerator door, which is weighted to close on its own, he always gives a little extra shove, just to make sure. Sometimes things fall off the shelves, but I can’t fault him for being careful.
There’s one mystery about Brad I haven’t figured out yet: he is the only person I have ever encountered who opens doors loudly. I have tried to duplicate the effect myself, but no amount of jerking or pulling will produce the same sound. In a way, this ability of his is a good thing, though, as I am seldom surprised when he enters the house or emerges from his room.
Brad even helps with the Saturday chores, vigorously running the carpet sweeper through the whole house in half the time it would take me. True, sometimes, by accident, he does bang it against the baseboards, which are now all chipped and dented and covered with black rubber streaks (as are most of the furniture legs), but I know this is unintentional; he is just a fast sort of person! I do wish, however, it were a little more evident afterward that the place had been vacuumed. Still, the touch-up job rarely takes me longer than it would have to vacuum properly myself in the first place, so it is a timesaver.
Brad has a few aggravating qualities, of course, but I prefer to focus on his good traits. His rent checks rarely bounce, for example, and he brings a nice youthful energy into my otherwise placid middle-aged existence. Before he moved in, you would never hear the stereo blaring throughout the entire house at 7 A.M., no indeed. I had become almost stodgy about such things. I’d just get up, make my coffee, feed the cats, and read the morning paper. It simply never occurred to me to brighten up the morning with loud dance music.
Sometimes, late at night, Brad gets himself a little snack in the kitchen, which happens to be right next to my bedroom. I think he must have a slight problem with his vision — unusual in someone so young — because he needs to turn on every light to find anything, and even then has trouble seeing the little spots of purple sorbet that he drips on the floor. I, on the other hand, have no trouble finding the drips in the morning, because my bare feet stick right to them.
I suspect Brad’s vision problem is also at the root of all the toothpaste on the bathroom sink, faucets, mirrors, walls, and floor — that and his energetic brushing. He does everything with such energy! I do worry sometimes about Brad’s safety, though, as I’m always finding water and soap running down off the light switches in the bathroom and kitchen. I fear he might one day get a serious shock. I’ve spoken to him about it, but I think, with all the activities in his busy life, he just forgets.
And what a schedule he keeps! I wouldn’t last a week trying to keep up. Every day he flies home from work, crams a video into the VCR, puts a CD on the stereo, makes twenty phone calls, and then jumps into the shower to prepare for another night out. He often takes cabs, which tend to arrive before he’s quite out of the shower, so the cabby rings the doorbell four or five times and then starts honking. Brad gets out of the shower pretty quickly then, runs dripping through the house, throws on some clothes, and rushes off, often forgetting his keys, so that I have to let him back in at 2:30 A.M. It does upset the cats when the doorbell rings in the middle of the night, but I think in time they’ll get used to it, as I have.
Brad’s boundless energy must come in part from the fact that he is a very sound sleeper. He can come home from a long night of partying, turn on the TV, the stereo, the bathroom fan, and all the lights in the house, and then — even with his friends ringing the phone off the hook — he can go right to sleep in the middle of it all! I truly envy this ability, for I have always been a light sleeper myself.
In the year Brad has lived here, he and my cats have bonded very nicely. Now, no matter what time of night he comes home, as soon as the cats hear the front door loudly open (how does he do that?) they rush to greet him, and he receives them with enthusiastic cries of “Hi, Timmy! Hi, Mausy! C’mon, Timmy, Timmy, Timmy! Come to Daddy! Hey, Maus, don’t be jealous! Come to Daddy! Mausy, Mausy, Mausy!” It’s actually kind of touching, although it sometimes startles me a bit when I’ve been asleep.
The cats also like to explore Brad’s room, as it is a perfect play space for them: lots of clothes, shoes, videos, and CDs strewn all over the floor; along with boxes, big plastic bags filled with laundry, and closet doors that don’t completely close because the contents are literally overflowing into the room. There are so many things to crawl under and into and around. Unfortunately, Brad sometimes forgets to let the cats out before closing his hall door for the night, and they get upset after a while and start to howl and scratch the door and rip the carpeting until I get up and let them out. But it’s not really Brad’s fault; he can’t help it that he sleeps so soundly.
I’ve had my share of annoying roommates over the years, so I know I’m fortunate to have found someone so good-natured and easygoing, someone so cheerful when he gets out of bed that his sudden shouts of “Morning!” sometimes cause me to choke on my coffee and spill a bit on the newspaper. Other times, I’ll be working at the computer and, since my door is open, I won’t hear Brad come into the room behind me to loudly ask, “Is there any more toilet paper?” We both have a good laugh at the way I jump in surprise. This boy is just too full of life to talk quietly. “If it’s worth saying, it’s worth saying loud” is his motto. A couple of times, I managed to delete an entire page of writing when my hands jerked in shock at the sudden sound of his voice. But I think the temporary boost of adrenalin and accelerated pulse rate are probably just the push my system needs to prevent me from becoming an old fuddy-duddy.
All in all, when I consider the potential maniacs one can end up with as roommates, I realize how lucky I am to have found Brad. He has settled in quite comfortably. This is his home now, too, and he and the cats and I are a little family. I’m like the grandpa, and the cats are like my grandchildren, and Brad . . . well, Brad is like six happy teenagers with no parents, no responsibilities, and no limits. This place was like a mausoleum before he swooped into my life, but now it’s jumping like a trendy nightspot. I don’t know how I coped before. I must have been bored a lot, although I don’t remember feeling that way at the time. Of course, I don’t remember a lot of things anymore: sound sleep, a clean house, privacy, quiet, and cats who were not jumpy all the time. Yes, life must have been awfully damn dull around here.
Mark A. Hetts
When I first read Mark Hetts’s “A Joy to Have Around” [November 1997], I couldn’t see the page for my tears of laughter. Then I showed it to a friend, whose own response had me again doubled up and gasping for air. Now, two weeks later, I’ve read it once more. Even better. What a wonderful gift.