“You OK?” my friend asked.
I came back in and collapsed on her sheets. She laughed and got up.
“I’ll make you some coffee.”
I went into the kitchen and drank the coffee. It was hot and good. My friend picked away at her laptop. When she finished sending an email, she looked up at me.
“I have this thing today,” she said. “What are your plans?”
I scratched my head.
“Well, I’m gonna finish this coffee and schlep my ass home. Then I’ll prolly meet my new flat-mate.”
“New flat-mate, huh?”
I drank down the last of my scalding beverage and set the mug on the counter. My friend gave me directions to the nearest tram stop and we hugged goodbye. I walked out the front door and into the cold. It bit into me like greased teeth. I tightened my scarf and pressed on. Forty minutes later, I found the tram. I boarded it and took a seat. My head was a swimming mess. I’d just flown into Prague from SFO some thirty hours beforehand. Since that time, I’d done little but drink. In the haze, I’d failed to meet my new flat-mate, who’d moved in while I was in Cali for Christmas. My current flat-mate (who’s also the flat-owner) had told me in a previous e-mail the guy was “nice.” This meant little coming from him as he himself is a horrendous asshole.
Some fuckin' New Year, I thought.
I staggered to my flat. I opened the door and went inside. The place was calm and empty. I figured people were still out. I went to the toilet and had a piss. The floor and bowl were unusually clean. I zipped up and went to the washroom. As I ran soap across my palms, I noticed that the walls, tiles, tub and sink were spotless. This got me curious. I went into the kitchen to check the states of things. The floors had been freshly mopped and the counters, scrubbed. The fridge and stovetop had been wiped of their stains. The common area was neat as a pin. This left only the oven. Prior to my departure, it had been a disaster in there. Blackened cheese had hung from the grate and biscuits of carbonized slop had littered the base. I pulled down the face and had a peek. The grate and four walls were gleaming black.
I closed the oven up, smiling. Just as I did, the kitchen door squeaked. I stood up and turned around. There at the threshold was a dude in his sweats. He was bald and stocky with a crooked nose. His belly hung below his t-shirt and his eyes were deep in his face. I flinched when I saw him. When I realized who he was, I smiled.
“Hey man, I’m your flat-mate, Hans,” I said.
“Hello, I’m Wally.”
We shook hands. It was then that I noticed how hairy Wally was. His knuckles were like little unshaved crotches. His arms were like vast, public jungles. I unlaced my fingers and took my hand back.
“So,” I said. “You really did a job on this place.”
“Yeah, it needed it. Come and let me show you all things I cleaned.”
Wally took me on a slow tour of my flat. He pointed out every spot he’d run a brush over. We ended up back where we’d started. This brought him to the oven.
“I’m sorry, but this one was really disgusting,” he said. “When you cook, just place our black pan underneath to catch the food, which is falling.”
Our black pan?
“Listen,” I said. “I use that pan to bake chicken with so I don’t wanna dirty it too bad. How ‘bout I just put a doubled sheet of aluminum foil on the bottom?”
Wally blinked at me like I’d just ripped a fart up his schnozz.
“Use the pan,” he said.
I could feel my insides heating up. The nerves along my spine popped loose. A deeeeep breath saved me.
“I’ll take care of it,” I said.
That night I thought about how I’d approach the situation. I was very much divided. Part of me wanted to bum rush Wally and backhand the fucker across the mouth. The other, more reasonable part of me thought back to my college days when I’d been the annoying new flat-mate. I’d moved in with someone I’d barely known. He was a soft-spoken Persian guy named Roy, who plucked his eyebrows and took hour-long dumps. He was very particular about how he wanted our flat kept.
“This place has to look nice,” he told me. “Otherwise, any girls we bring home will judge us by it.”
I nodded under my beanie and proceeded to give two shits. While Roy worked his buns off to keep our flat in a relative state of cleanliness, I helped him out by leaving my dishes unwashed, tossing my clothes everywhere, and throwing temper tantrums every time he told me nicely to flush twice. Had I followed his advice I might have gotten laid more than the zero times I did while living with him. But as things were, Roy pulled pussy like a bowl of milk, and I pulled it in silence like a god damned loser. Despite all this, Roy had been patient and kind with me. I figured it was my turn to do the same with ol’ Wally.
Over the next ten days, I tried to befriend the lout. This wasn’t an easy task as our work schedules rarely matched. Even still, I managed to get him talking one evening. He told me he was forty five, Christian and from Beirut. I told him I’d studied Arabic in college. I rattled off a few phrases and he got a kick out of it. I mentioned I had a hookah and his eyes lit up.
“I am loving hookah!” he said.
“Yes, but only this very well-prepared hookah with Isfahan tobacco.”
“Well, hey, I do a pretty good hookah. We should smoke it together sometime.”
Wally grinned sweetly.
“Don’t be offensive, but I am from the land of the hookah so I’m sure you can’t do it correctly.”
I raised an eyebrow and cracked my knuckles.
“Sorry?” he said.
“Nothing. Anyways, my offer stands. Have a good one.”
Though our little chat hadn’t made us instant friends, it had at least opened the lines of communication. I hoped this might be a good thing. For a while it seemed to be. We talked a few times about Lebanese culture and whatnot. Then Wally shifted tracks. He started engaging me only to make demands. At the top of his list was addressing the freezer issue. I’ll admit, it looked like a Yeti cave in there. He wanted us to get together and bang the ice out. That way we’d have more space. When he’d approached our other flat-mate with his plan, the guy had blown him off. This left yours truly holding the bag. I told Wally we’d get to it eventually. He wasn’t pleased with this answer.
The days passed. I woke up one Saturday morning with a fabulous headache. I’d spent the entire night prior, guzzling beers and writing poems. I hadn’t gone to bed till 4 am. I walked into the bathroom and took a shit. When I came out, Wally was standing at the door. His gut looked atrociously big. He hadn’t shaved in a week. I asked him what the problem was. He pursed his lips into an “M.”
“I would really like to manage the freezer,” he said.
My mouth fell open and my eyes rolled back.
“Well yes, or at latest tonight. I believe I was very patient with you.”
I had a party to attend that evening so option two was out the window. This left “right fucking now.” I stomped to my bedroom and threw on my shirt.
“Let’s get this over with.”
I followed Wally into the kitchen. He opened the freezer door and winced. The ice inside was swollen and grey. It looked like an arctic bunghole. Wally reached in there and started pulling things out. As I’d been to a zabijačka (i.e. “pig-slaughter”) ten weeks prior, the stuff he produced wasn’t pretty. There was every type of crystallized sausage. Not to mention, frozen headcheese, blood soup, and pork belly. He stacked it all up on the counter. It looked like the forgotten remains of a snitch from Tony Soprano’s ice chest. I sized up the pile and asked him “What now?” He fingered his bellybutton delicately.
“Well, I need something to hit the ice. Do you have a hammer?”
I thought of the labyrinth of cabinets in our hallway. I was sure there was a hammer in there somewhere. Problem was, our other flat-mate (whom I will henceforth refer to as “Fuckface” for the sake of convenience), has a decade’s worth of garbage stored therein. Thus, finding anything specific is nearly impossible. I told Wally to check the cabinet opposite the kitchen anyway. He went over there and opened it up. An ancient vacuum tumbled apart at his feet. He kicked away the pieces and reached in. I heard a squeaking noise, then a loud “POP!”
“This will work,” he said.
He held up the leg of a chair. It was peeling and bent but it looked solid. I gave him the go-ahead salute. He crouched down and raised the chair-leg. I knew Fuckface was sleeping in the room adjacent.
This outta be good, I thought.
Wally went to town like a nutbag on a virgin. He swung and pounded and blasted away. Chunks of ice flew up everywhere. They bounced across the floor and spun into corners. The noise was unbearable. It got louder as Wally went deeper. Soon he was halfway inside the freezer. His t-shirt was up around his belly and his sweats had slid down. I could see the top of his ass crack. It looked like a hairy hell-mouth. I felt myself getting ready puke. The kitchen door swung open and distracted me. In walked Fuckface with his glasses and boxers on. His entire body was red with sheet wrinkles. He looked at me then looked down. The sight of Wally’s bounding ass crack widened his eyes. He noticed the ice everywhere and flipped.
“Vat are deez shits you are doing?!” he said.
Wally stopped pounding and turned his head.
“I am breaking the ice from the freezer. Then Hans will sweep it.”
Fuckface craned his neck and scratched it.
“Dis is idiotness. You should do grandmother remedy wit dee varm vater.”
Even Wally was blown away by Fuckface’s terrible English. I heard him eject a tiny puff of laughter.
“That would be too slow,” he said. “This way, it’s fast.”
Fuckface shrugged and left us to it. After a few dozen more slams, Wally finished. I grabbed the broom and swept up the ice. When all was said and done the freezer looked pretty nice. There was plenty of room for all our stuff. Wally told me I could have the bottom shelves, while he took top. I said “Whatever” and loaded in my shit. I walked to my bed and pitched forward. As I lied on my face, I could hear Wally mumbling. I drove in my earplugs and drifted off.
The freezer incident emboldened Wally. He started taking more liberties with the flat. He threw away our old dish towels on the grounds that they were “too disgusting to touch.” He rearranged our kitchen cabinets, claiming that their “management of space” was poor. He started smoking heavily in his bedroom and leaving the window shut. This stunk up the entire hallway and drove me nuts. I tried to bite my tongue, but it was tough. Wally made it tougher with his after-smoking ritual. When he’d finish a cigarette, he’d lumber into the washroom. He’d lean over the sink, snort deeply then hack up a lung’s worth of phlegm. As the washroom is next to my bedroom, I could hear everything. It sounded like a walrus battling a sever sinus condition. I asked him politely to tone it (and the smoking) down. He said he would, and then didn’t.
On a Wednesday towards the end of the month, I came home exhausted from teaching. All I wanted to do was slip into bed and die. I changed into my sweats and got to it. Suddenly, I heard Wally open his door. He stomped into the washroom and started hacking. I gritted my teeth and bore it. When it finally ended, I heard him fire up the washing machine. This blew me to the ceiling. I jumped out of bed and opened my door. Wally was already in his room. I went in the washroom and unplugged the machine. It wound down and froze. My nerves eased a little. I went back to bed and tried to sleep. It was a lost cause. Twenty minutes later I gave up. I went to the John to take a piss. When I came out I found Wally in the hallway. His mouth was pinched to an anus. I asked him “How’s it hangin’?” He lifted his hand in the air.
“Why you unplug this?” he said.
“Because, man. I was trying to sleep. Anyways, I was just about to plug it back in. It’s only been twenty minutes.”
“This is a shit!” he snapped. “You have for sure ruined my socks. Now, I will need to buy new ones. Next time, don’t unplug, just write a note that you are sleeping and I won’t wash.”
It was a reasonable request. Under reasonable circumstances I might have considered it. As things were though, Wally was driving my shit bonkers. I couldn’t help myself.
“Look, buddy,” I said. “You don’t ever tell me what to do. I’ve lived here for almost four years and you’ve barley been here a minute. But you think you can just come in, rearrange everything, and start telling me to write notes?! Fuck that!”
Wally was flabbergasted. I could tell he wanted to yell back. For some reason he bit his lip and stomped into his room. I did the same and we both slammed our doors. This jostled Fuckface. He pounded his wall and told us to shut up. I yelled the same back at him. Then I opened my computer and wrote it out.
The rest of the week was bad. Not only were Wally and I not on speaking terms but Fuckface left for Dubai to get married (a whole other story). This meant that for the next six weeks it’d be just me and the walrus. I wanted to leap from my window sideways …
Note: I reserve the right to occasionally alter the character names, descriptions, and/or event details in my posts for the purposes of identity protection and “fluidity of story.” If this puts a kink in your panties, read someone else’s blog, homey.