Have you ever hated anybody? I mean, really, as an adult, HATED someone? And I don’t mean a politician or a celebrity, or whatever Paris Hilton is now. I mean a person you know and see on a regular basis. Because I’ve been angry with people—temporary hateful—but it took me a really long time to straight up hate a bitch, with conviction.

Hate is a lot of work. And I am emotionally lazy.

Most of the time, I can’t be bothered. But I hated this housemate I had in college. And I don’t think of her often, but when I do think of her, I still think she is the worst. I actively hate her. Still. Like, I would be okay with it if she got hit by a bus right now. I don’t want to identify her by name (in case a bus ever does hit her, Officer), so let’s just call her Fuckface.

Because fuck her. In the face.

Fuckface and my best friend leased the second story of a house near campus the summer after our Sophomore year. But Fuckface wasn’t able to move in until the Fall, and didn’t want to pay the summer rent (understandable, I guess). So she asked my friend to find someone to move in and pay rent for three months and then move out again (less understandable, I think).

I agreed to do it—mostly so that my friend wouldn’t get screwed on the rent. I packed and moved my shit twice that summer, in order to hold that room for Fuckface. (You’re welcome, Fuckface.)

Then she moved in. And I moved to the first floor. And she became a fuckface.

She started by being a secret bitch, for my eyes only. Subsequently, I would not invite her to join us for social-fun-times. I thought she hated me. (Stay home, Fuckface!)

Then when I wasn’t around, Fuckface would tell my friend/her roommate that I hurt her feelings by excluding her. My friend would say, “Oh, Darci, you should try to be nicer to [Fuckface].”  So I would be nicer. And Fuckface would be an even bigger bitch to me as soon as my friend left the room.

Finally, my friend caught Fuckface acting like Captain Asshole after I invited her to go to the movies with us. My friend stopped asking me to be nice. (Ya burnt, Fuckface!)

Yes, Fuckface was messy and inconsiderate and all the things I imagine we’ve all experienced to some degree with roommates, especially in our early 20s. But she was a special kind of asshole in that she was completely shameless about it. I’ve known people to commit bigger social crimes, but they at least have the decency to feel guilty. And the things that would upset her were ridiculous. She and I lived in separate apartments on two different floors and I would get calls like:

“Um, I can just tell that your TV is on. Could you keep it down?”

“Umm, I can hear you guys whispering. Maybe you could talk tomorrow?”

“Ummmm, I can hear your heart beating. Can you slow it down a notch? I’m trying to take a nap.”

I’m only slightly exaggerating. Fuckface expected us to stop cooking spaghetti because she didn’t like the way sauce looks when it simmers. But her sensitivity only applied to things the rest of us did. She felt free to make as much noise as she wanted, stink up the house with her weird pets, drink our beer, break our stuff and insult our guests.

And OH GOD, was she cheap. I mean, we were all broke, scraping by with shitty jobs. It’s college. I get it. But Fuckface (whose parents paid for her tuition and rent) was just obnoxiously cheap. No sharing. No hospitality. But also, no hesitation in accepting the generosity of others. She’d ask you for a favor, you’d help her out of a jam, and an hour later she’d make you give her a quarter before agreeing to split a can of Coke.

True story: For weeks, she asked every person who came over for an egg.

“Hey, umm… Do you have an egg? I have this brownie mix but it requires an egg and I don’t have an egg. And I don’t want to buy a whole dozen if I just need one egg. So I thought maybe you had an egg I could have. Oh, I mean, sure—of course you don’t have it with you. But do you have one at home? I mean, haha, right?! But also, you should go home and get an egg and bring it over and then we can make these brownies.”

I’m serious. That actually happened. FOR A MONTH.

I mean, I GUESS it makes sense to ask ME for an egg. It makes sense because I lived downstairs, and that is where I kept my groceries, which is what eggs are (unless you are a chicken). If I had an egg to give to Fuckface, and if I didn’t spend every waking moment wishing she would grow a foot out of her forehead that would kick her in her stupid face forever, then it seems like a reasonable request, and not much of an imposition for me to run downstairs and bring back an egg. ONE TIME, that question makes sense. Twelve times is excessive. To ask every day was rude and weird. And to ask our other friends (who did NOT live downstairs) to go home and bring back an egg was just insane. (You crazy, Fuckface!)

Even more kookoo-bananas was the fact that Fuckface had a part-time job at a grocery store, giving her both 24-hour access to eggs and the funds with which to buy eggs (sold by the half dozen for about 40 cents).  I pointed this out once and Fuckface said (while making the bitchiest face) that it wasn’t fair for her to have to pay for 5 extra eggs. (Life’s a bitch, Fuckface.)

If I ever have a time-traveling cat, I will make him take me back to the last time Fuckface asked me for an egg. I will bring her twelve dozen Grade A extra-larges and make her watch as I break every last one of those sons of bitches into the garbage can.

Then I will set that garbage can on fire.

Then I will bake those motherfucking brownies, Vegan-style with a banana-as-egg substitute. Then I will throw the brownies into a different garbage can and set that garbage can on fire.

Then my time-traveling cat will bring me back to the present and we will high-five each other until one of us passes out.

TIME CAT!

After a few months of living with Fuckface’s weird demands, her stomping around, and her general bitchfaceness, I stopped being polite and started getting real. I officially banned her from the first floor. Then a few weeks later, just because Fuckface extra-deserved it, my roommate double-banned her from the first floor.

Hating her may have started as a single player game, but it soon became a team sport. Floor One was off limits and Floor Two’s other occupant wasn’t exactly starting a Fuckface fan club. I’m reasonably sure that if our house had a third floor, Fuckface would not have been welcome there, either. (Not on my watch, Fuckface!)

But it didn’t make any difference to Fuckface. It didn’t bother her that she lived with three people who wanted to push her down the stairs. She had no shame, and she was impervious to hints, sarcastic remarks, stink-eyes and other passive-aggressive tortures. We knew she wouldn’t consider moving out. The rent was so cheap and the house was so close to campus—she’d never find anything better, or anyone else to live with her.

We were stuck with Fuckface, and her stinky pets, and her shitty moods and her, “You should pay more of the phone bill, because the phone sits closer to your room, so I have to walk farther to use it” negotiations. We had given up any hope of getting rid of her before graduation. But then a funny thing happened, and suddenly, we were saved.

We were saved by the band Portishead.

(I know! I was also surprised.)

My roommate came home one day and started playing the then-new Portishead album, Dummy. She put the song “Sour Times” on repeat, and then zoned out, doing her homework or whatever. It wasn’t blaring at full volume, but our house was old and the walls were thin, so it was easy for any noise to travel from one floor to the other.

Fuckface started to twitch, not because the music was too loud, but because she was tired of hearing that song. She asked her roommate to call and ask us to put on a different CD. Her roommate/my friend refused to tell someone what music to not listen to in the privacy of her own home, even if that someone wanted to listen to a dopey Portishead song over and over again, and suggested that Fuckface just turn on the TV or her own radio. But that did not seem to be a viable solution to Fuckface.

Instead, Fuckface threw a tantrum. She started throwing shit on the floor and at the walls, making enough of a racket to make me think something terrible was happening. I phoned upstairs to see if the terrible something was at least happening to her.

Me: “Hey, is everything okay up there?”
FF: “Ummmm… I’m just throwing a ball around my room to try to relieve some stress.”
Me: “You’re doing what?”
FF: “I’m throwing a ball.”
Me: “What KIND of ball?!”
FF: “I said I’m STRESSED. I’m tired of hearing that song your roommate keeps playing over and over.”
Me: “Yeah, me, too. So I put some headphones on. Problem solved. Were you just stomping around up there?”
FF: “I had to make myself feel better.”
Me: “Pictures were falling down off our walls, [Fuckface]. “
FF: “Sorrrr-yyyyyy. But I had to do something.”
Me: “Of course you did.”

I hung up the phone, livid, and determined to be done with this bullshit, once and for all. I gave my roommate a quick synopsis of my phone conversation with Fuckface and then very dramatically proclaimed,

“FOR AS LONG AS THAT BITCH LIVES IN THIS HOUSE, THAT SONG WILL BE PLAYING ON THAT STEREO. ALL DAY. ALL NIGHT. WHILE WE SLEEP. WHILE WE STUDY. 24 HOURS A DAY, SEVEN DAYS A WEEK, THAT SONG WILL PLAY IN THIS HOUSE FOR AS LONG AS SHE LIVES UPSTAIRS.”

It took a few days for Fuckface to tell us she was moving out, but we kept playing “Sour Times” for another week until she was actually gone. We would leave the house for hours—sometimes all night—with the CD on repeat and the doors locked. Once, we saw Fuckface leave for school so we turned the music off. But then she came back inside to get her jacket and we turned it right back on. She screamed, “I KNOW WHAT YOU’RE DOING!” from the other side of the door, but we just turned up the volume and laughed. When she moved, she assured us she had her own reasons for leaving, and that they were totally unrelated to the nonstop Portishead mindfuck coming from downstairs. (We believe you, Fuckface!)

I only saw her once after that, at a New Year’s Eve party. I was living in New York by then, but had come home for the holidays. When I moved away, I gave a bunch of furniture to my friend, Chris—the same friend who was throwing the party. Fuckface was there, and we managed to avoid one another for a while, but then I saw her sitting on my old sofa. I immediately ran to Chris and explained the rules: Fuckface had been banned from my apartment, and the banishment applied to the furniture of the apartment, even after the furniture left the apartment.

“You want me to tell her she can’t sit on the couch?”

I wanted him to tell her a lot of things, beginning with “You can’t sit on the couch,” and ending with facepunch. But before I could answer him, Fuckface stood up and left the party.

The DJ had finally gotten to my request for “Sour Times”.

After two days, the radio had switched off. I assumed it was safe to bathe. I slipped down the stairs from my room in the attic, towel in hand, and took slow, elongated steps over the creaky second storey hallway floor boards. I locked myself in, exhaled, turned on the faucet and had just barely begun to enjoy what I thought was to be my first full term, risk-free shower in three days when the door flew inward from the force of a kick, and I felt my body yanked from under the comforting flow of water, dragged across the bathroom floor and pushed halfway through the open window.

“I fucking got you, man!” Said Big Bear through a tearful laugh, as he dangled me by the ankles two floors above the snow covered ground.

Indeed, I had been got.

My Suge Knightesque roommate was a man named Andrew Big Bear. Big Bear worked nights for a shipping company. Four nights on, followed by three off. On his off nights he drank and blared Puff Daddy on his stereo. He was not in the habit of sleeping at any point during his non-work periods.

“Waste of a life, man,” he said, “to sleep when you ain’t work’n.”

I agreed, and though I have started many a new day by staying, rather than waking, up, I have never had the kind of endurance that would bring one into a third day. I couldn’t sustain the severity of the tugs upon lucidity that must be soldered to that experience.

Big Bear and I were at a party early in our tenure as friends and roomies. We were sitting on the couch across from a girl I was interested in, drinking beers, rolling cigarettes, engaging in the kind of small talk that people make in the early stages of flirtery. Avoiding the depthy subjects, resisting urges to let loose the more general theories about God and Government which never seem to impress their intended audiences, yet always seem to fanagle their way past the teeth at some point, usually around the time that the religious glow of fresh love dwindles itself into the sputtering candesence of a 40 watt bulb powered by a generator that’s running low on fuel.

That night conversation was in low gear: the origin of pomegranates, the best shade of green, favorite non-canonical instrument…

Big Bear looked a little bored. A little angry. I asked him what his favorite melon was.

“Honey Dew, you soulless fuck.”

I waited to see if he would release the jaws of the gaze he’d locked on me with a chuckle or a scowl, but he chose neither. It was me who looked back to the conversation in the awkward interval between recognizing the sincerity of his attack on my mortal soul, and arriving at the point of participating in a stare down. There are only so many seconds you can look straight into someone’s eyes without consequences, whether they be kisses, punches or tears.

This wasn’t the last time that he would accuse me of soullessness, which phenomena, I should probably mention, has always been a chief concern of mine… There was a moment in grade school when I was all but sure I’d sold the old soul to Satan in return for being the sweetest eighth-grade hoopster in the Chicago Catholic League. Despite the notably absent results (I was far from even the top ten sweetest players on my own second-rate, twelve-member team), I was pretty sure I’d dealt away the most prized of my possessions. Duped.

Strange that we think of the soul as something to be had, or for that matter, lost. Strange that we position it as a possession to be bought, sold, traded, prized, undervalued. Putting an exchange value on the immortal bits of human being points pretty directly to the bankruptcy (irony not lost) of our spiritual situation.

Big Bear, who was a Native American of the Winnebago tribe, started speaking angrily in his language. I didn’t understand the specific content, but got the general emotional gist which was in line with the spirit of his previous comment. It was somehow comforting that Big Bear was speaking from a native tradition. At the risk of forwarding Big Bear as a representative of his culture, a risk made especially grave by the stereotypes this piece is already dabbling in, it made it clear that this paranoia of separation from some essential self was not an exclusively western psychosis. That is to say, it was comforting to, rather than sentimentalize certain perspectives and peoples, to recognize that all of us humans are battling similar fundamental schisms.

Then again, it was me, not him who was soulless. Maybe rather than projecting, he was just particularly adept at noticing my phobias. Maybe the fact that I was thinking about it this way in the first place was why I was soulless.

Things didn’t go well with the girl.

On the walk home Big Bear continued to inform me about my soullessness, but mostly in the inarticulate and monosyllabic vein. “No.” He would say, before letting a few seconds pass. “Fucking.” A brief stumble. “Soul.”

I listened, terror creeping up from frozen toes.

In the park that we crossed on our walk home, we saw a boy asleep face down in the snow.

“Look at this fucker,” said Big Bear.

I looked. I was fairly sure I’d been that boy in that park on one or more occassions.

Big Bear approached him with slow stalking steps, leaned over him with tender eyes, and converted those same eyes into a brief scowl in my direction before snatching his shoulders like he was ripping a salmon from a river, flipping him around quickly and shouting into the boys startled face, “Do you wanna die out here in the fucking snow?”

The face of the boy, who reasonably interpreted this as a threat rather than emergency assistance, lost what color remained. He leapt like a freshly popping kernel of corn and was halfway across the park before I remembered to take another breath.

“Fucking kid,” said Big Bear. “Could’ve died out here.”

We walked home in the abbreviated steps that the snow demanded, Big Bear cursing me, or blessing me for all I know, in his native tongue.

I remember thinking that I probably would have left that kid right there in the snow. Maybe not, but probably.

A few weeks later, we had a party. Big Bear was working in the morning, though he’d been off for the last three days, meaning his senses were at their limits, but so was his need for sleep. We, the rest of us in the house, were twenty-one-year-old indie rockers who really didn’t give a shit about much besides ourselves, whatever bands were in town and our T-shirt collections, especially when we’d been drinking. Soulless maybe. It didn’t feel that way at the time, but in retrospect…

Big Bear usually wasn’t opposed to a party and I guess I missed the signals that he was not inclined that evening.

He came out of his room, eyes scorching whatever they met from behind a face that was as still as the moments before an earthquake. He approached me with steady measured steps,  hands behind his back.

“Beer?” I asked.

He nodded a head that showcased no little fury.

I reached into the the cardboard package and pulled out a warm bottle of La Crosse, but before I could hand it to him he charged me with a corkscrew in one hand and scissors in the other screaming, “I’m gonna kill you, you fuck’n Leprechaun!” I’m still not sure if that was racial slur or alcohol-fueled delusion.

I jumped behind the couch and ran across the room. Big Bear got to me, but his weapon-bearing arms were restrained, so all I felt was the weight of his body pushing against me, like a dolphin out of water trying to chest bump me to death. Someone called the police in the middle of all the hubbub, and they came and took Big Bear away.

No charges were pressed, and he was home the next afternoon. He’d lost his job because he had not shown up. He was angry, but he was sober, and therefore non-violent.

I’ve never felt guiltier in my life. I still feel guilty. I mean, attempted murder may be a bit of an overreaction to a party that’s running late, but I still feel as though the first crime, being inconsiderate of a roommate’s sleeping schedule, was my own, and that a man, dysfunctional and violent as he could sometimes be, had lost his job and gained another tick on an already marred criminal record.

I had recently bought my brother’s car for the price of a bus ticket when he suddenly had to return to Oklahoma after some romantic drama. Big Bear was going to Oklahoma now too. Back to the res. I gave him the car, hoping that somehow I was helping to buy back the soul I’d sold in the gymnasium of my Catholic grade school.

I’m not sure if it worked. I still can’t make a free throw. I guess that’s a good sign.