What was I thinking when I gave Vince a rock tumbler for Christmas? It’s his long-time hobby, and this is probably the third one I’ve bought him, but it’s the first time I’ve lived with the sound of it, cruncha-rugga-chugga-rugga 24/7. I don’t know how he can sleep with it in his room. .
Here’s an update on Vince’s and my living-together situation.
If I come home and he’s in the living room, he immediately gets up, goes to his room and shuts the door, and doesn’t come out again until the next morning. If I’m the one in the living room when he comes home, he goes straight to his room and doesn’t come out until the next morning. He doesn’t slam the door, so there’s nothing to point to and say, “Stop doing that!”
When we run into each other in the morning, the exchange is:
“Have a nice day.”
When I ask, “What are you up to today?” he tells me, but there is a tone, as though he thinks I am prying. If I call to him inside his bedroom, there is a long pause during which I imagine he is rolling his eyes, and then a drawn-out, “Yeh-sss?”
I managed to catch him long enough one day to say that people who live in the same house usually talk to each other now and then. He seemed to think I was trying to trick him into talking.
Things came to a head on Christmas day. I found myself crying in my room (into a pillow, so Vince wouldn’t hear, because I didn’t want him to think I was trying to manipulate him). I had been out 16 of the last 18 nights, trying to give him space.
I was tired. I had lost perspective. Was it nosy to ask, “How are you?” Was everything I did annoying? Was the sound of my voice noxious? Should I confront him? Try to be nicer? Suggest we go to counseling together? Ask him to move out? Go live in a motel? Was I acting like a martyr? Maybe if I bought some non-floppy slippers—because surely the sound of my footsteps must drive him crazy.
I recognize Vince’s behavior because I’ve acted the same in the past.
I had a roommate; I’ll call her Irene. She was from Ontario and taught theology at a local private university.
I could not stand being in the same room with her. Everything about her irritated me—her denim dresses and sturdy shoes, the giant jar of Branston Pickle in the fridge, the fact that her favorite color was navy blue.
When I heard her key in the door I would scurry to my room, silently shut the door, and not emerge until I knew the coast was clear. If she tried to make conversation I would deflect it with a curt answer and a stiff demeanor. If I did have to communicate something to her, I left a note on the dining room table.
Poor Irene! She was such a nice person, a good person. She had a sharp wit and obviously was no dummy. We could have had great conversations if I had been open to that. She was also wise, I see in retrospect, because she never got ruffled by my behavior, never seemed to take it personally.
And it wasn’t about her—I can see that now. It was about me being laid off from my job, Vince being missing for the umpteenth time, and other stressful events I can’t even recall now.
So Irene, if you ever read this, I apologize unequivocally. I was horrible to you. Better yet, I will write you an email after I finish this post, and apologize directly.
Vince, here is my version of a note on the dining room table to you. You’re doing so well (a job, a car—health insurance! 19 months of sobriety!). But I know it’s hard to have a social life under the probation restrictions. The solstice has passed, the days are getting longer, soon your time “off leash” time will double.
Now about that rock tumbler….