I wonder how I come across as a roommate—or simply as a person to any other person. Sarcasm, complaint, and Simpsons quotation is my small talk, and I can only keep up that chatter for a few minutes before it becomes physically uncomfortable and I need to go. Now, if someone wants to stop and talk about their relationship with their father, I'm all “Hold that thought and I’ll be right back with some beer,” but otherwise I, as a roommate, tend to carry on to my room, closing the door behind me. I never understood roommates who leave their doors open.
We were three guys living in a cheap apartment that would have fit five or six. We had our corners we went to, so there were great jags of undecorated, unused space that someone might try to comfify with a show poster or chair he found on the roadside, but in the year I was in that place it never felt like any of us ever really moved in. The spoken word poet (is that essentially a sarcastic string of words, or do I need to add inflection?) who had been theretofore occupying the place was constantly threatening to come back, and whenever she visited Montreal treated the place as if she were paying rent, so I think we were all living in borrowed rooms.
The men I lived with in what would be my last apartment in Montreal were fine fellows, friendly and strange in their own ways. But the cocktail of my social inelegance, an early work day, and burgeoning anxiety about my worth as a writer stymied any sturdy bond. I could slag my personality failings far beyond your willingness to read about them, so there was my work schedule: I was due at the brewery for 06h00 and would get home at 14h00, at which point I shut myself back in my room, drank a few free beers, and napped until 18h00ish. Those few hours of being up and about with my roommates could hardly be described as lucid.
Because I couldn’t rely on myself to function after a real day’s work, I began to rely on writing pre-work. With a determination I still can't account for, I’d fall out of bed at 03h00 and manage a few words before catching the first metro. My bedroom was the smallest, so I lucked out and landed a small room off the kitchen that I made into an office. The floor sloped and my rolling chair always to flee the desk. For those keeping track, it was under these conditions that I wrote “The Shrew’s Dilemma” and “Unburdened Things” and absolutely did not write a novel.
I read somewhere that Buckminster Fuller slept only four hours at a time as a way to combat the jetlag problems that came with his constant travel. I don’t recommend these dymaxion habits. My time in this last apartment are hazy as hell. How much this has to do with queer sleep and accessibility of free beer I’ll have to hash out with my maker whenever that time comes.
One pellucid memory jutting out from the hoppy fog that was that year involves my roommate Chris. This is one of the most ebullient kids I’ve met, indefatigably chipper and witty as all get out. Chris’ catchphrase was “Strong.” It was his affirmation, his approval. Any idea you had or any situation you described that Chris agreed with would get a grinning nod and a definitive “That’s strong.” One morning, I got up at my regular 03h00 start time and found Chris on the couch in one of the three barely furnished common rooms playing a baseball video game, a bottle of tequila next to him on the table. He explained that he was killing time while he waited to hear from a girl. He was playing the Homerun Derby section of the game, which involves you being pitched at and hitting homeruns. He didn’t want to be in the middle of a game when the girl phoned. Let’s say I said “Strong.” I left him hitting dingers and just beginning to sip from the tequila at 05h15 and when I got back from work at 14h30, Chris was still on the couch, hitting dingers, the bottle nearly empty. Chris hadn’t heard from the girl, hadn’t slept, hadn’t stopped playing, and had been having the time of his life.
I don’t remember what it was I did on my last night in Montreal—probably it included Dieu du Ciel—but I do remember walking home and being approached by a friendly Tabby. When I bent down to pet him, the thing sort of climbed into my arms and us two gingers snuggled in the middle of the street for a spell. “I bet I could just steal this cat if I wanted,” I assured whoever I was with. They said no way, that the cat wouldn’t have it. So I walked the cat up the steps and into the apartment and, still holding the guy, walked through all the rooms. Tour over, I set him down by the open front door, giving him the chance to return to whatever rightful owner he had and whatever rightful life. Instead of bolting, he just flopped over and showed me his fat stomach.