A Sword and a Mattress

If there is one reason to go to college it’s for the partying, crazy adventures and, of course, roommate shenanigans. Oh sure there’s the chance of being further educated and growing personally, but then there’s also the joy of witnessing a group of future rocket scientists in swimsuits doing keg stands. Now you kids listen to Uncle Whiskey, the whole reason for going to college is to hit “snooze“…I mean get an important education so you can get into a good grad school and… (Shhh…Dr. Wife is standing right behind me)

OK, Dr. Wife is gone, back to the fun.

While in college Whiskey, Dr. Wife ( then known as Miss Smartypants) and a rotating cast of weirdos shared a three bedroom condo near UC Santa Cruz. GO BANANA SLUGS!!! I’m sure they all thought Dr. Wife and I were totally normal since we had like ten snake tanks in our room, two cats, a golden retriever, a large aquarium, a parrot, and a no pets policy on the lease.


We had chemists, computer scientists, astro physicians, geologists, biologists, and other nerds sharing space with a future yoga instructor from LA, a P.E. major, an English Lit guy, and me – a film major. But the two roommates who stand out in that reality show ensemble most were the hot-mess and the ghost.

Kap-Su was our ghost. He was what happens when your roommate goes to Europe for the summer and sublets his room in the easiest manner possible without consulting the rest of the house. He found a name in the housing office and that was that. He mentioned it in passing at his going-away kegger. “I’m sure he’s cool, he’s a visiting Astronomy professor from Korea! So he’s like, into stars and shit.” He coughed out, passing me a bong.

Two days later there was ol’ “Kappy” on our doorstep. He had only a tiny duffel bag with some soccer team logo on it, a mattress, and a wooden practice sword. We showed him to his room and shared an awkward handshake. The door closed.

After that we only caught an occasional glimpse as he rushed in or out of the house. I’m not sure where he ate or bathed. There was no toothbrush in the bathroom and he never shared a meal with us for three months. We only knew he came home because he spent a solid hour in the bathroom clearing his sinuses every morning about six am. Loudly.

Then one night, we had a pretty good party. So good that a future roommate passed out on our couch before we even met her, but that’s another story. With the spare money from charging for keg cups, we rented a rug cleaning machine in the morning. Because that’s what responsible renters do.

I started running it and all of a sudden Kappy appeared, making me jump out of my skin. I didn’t even know he was home. He was mesmerized. He motioned to me that he would like a try at it. I happily turned over the Rug Doctor and the guy went nuts. He cleaned the entire place top to bottom. Dr. Wife, the jock and I went out for breakfast, and came home to a sparkling clean abode. A week later, as abruptly as he appeared, he was gone. His room was as empty as though he’d never been there at all.

Then came Cheryl…holy crap. In the classic tradition of freaking-out about money and making a terrible decision, we brought Cheryl into our home. Summers are rough for college renters, where roomies go back to flyover states and you’re left with triple the rent for a few months. We desperately needed someone, anyone, who could pay the rent on one of the bedrooms so we could collectively pay the rent and not be homeless. We had a low turnout on the interviews for the flyer we put in the commons, and all the good candidates were scooped up quickly by other slum lords. When we initially interviewed Cheryl we all laughed after she left and said, “no f*cking way” to each other. But…any port in a storm.

When Cheryl moved in, she was accompanied by here parents. Lovely people, they were weirdly apologetic, but also gave us six months advance on her rent. “That’s odd,” I thought, “is she so unreliable she can’t just write a check every month?”

Yes…yes she was.

From the moment she moved in, she never cleaned her room. Not once. She also always kept the door shut. On the rare moment when she left it cracked you could see an episode of Hoarders, shit everywhere and a haphazard trail cutting from the door to her bed. And it smelled.

When she ate, she would cook a whole box of elbow macaroni, dump it on a plate and then pour ketchup on it. Then, like some kind of weird bird she would eat the noodles one at a time. It took nearly an hour. Then she would deposit her plate on the counter next to the sink to fossilize. The next day there would be two plates and so on. A stack of plates with ketchup like dried blood rising on the counter, so close to the dishwasher, but never inside it. But the rent got paid, and so she stayed.

Eventually Miss Smartypants and myself graduated and moved out, leaving our friend James with the lunatic and the job of filling the room we vacated. Cheryl plugged one of her friends in immediately and James was badly outnumbered.

A month later I was back in Santa Cruz having a beer with James and I asked him how were things in our old place.

“Well,” he began “the smell is worse. Also, she moved in a lesbian who is really into witchcraft. She comes out of her room now to stare at the other girl then scuttles away when I’m around.”

“That sounds kinda hot,” I said.

“Yeah…you’d think so, but it’s mostly creepy and annoying. They have these rituals…I don’t know man, I come home and find a note on the door with a fiver pinned to it saying They’re going to have a ceremony, don’t come in go have a beer.”

“Weird, but, hey, a free beer,” I said.

“Yeeeah, but when I get home from work I just want a shower and a beer in my place, not five naked hippies burning sage…f*cking Santa Cruz.”

One day James just moved out, didn’t say a word. Ghosted like Kappy.

The crazy thing was none of us in five years ever met the land lord, we would just mail him an amended lease every time someone came or went. Best landlord ever. I k


5 thoughts on “A Sword and a Mattress

  1. I did meet the landlord once, when we picked up the keys. I’ll never forget because he had the most spectacular comb over rug I have ever seen! Sounds like I missed all the fun.

  2. My college buddy, Stan, hated to wash dishes and refused to use paper plates, so he bought a stack of dishes at the Goodwill and tossed them in the dumpster after dinner. It was surprisingly economical.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s