My current roommate is a friend (for lack of a better term) of something like eleventeen years. He is also a caricature. Were I to relay some of his tastier morsels of dramatic, profound stupidity, we would be here for some time and I would receive numerous bills from my two readers for the drugs and therapy they would have to undergo. He’s so desperate for attention that he does not care if it is good or bad. We will call him Stacey for the sake of anonymity (and because in reality he has a girl’s name. It suits him). He’s never been what you would call traditionally handsome, and I personally would rather make love to a camel that has been dead for twenty four hours than gaze upon his pastry-bag arms one more time. Some people find him attractive, of that I am sure. Who they are and what their mental state is, I cannot say, nor can I vouch for their visual acuity.
Another thing which must be known is that he is terribly competitive. Almost comically so, seeing as how constantly he fails. We used to go to the gym and he would strain, push, and in fact hurt himself to lift a measly five pounds more than I, to do one more set of crunches, or to do five more minutes of cardio. To the casual observer it would seem that he was more dedicated or stronger than I. What the said casual observer did not see was the five subsequent days of Advil, booze, and silent weeping Stacey would do from the pain. The casual observer would not see his inability to lift his arms above his waist for three of those days.
It’s not entirely his fault. He’s about nine inches taller than I (he’s tall; I’m not) and he thinks that he should therefore be nine times stronger. I have been described as freakishly strong, scrappy, and as a bull dog—small and absurdly strong. When I go the gym, I just do what I do. If it hurts too much or I’m abnormally sore the next day, I tone it down the next time, because I’ve obviously overdone it. I don’t do the same or more and deal with the ensuing paralysis for no reason other than that I have the need to feel superior or to not appear that I’m weak. I just don’t care enough.
Recently, I had unplanned, completely invasive surgery (what surgery isn’t invasive, I ask you?). To hear my doctors talk, I almost died, the ICU nurses were afraid I wouldn’t bounce back from it, my doctor had never seen anyone get so bad, so fast, blah, blah, blah. If I feel like it, I’ll relate that in another entry. Point is, I was sedentary and weak and on disability for six weeks. I sat on the couch, high on Oxycodone, watching SpongeBob SquarePants, trying not to think about the pain, hobbling occasionally to the kitchen for grape juice and whatever I could eat on the special diet I was put on. However—and this is the crucial part—I lost fifteen pounds.
I would like to think that Stacey didn’t base any of his decisions on my condition or weight loss. I’m desperately trying not to be so egomaniacal as to think I affected this in any way. But I can say that suddenly Stacey started to eat better and take up yoga. In an attempt to “get ahead” of me in the weight loss game? Because he saw the horror I went through and wanted to take better care of himself? Because he just decided to take better care of himself and it had nothing to do with me? Who can say? However, I think the timing (starting right when I came home from the hospital and not a day before) was a little suspicious.
It was the yoga that killed everything. For those who have not done yoga, it increases flexibility, it helps calm you, it can be life affirming, and it will kick your ass. Don’t think it’s just a bunch of stretching and bending. Unfortunately, it can turn you into a pretentious boob, or if you are already afflicted with this personality disorder, it can be like throwing gasoline on an open flame. Suddenly, Stacey, whose alcohol content at any point previously was enough to make Lindsey Lohan look sober and contrite, was clean, sober, working out, and completely loud about it.
You know what? I was happy for him. He was losing weight, he seemed to be throwing off the shackles of burgeoning alcoholism, and he seemed happier and healthier. However, I was couch- and bed-bound. Walking the few paltry steps from the couch to the kitchen and back was an experiment in agony. I walked to the mail box and thought I was going to pass out, and I’m not the swooning type. I tried to share Stacey’s enthusiasm, to take joy in his joy, but the pretense was growing inside him like the Dark Side grew in Vader and eventually consumed him.
So, too, was Stacey.
I was perfect for him—a wounded, sedentary, unwilling audience to his parade of self-congratulatory pretentiousness. After four weeks of, “Ohmigoooooooooosh! I’m SO sore!” and, “Ugh. I can’t have THAT yogurt!” (said in a tone which suggested it was made of lard from the thighs of infants, fawn eyes, and baby seal meat), and other such gems, my sympathetic joy was tarnished. Everything he did was for attention.
One particularly bad pain day, before Stacey decided to go off the booze, I heard from the kitchen, “Oh, nooooooooo! There’s no vodka left!”
*turning up SpongeBob, waiting for it to go away*
“Ugh! Now I can't pre-drink before the club!”
*focusing intently on the jellyfishing antics of my newly favorite sponge*
“There’s no tiiiiiiiiiiiiiiime!”
Even high I couldn’t handle it. Finally I said, “Why don’t you go to Rite Aid and get some on your way to the BAR?” (“Club”, my ass. That shithole is a dive with atrocious drag queens.)
Stacey said, “But then I’ll be late!”
I said, “You’re not the goddamned white rabbit! Nobody cares if you catch bubonic plague and die, much less if you’re fucking late, you troglodyte!” Actually, that’s what I wanted to say. What I actually said was, “I think they can handle it if you’re a whole five minutes late.”
He acted as if I had shat in his mouth. He was so displeased at the thought of not having a devoted audience desperately waiting for his arrival that you would think he had just been told he had incurable leprosy. He sighed and said, “Well, I gueeeeess.” He then spun off to get ready and left me in peace.
At this point, I was just hateful. I tried to tell myself that he was just proud of the life changes he was making, and that he had every right to be happy. I tried to be supportive. I tried, I promise that I did. But I was not in the state of mind or the physical condition to give much of a shit. I thought that maybe I was the jealous and competitive one. I thought that maybe I wanted to be the one making the changes, to be active, to be anything other than high and watching cartoons and SyFy original movies. Then I thought about it more and realized that wasn’t true. I just wanted to be better. I wanted the pain to go away. I wanted to be able to walk without hunching over and wincing with every step. And, as supportive as I tried to be, it just wasn’t a good time. We were on different schedules in our lives. Once I accepted that, I was able to weather the storms and flurries of his attention seeking. But I spent a lot less time in the front room and more time in my bedroom. With headphones in.
Flash forward two months after my surgery. I was back at work and still in pain, but so much better than I was. I decided I could go back to the gym. Stupid, stupid thing to do. I told myself that I could handle it. I couldn’t. I thought a little mild cardio would be good. No. Not so much. I was cut right under my belly button and so every step stretched out this area so recently healed (or, as I would find out, in the process of healing).
I decided to hold off on the gym going until I was even better. When I didn’t feel like I had steel gumdrops lurking under my navel skin, just waiting to pierce through me. I decided that I would wait about four months like my surgeon’s office mentioned. Duh.
About two or three weeks after the gym incident I was trapped in the front room by my roommate. I wasn’t fast enough when fleeing the kitchen and he caught me while getting his moldy water bottle (because he can’t wash a dish to save his life) on his way to yoga.
I must describe this outfit. First was the pair of basketball shorts which looked as if they were made from soiled, used tin foil. They had a thick black stripe down each leg and were entirely too flowing and therefore revealing for my taste. They looked shiny, like they could also serve as a personal slip and slide without the need for water or other lubricant. Then the shirt. Sweet, gently baby Jesus, the SHIRT! It was the same color, I think. I say “I think” because my brain tried to block it all out. By recounting this incident to you, I may be forced to undergo electroshock therapy and a lobotomy.
The shirt was armless.
Now, I’m pale as hell. My roommate, however, is mixed Latino and white. He has no excuse for being so pale. More than that, his arms looked like over-filled white pastry bags full of lard and poison. At this point he had lost weight and had been going to yoga three to four times a week for three months. One should rightfully expect to see some iota of definition. All I saw was a pale expanse of flab, like a vomitus desert put on display for those unfortunate enough to behold its horror. See, what I don’t understand is that he was never fat. Ever. There is no excuse for his arms to look like that. I understand that yoga doesn’t make you a buff monster and that he may have a different body type than me, or a drunken hobo, or someone ridiculously attractive like Kellan Lutz, or even chunky Carnie Wilson before the surgery. But this was less than no definition. And I was forced to behold it and to calm both my gag reflex and my fight or flight response to visual danger.
Stacey asked me how I was doing and I said that I was getting better, that I could actually walk a little and sit up without too much pain. What about that says, “Please show off. I so desperately want to see it.”? As we were talking, he said, “Sweetie, you should totally start going to yoga! It makes me feel so good!”
Okay, first of all, you shiny bitch, I never want to hear anything like that come out of your mouth again. Second, refer to the first part. Third, I just fucking told you that sitting up without pain was a feat for me. Do you think I’m ready for yoga?
But I said none of that. I said, “You know, I thought about doing that or going back to the gym when I feel better.”
That’s when he started doing the yoga poses. As we were talking. He stood on one foot and slowly slid his other foot up his leg to rest just above the right side of his left knee. He put his hands into a prayer-like gesture and stood there, preaching like some deranged priest about the wonders of yoga while trying to defy gravity like a rabid fakir.
I had enough. I told him about my foray to the gym and that everything was stretched wrong. I told him about the two days of pain I had after—not good workout pain, but like something was shifting inside which really should remain stationary.
He looked at me, blinked, said he was sorry to hear that…and started talking about yoga again. He switched legs in his sideways flamingo pose.
Finally I told Stacey that if I did yoga at the moment, my innards would spill out and I would die. Dramatic? Absolutely. Should I have done yoga or even touched my toes at that point? No. No, I shouldn’t. I thought it was insensitive and yet another attempt of his to show off.
Time passed and I thought I was being ungenerous with him, even if I was still miffed. Then I spoke to a mutual friend of ours and he said that Stacey did the same thing when talking to him—broke into random yoga poses without provocation or having anyone else even mention yoga. He is a kinder person than me and said, “Yeah, Stacey talks about yoga a LOT.” It was all he would say, but it was enough.
Then tonight. Damn it all, tonight. I’m better now. I can work out, go swimming, even do yoga if I wanted to. I was in the kitchen heating something up in the microwave. It takes exactly 3½ minutes to cook in the microwave and yet in that time, I was visually and mentally assaulted. Stacey came in from yoga, wearing those same goddamned shorts, but thankfully a shirt with the most blessed of inventions—sleeves. He started chatting, and without any indication that I cared, said, “Do you wanna see what I did in yoga tonight?” Bless his heart, he so was excited. I still wasn’t feeling generous, so I was an ass. I said, “Not really.” Stacey said, “Well, I’m gonna show you anyway.”
Okay, that was funny enough to make me watch (while making potions on my phone with an old Harry Potter reminiscent app I’ve just recently become obsessed with). I should have stuck to my potion making. He got on the floor, laid on one side, propped his hand under him, and raised his free leg in the air. I looked away and almost screamed. Those shorts are a little too revealing.
Stacey sprung up and, still not looking I said, “Wow. That was pretty cool.” I had no freekin’ idea what to say. He said, “Oh! Now I have to do the other side so I won’t be unbalanced!” I mumbled, “Doing another yoga pose won’t help you with that, but knock yourself out.” I meant it literally. Please, knock yourself out. He did the other side, fell, and tried again. He sprung up and started talking about balance and yoga and I feigned interest until he started talking about catching up on Walking Dead together, something I agreed to do, to find some quiet activity we could do together which could salvage what is left of our friendship.
But all I could see in my mind’s eye were those shorts and what I almost saw. As the microwave went off, all I could think of is that time is relative, that 3½ minutes can seem like an eternity when your sanity is exposed and raw like a hooker’s cootch after Nickel Night, and that this, and everything preceding it, was why I stay in my room.