A few weeks ago, I walked a childhood friend to the Bleecker Street Subway Station. Lugging a suitcase and garbage bag through the turnstile, she told me last semester had been different. She was the only person in the world who could sleep through my morning alarms sounding off like the periodic cries of a woman in labor: 5, 10, 15 minutes apart. And who kindly ignored my pile of dishes in the sink so tall it could trigger a gag reflex.
This commentary makes our relationship sound tense, as if she silently protested the quirks even my own family members could hardly stand. But it remained chill, like her playlists of Frank Ocean, Cardi B and Ed Sheeran I woke up to every weekday, with her grooving and applying makeup in front of a makeshift armoire while I padded toward the coffee grounds, my aching dancer muscles often the object of her compassion.
She left me her microwave, some one-dollar plates from Target and a sack of flour she didn’t need for her spring semester at NYU Paris. I secretly hoped we would be international pen pals, commenting on the daily weather like we had in the fall, a couple of California girls groaning to the sound of rain and doing a Chandler Victory Dance at the first sight of sun.
One Saturday morning, I left an extra pancake on the griddle. When I returned that night after back-to-back rehearsals, it had made a silent getaway. She said how unorthodox it was to leave your roommate a pancake, casually admitting she had it eaten it, and I shrugged, questioning what she imagined an ordinary roommate to be like.
I loved how she collected dozens of salt and pepper packets from Whole Foods, how she used a Starbucks cup as a toothbrush holder, how she approved of 7-Eleven bags for trash cans. It wasn’t her style of living cheaply that I admired, but her desire to be creative with what she had. She employed a stone-soup approach, throwing things in the pot when there was too little to go around.
Sometimes she sauteed spam, my vegetarian skillet weeping with an oily residue days later, but she apologized and offered bags of nuts her aunt had sent as compensation for her offensive cooking. Quite honestly, in the humid air of our double on the ninth floor of Second Street, I almost wished that the skillet remained there for me to clean, and for the bathtub hairs to swirl around in a soapy soup until I verbally acknowledged them, and for the dust bunnies to writhe and twitch their noses behind the armoire until I sent my socks — splat — into them. Because it was an excuse for me to be around.
Other times, I excused the less-than-ideal conditions in our room, because for one, we had little time to fuss and scrub and buy accessories while the city honked and screeched and sang itself awake each night. But also because it left the two of us roaming around thirstily as we discovered that every East Village bubble tea joint closes by midnight.
At the moment, I haven’t heard from my roommate since she moved to Paris. Perhaps this will be her calling to open up a fall 2019 housing application and ring me up — if she reads this, that is. As for me, I’ve remained at Second Street, coping with the recent arrival of monstrous clothing piles and towering stacks of Ramyun under the care of a new roommate, assured that another story will write itself this spring.