A Summer Sublet

Originally Posted on The Yale Herald - Medium via UWIRE

Illustration by Paige Davis

I grew a beard because there was no light in the bathroom. Well, there was a light, but it was very dim, and the mirror was far below eye level and grimy and difficult to see myself in. There was another mirror that was eye-level, but it wasn’t over the sink and if I tried to shave there I’d get hair all over the floor. So, I grew a beard instead.

For the month of June, I was subletting a room in an apartment with a guy I’d never met before, Geoff. He was a grad student from Germany; I was an undergrad who had never fed himself before; together we lived in a spacious New Haven apartment that lacked many things.

We had no ice cube trays or measuring cups, so I bought them. They were cheap at Walgreens and were the sort of thing I could use everyday. With the cups, I spooned rice and water into a beat-up but surprisingly effective rice cooker, and the trays kept my insides cool as I suffocated through sticky afternoons on the third story of a house with no air conditioning.

We also didn’t have a whisk, but I didn’t buy one (too expensive, not useful). Presumptuously, I thought I could emulsify a homemade Alfredo sauce without it. I used a slotted spoon instead. My forehead throbbed as I scrambled my broken emulsion, unable to melt the crumbles of parmesan into water. A viscous cheesy goop clung to my spoon and the bottom of the saucepan. Resigned, I sat and picked at clumps of congealed pasta with my fingers, hoping Geoff wouldn’t come home and see the starchy puddle that was once a kitchen.

Geoff and I weren’t friends, just roommates. For a month, we lived together, during which I coughed up forced hellos, goodbyes, and goodnights; smiled dumbly anytime he passed; sent verbosely apologetic text messages warning him I was having friends over; stole secret squeezes of his toothpaste; met his girlfriend at breakfast after curiously half-ignoring the moaning and creaking that leaked from their bedroom the night before. We never got close.

But we had our moments: the time we watched Mid90s together, and I asked him about life in Germany as the credits rolled. The times we languished, shirtless and sweaty, united by discomfort in our stuffy summer prison. Or when he stumbled into the house, drenched after biking home in a thunderstorm and I, nestled dry and cozy on the couch, half-asked-half-declared, “Wet out there, huh?” And I grinned and he chuckled.

After a month of living in the absence of many things, I’d grown. I learned exactly how much rice to make for a party of one. I learned how to destroy a kitchen, then clean it up. I learned how to grow and maintain facial hair. And although I’ll probably never see Geoff again, I’m fond of our stint as roommates. He wasn’t a friend from my suite, not a care-taker like Mom or Dad, just someone I saw daily and sometimes avoided. All we shared was a poorly stocked kitchen and a dimly lit bathroom. And a little bit of small-talk. I guess that was all I needed.

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