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Thursday, Oct. 02, 2003 - 11:23 p.m.

This is the second entry today.

I am baking a chocolate mousse cake. I can’t remember the last time I made a dessert. I’m not even craving one now; I just felt like baking, and I didn’t feel like making bread. I had another absurd grocery trip after yesterday’s payday: fennel, strawberries, a bottle of champagne from the discount table, Brie, and baking chocolate, plus a few less glamorous items like Grape Nuts and cat litter box liners.

Making this dark chocolate cake reminded me of a very strange month of life. After I got my BA, I spent an extra year in Durango. For the first few months I house-sat for some friends. I was unemployed, but finally I found a job at a blood bank. The friends came back, and I had to move out…and fortunately, another friend was leaving his apartment in the same complex. I moved in with Jim, whom I had never met, though my friend assured me he was a nice guy.

The apartment building had been converted from an old motel. It was U-shaped, with two floors of apartments on three sides and the fourth side open to Eighth Avenue. (Durango numbers both its streets and avenues. I have lived, variously, on Seventh and Sixth, on Fifth and Eighth, and between Sixth and Seventh on Eighth.) (I had to draw a map to remember that.)

In the middle of the apartment complex was an open grassy area which had once held a swimming pool. Though the pool had been filled with dirt and grass years before, the edges of the pool still stuck up a little above ground level, with the pool’s depth markers half-visible from the second floor railed walkway.

Anyway, I moved in with Jim, was trained in how to stick needles in people, developed a crush on and subsequently dated a man thirty years older than me, published the fifth issue of my own zine, and generally had a strange month, because I was completely uncomfortable in my own home.

Here’s why I’m remembering all this: Chris came over to that hellish apartment one day and we baked eight individual-serving chocolate mousse pies for somebody’s dinner party. It was late summer, painfully beautiful at six thousand five hundred feet in southern Colorado, with the ridge just starting to turn orange and red above the town. That was a good day.

Jim was a really fucked up roommate. My freshman year roommate had been pretty awful towards the end – in several of the classroom buildings, for example, she posted pictures of me sleeping, with a caption reading “Free All Night”. This was perplexing because I think I got laid maybe once my freshman year. She also stuck flyers with weight loss tips into the pockets of my jackets. (Okay, can I tell a story without telling you eight others at the same time?)

Jim was just uncomfortable. He kept all the shades drawn and the rooms dark. He listened to techno, read raver/techno magazines, smoked pot, and drank, but was always completely somber and glaring. He seldom spoke. He spent all his time in his room, only emerging when I left, usually to cook rice and retreat again to his room. He was a scrawny kid, a computer science major with few friends. But he was a snob. I seem to remember that he was a militant vegetarian, though this was completely at odds with his businessy computer science ethics. Neither of us ate meat, but even this didn’t bring us together.

He got drunk once and threw up in the bathtub – didn’t clean it up, either – but never made a noise. I had to clean it up, because I had to take a shower. One morning I woke up to a furious, violent note ordering me not to smoke in the bathroom, as cigarette smoke made him sick (incense and weed did not, apparently)…but I hadn’t been smoking in the bathroom, and when I told him this, he apologized but hardly spoke to me again.

I am an introvert, especially around roommates – everyone who’s lived with me has seen me retreat grumpily to my room for days at a time – so it’s not like I was bouncing around the house, painting the walls yellow while he desperately sought peace. But Jim did, by contrast, make me feel very cheerful and outgoing.

I kept all my things contained to my tiny bedroom, probably sensing it wouldn’t last long. I cooked, pulled the blinds open at times, rode my bike around town to avoid going home, and worked a lot. Jim mostly glared when he saw me, sometimes muttering a greeting but often not. I asked him if we could change the answering machine message to include my name, and he scowled, refusing to do it himself.

I don’t feel like I’m explaining this very well. I can’t even remember all the uncomfortable details of our lives in that apartment. I hated going home. I’m sure my coworkers at the time remember the stories better than I can. I’d like to think this means I don’t hold onto bitterness, but I think that sucks; I want to be able to tell a good story. If you were my friend then and remember details about Jim, I would love to hear them.

Once, towards the end of my stay there, I left one of my bloody sea sponges in the shower, and looking back, I have never made such a satisfying mistake. Jim got in the shower shortly after me, and though he never said a word, he looked especially white as he left for his summer classes. Fucker.

I started looking for new apartments. I didn’t see Jim for a week – I had no idea where he’d gone, though I heard a rumor later from the Friend who’d moved out that Jim had been arrested in the Kmart parking lot for drunk driving. I never heard a thing about it while we lived together…isn’t that something you might mention to a roommate? Where’ve you been for a week, Jim? Oh, in prison. Finally I cornered him, telling him I had to move out even though we had a lease. He looked happy for the first time all month. I don’t even remember what I said or asked, but here is what Jim said: “I guess I’m just not comfortable living with a girl”.

Okay.

I have since lived with two boys, and it’s been great, though a little party-tastic for my graduate student life. I’m glad for my Month of Jim, though. It would make a good story if I could remember it right, and it certainly taught me to choose my roommates carefully.

That’s about enough of that story. I have others, but they will have to wait until another day. There is cake to consume, wine to drink, fall air to breathe in through the open windows, and an apartment with only me and the cat in it. Mmmm.

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