by Ashleigh Kay
Episode One: Those Roommates that Gather Like Lost Socks
And so it starts. Looking back now, I struggle to keep my eyes straight on the meandering path that has led me here. (Then again, that’s most likely the wine…) However, here I am. Where is ‘here’, you ask? Well, you’ll have to read all the way through before you get to that. I guess you could just skip to the last page, but where’s the fun in that, eh? Besides, I’ve pumped this full of liquor, jokes and sex just to keep you reading, so you might as well.
Anyway, back to where it starts. Everything I am about to tell you started in the year 2001. I will tell you I was actually born twenty-one years previous to that, but that would be a blatant lie. We’ll just say my actual age falls somewhere between Woodstock and ABBA, but definitely before Madonna.
It was a rainy day, as Mum tells me, but it being Vancouver, that is nothing surprising. My mother, the Yorkshire expatriate, and my father, the sanity expatriate, welcomed the little bundle of me about as hospitably as one welcomes a tax collector.
My older brother, Brian, was just as happy to see me. At this point in time, he was a snivelling three year old of whom everything in the world revolved around. To this day, he still hasn’t changed much. My parents and I only really see him every family reunion or so, which suits his relationship with my parents fine (it means his therapist has less to deal with), but it does mean that I do miss Brian. I can’t say the same about his wife, Claire, or his kids though. *Christ, I hate them.*
When I started school, I was an awkward child. Honestly. I’m not just being modest. I actually have report cards that say that. Teachers weren’t as sensitive and new-agey back in the early eighties. I had a few friends, some of them I’ll discuss later; I wasn’t overly happy, but I was coping, and that’s enough to be classified as “well off” in my family.
Junior high was hell. When I was fifteen, my brother, who was my only ally against my mother at that time, had decided that a university in England held the best opportunities for him, life-wise. Namely, its lack of mothers.
Then came high school, which, coinciding with my brother’s untimely departure, meant it was time for Savannah to spray her bangs and grow an attitude (at least the bangs grew out).
As high school ended, and I was more than thrilled to get out there, the notion of post-secondary education came up. Since I was caught up in this rebellious/artistic/beatnik-wannabe/pseudo-anarchistic phase, all I really wanted to do was run away to Paris on the back of a Harley with a flannel shirt and Doc Marten-wearing poet and “become a writer”, this suppressing the overwhelming fear that I would one day turn into my mother. The powers that be (ie, my parents) indeed had other plans for me. I was to attend university, get a degree, even if I “wasted all their hard-earned money, goddammit”, and get a respectable job.
Therefore, there I was, four years post-graduation, having taken a degree in English (Mum and Dad were really pushing it with the medical school idea), and taken a position on the staff of a to-remain-anonymous (yet widely circulated) Vancouver newspaper, and even moved into my own apartment! I even had a brilliant new couch I adored which I will discuss in much greater detail later on!
I traded in the Doc Martens for a nice pair of pumps and a power suit, you know, to get the best interviews, and I tried to write the odd poem, but anything really good I write still concentrates on my overwhelming need to still not turn into my mother. I guess somethings never change.
However, sometimes there are some things that do, and those will become apparent as you read this (it’s called character and plot development, you know), but what is essential in life (well, my life, anyway) is the things that don’t. Like friends. Sometimes friendships work in a cyclical manner. You probably know what I mean.
I have a solid group of friends, that I have known for years. But, like most friendships, you get to those times when you drift apart, maybe not completely, but somewhat. Perhaps, for whatever reason, you just don’t talk as much, or see each other as often. They’re like an outfit that gets pushed to the back of the closet and only taken out for special occasions like parties, or dress-up, or nostalgia. Eventually, you either lose touch all together (to follow this analogy, you donate the outfit to a homeless person), but if you were really attatched to them, they come around again. Come back in style, if you like. Is any following me other than the voices in my head?
Good, okay. Now the only time my life got really eventful, and frankly interesting, is the time in my life when all these old friends “came around” again. That’s the good thing about old friends, even if you haven’t been superclose for awhile, they’re always there if you really need them. To follow up on the clothing analogy (I really am trying to run it into the ground here), it’s the reason I’ve always kept my bra autographed by Meat Loaf.
It was September 2001, I was twenty-six years old, and thought I was happy. Then Jason called.
Jason Manning was one of my male friends I had acquired over the years. I have many, many, many male friends. I sometimes ask myself why, it’s not like much of their conversation is intellectually stimulating. I can’t discuss Joyce with them, and the most discussion I get on Shakespeare is, “That chick who played Ophelia had big jugs.”
But, overall, they’re quite humourous. Their endless knowledge of The Simpsons is, although at times annoying, pretty funny in the laughing-at category. It’s hard to generalize them, though. They are all individuals, don’t get me wrong, I love these guys. I love how they depend on me. I am the only female they know that is not a relative or a girlfriend (past, present or future).
Naturally, they come to me for the advice and questions that their girlfriends would normally slap them for asking. In turn, they give me great material. This isn’t, of course, a written contract, but just a pleasant side effect of friendship.
Anyway, upon this topic is where my real life story begins. I was relaxing in my West End apartment, (as opposed to my other flat in New Westminster) and I got a call from Jason: The Call that Started it All. Since the end of university, and all that “real-life” stuff, I hadn’t seen him, or many of the guys actually, in quite awhile. It comes from having separate lives and meeting new people on the proverbial road of life.
However, he really, really needed me this time. It was one of his perplexed calls from his cell phone in his truck.
“Savannah!” I heard his muffled whine through the bad reception, “Where are you?” He was referring to which apartment was I at this morning.
“The one in Van, downtown,” I muttered, wondering just what could be wrong this time.
“Okay!” he shouted and I could sense the panic in how voice starting to heighten, and I began to wonder just what anniversary he’d forgotten this time. “I’m out by Main Street, just by Science World, I’m on my way over!”
I sighed, rolled my eyes, then asked, “What did you forget this time?”
“Her birthday!” he squealed like a child who got his hand slammed in the door, “I need you to come with me and help pick something out.”
“Fine,” I murmured, “How long will you be?”
“Like ten minutes or so. Will you let me into your parking garage?”
“Yes, Jason, just at least let me get dressed,” I scowled bitterly, but he didn’t mind, as he knows, and is used to, my infrequent bouts of bitchiness. After all, I really didn’t care about being bitchy around him right now. I know he needed me, and was willing to do whatever it took to stay on my good side, because if he didn’t, poor girlfriend was going to have to get used to getting tacky Wal-mart lace lingerie for holidays and special occasions.
I really do wonder just how I got these people for friends. I love them to death, but how was it really possible. Some, like Jason, have lingered from high school, where you just collect friends like hockey cards and progressively trade in the ones of minimal value for better ones depending on what sports dealer or innocent child you can rip off comes along. Gradually those beat-up cardboard memories of guys that hardly lasted a year before being bumped back down to the minors become second-rate assistant captains and thirty-goal scorers as university comes semester by semester, or hockey season by hockey season. Before you know it, you’re me. You have those cards that really should be kept in the hard plastic cases, and the odd one you kept only for sentimental value. Jason is a lingerer. No matter what, I just can shake this kid. Nor would I ever want to either.
Jason is almost here. I disrobe and change into the first thing I find. I was low maintenance and proud of it (or maybe I was actually high maitenance, but just thought I was low maintenance- to quote Billy Crystal, “The worst kind”). A quick swipe of mascara and I am sleeked-up and ready to drag Jason’s soon-to-be sorry ass around Robson street. I think maybe I’ll take him in the expensive designer stores only and really rack up his VISA bill.
I rushed my eye makeup, eager to finish before he lets himself into my apartment. People who see me putting on my eye makeup always laugh. I still maintain my notion that you are always supposed to open your mouth wide. It stretches out your eye so you can apply the cosmetics properly. I told this to Noah once. It honestly amazed him. That act had previously left him astounded for years. I solved a mystery for him.
I find I do this a lot for my guy friends. I once solved Matt’s wonder as to why women are so obsessed with shoes. I told him my reasoning. Women don’t have to be a perfect body type to wear a pair of shoes. Not every woman feels comfortable in a little black dress, but every woman feels secure about her body image while wearing a pair of tiny strappy sandals. Men are lost when it comes to figuring out women. This is by no means a mystery. But at least I feel that I have helped the world a little by making the men I know a little less clueless.
By now, Jason has arrived. I hear the door quickly creak open and the panicked bellow: “Savannah!”
“Bathroom!” I answered using as few words as possible. Less than two milliseconds later, I had a six foot four teddy bear leaning in the frame of my open bathroom door with his eyes closed.
“Can I open?”
“Yes, for Christ’s sake, I’m only doing my makeup,” I muttered and finished the black line under my eye.
He opened his eyes and the first words out of him were, “Why is your mouth open like that?”
I promptly dropped the eye pencil, “Ask Noah,” I muttered and grabbed his wrist, “Let’s go. You have a present to buy and some ass-kissing to do.”
“Savannah,” he whined, “my feet are tired.” Jason tends to moan after more than ten minutes of walked anywhere he doesn’t want to go. This is true for most of the men that I know. Most.
As I rolled my eyes, half annoyed, and half thinking it was somewhat cute, I settled on it being annoying and bluntly told him to shut up, “Jason, do you love her or not? Do you want her to love you back, or castrate you?”
He actually paused to think about this, probably because he didn’t catch all of it at once, then quickly answered, “Definitely love me.”
“Then pick up the pace and pick out a present that no only says ‘Happy Birthday’ but also, ‘I’m Sorry I’m a Forgetful Ass’!”
He whined yet again, but can I blame him, these were definite “chick” stores I was dragging him into. “Oh my fuckin’ God, this place reeks,” he shouted foully as I pulled him into LUSH, “I am NOT getting her anything from this rancid place! There is no way my bathroom is smelling like girly shit.”
I shot him an evil feminist glare that said ‘You are going to spend a good twenty minutes seriously browsing this soap-and-other-stinky-bath-stuff store and by fucking Hell, you are going to enjoy it boy’. So he understood my glare. Well, he should, he’s known me, and the female side of the species long enough.
Jason diverted his eyes from me and looked down to whatever was underneath him. He picked up a bar of vanilla scented soap and muttered, just to humour me, “Smells pretty.”
“Hm,” I contemplated, rummaging through the gift baskets, “What is her scent?”
“What?” Jason answered, seemingly thoroughly disgusted, “Her scent? What do you mean? What she stinks like?” Stinks like?
“Stinks like?” What the hell did he mean? “What the hell do you mean, Jason?”
“What the hell do YOU mean, Savannah?”
“What is her SCENT?”
“I dunno, she smells like….” he paused deep in thought and I think this was around the time his nasal cavity began to get used to, if not approve of, the harsh soapy smells. “I dunno, like Girl.”
“Like ‘Girl’?!” I rolled my eyes so harshly that I almost ripped them out of their sockets. I picked up a basket of various mountain berry scented bath goodies and handed them to him, “Here this will do. Slightly impersonal, but it will do.”
So, he bought the basket. I knew that this man, no matter how long I’ve known him and trained him, I, and his poor, poor girlfriend still had a lot of work ahead of us.
On the way out of the store, I tried to give him a clue: “Listen to me, Jason. Generally speaking, women love baths. We love to escape and relax, because as often mothers and working women, not to mention keeping men like you in line, our lives get quite busy and stressful. But, this idea of bath junk has gotten to be such a common gift, and it has become a bit of a cliché and something that you buy your grandma or someone. Me, I don’t really take baths. Unless it is with a handsome companion of course, but I think his bath accessories stop at Mr. Bubble. However, you are still able to salvage the meaning behind a bath junk gift set if you are able to get something that either is a scent she really likes, or matches her bathroom.”
Then, he asked the fatal question, “Why does she have to really like one particular scent? And what is with that matching bathroom crap, anyway.”
At this point I led him into the nearest Starbucks (which is not very far from any point in downtown Vancouver), “Sit right down and let me tell you a tale, my dear friend.” He listened eagerly like a child to a storybook, or a man to the hockey game on the radio. “For one, women like to know that you pay attention. We like to know that you care enough about us to listen and remember what we have to say, and to care about what we like. This is why she will probably neuter you if she knew you forgot her birthday. See, now if you remember something like what smells she likes, that means you pay attention to, and care about the little things that will make her happy. It’s just the same if she knew who was your favourite wrestler. Doesn’t that make you feel special, Jason?”
“Yeah, but she doesn’t. She hates wrestling.”
“I know Jason, it’s a stupid ‘sport’. And it was just an analogy. Don’t get too into it.”
In the end, he ended up dragging me into a jewellery store, thinking ‘a pretty ring will make her happy enough’. When he told me the only reason he had for buying her a one-carat solitaire ring was to keep her from getting mad at him for forgetting her birthday. I told him that as soon as she opened that ring box, he will have realized that, by the teary-eyed “Yes, of course I will, now I have to call my mother” response, that he made a big mistake.
Sure enough, I was right. The very next morning, well more like two o’clock a.m. that night, I got yet another panicky call from Jason. He might have been whispering, but I could still detect that unmistakable tone of pure fear and hopelessness. This was, of course, a regular occurrence.
“Savannah!” He screeched in a hushed whisper that suggested he was frantically hiding in the bathroom on his cell phone after making a quick excuse for a quick exit. “Were you sleeping?!”
“No!” I retorted, only mad because I very well could have been and how could he have known otherwise, “Now what happened?” I asked this tentatively because I think I already knew the answer.
“She thinks I want to marry her!”
“Do you?” This was an obvious reply.
“No…” he paused in thought, “At least I don’t think so.”
“Well what the hell else were you thinking when you bought an engagement ring?” Jason stuttered, still deeply immersed in thought, and I was preparing myself to hear a typical answer from a mid-twenties male. Something like, “I don’t want to die alone,” as if at twenty you are at that stage in life where you are still young enough to do stupid things like playing chicken in traffic on the way to work, but you’re old enough to realize that life is getting on and it does have a time limit. These two sides always tend to meet in the middle, and not in a good way, like where you might start eating better or being safer, but more in a way where you just get attacked by unreasoned bouts of sudden realizations of mortality at three a.m. after a really bad night out with mixed drinks and mixed companions.
He finally settled on this answer: “I just thought it was pretty. It didn’t look like a ball and chain.”
On the other end of the phone, where he couldn’t see me, I, getting frustrated, rubbed my eyes, made an evil face, shook my fist in the air, and hereby condemned this male on behalf of women everywhere.
Then I decided to be nice, this boy was perplexed. “Have you thought about what your subconscious is trying to tell you? Maybe you really did see the ‘engagements rings’ sign above the section you were looking at in the jewellery store, and just chose to hide it from yourself because deep down, you really do want to spend the rest of your life with here, are just aren’t ready to admit it to everyone and yourself? Does that seem somewhat truthful?”
I heard the brief pause on the other end of the phone and then the quick answer, “That isn’t it at all!” I nearly grunted (yes, grunted). “Savannah?! Why did you let me buy that ring?”
“I tried to talk you out of it, but you told me that I just didn’t understand. I just assumed what I just told you was right and that you weren’t willing to admit it to me yet. Maybe you still aren’t.”
“No,” he stated again, “that still isn’t it.”
“Jason,” I sighed, “Where are you right now? Are you hiding in you bathroom right now?”
“Yes,” he answered, meekly guilty, like that nosy, bratty kid next door who keeps coming in your yard because they “lost their baseball”.
“Okay, this is the plan,” I smiled slyly, because hell, I had every right to be. It’s not this often I get to be devious and dicey with other peoples’ love lives. “You walk right in that room, ask for the ring back and tell that you gave her this by mistake. You meant to give this to someone else. I dunno, make up a story, say you were returning to a friend, like you were getting it cleaned for them, and you really meant to give her something else, but must have accidentally switched the boxes or something. Got that?”
“Uh, yeah,” he replied and I could almost hear the hamster starting to jog on that wheel, “I’ll call you later and tell you how it went.”
So, I hung up, relieved. This was now his mess, and if he can’t figure it out from here, then maybe he better move back in with his mother.
About ten minutes after that, I crawled into bed, a little disappointed that this was the highlight of my Saturday night, but also very tired from dealing with that guy all day. I love him to death, but some things tire me quickly.
Ten minutes after that, as I lay peacefully asleep in bed, the phone rang again. “Savannah? Can I sleep at your place tonight? She kicked me out.”
“Oh god,” I drawled, “What happened?” This was getting too routine.
“I made up a story, like you said, but it didn’t work.”
“What exactly was the story?” “I said that I gave her the wrong present, that it was supposed to be an engagement ring for you,” before I could scream “What?!” at him, he continued, “I think it came out wrong. She thought it was my kind of sick hint that I wanted to break up.”
“Oh God, Jason,” I sighed, “I’ll leave the door open.”
I slept with earplugs in for the first time since I shared a room with my brother when I was a kid. Jason might have been in the other room, but I could hear him through the walls. Needless to say, I slept uncomfortably. Those things really tend to dig in.
The next morning I was awoken by the loud drilling noise of the coffee grinder. I normally don’t mind, it actually refreshes me by thinking that I can get up to coffee already made for me. It’s just that Jason did it at seven a.m. That hour is unholy to me. I’m sure he could probably hear me in return moaning uncomfortably at him from the disturbed pleasure of my bed.
“Sav?” I heard his size sixteen’s thunder from the kitchen to the threshold of my dark, quiet, peaceful bedroom.
My face stuffed in a pillow, I answered, “What… the… HELL do you want?! It is SEVEN o’clock?”
I didn’t dare expose my fragile eyes to unnatural light, so I couldn’t see his face, but I just knew the expression on it. That questioning look like a puppy that pissed on the new white carpet and still hasn’t realized he’s done anything wrong. I suddenly got a huge pang of guilt for snapping at him, but I quickly got over it.
Exasperated, but thinking maybe I could catch up on early Sunday morning television (or whatever there is of it), I just muttered back, “Two, please,” the rolled back over as he closed the door and jogged back to the kitchen.
About five minutes later, as soon as I was deeply immersed in sleep again, my door was flung open and the ray of hallway light attacked me like dawn to a vampire. “Cream?” he dared to ask.
“No,” I grumbled and bitterly and bluntly asked, “Jason, why are you up so bloody early?”
“Church,” he answered.
“But, you don’t go to church,” I murmured.
“Yeah,” he answered, “But I like to watch those sermon shows on Vision TV. They’re hilarious.”
“Urgh, whatever! Can you shut the hell up the next time?”
“Yes,” came his mournful response, “I also have to stop by her house and pick up what meagre possessions I have.” I get sent on so many guilt trips that I could apply for frequent flyer miles.
Overcome by guilt once again, I apologized, “I’m sorry, Jason, I don’t mean to snap at you, I just get irritable when I am awoken so bloody early on a Sunday morning.” It wasn’t as sarcastic as that sounds. I should have gotten over that pang of guilt too, but I tend to be weakened by lack of sleep.
“It’s okay,” he murmured, “I just couldn’t really sleep.” I swallowed that bitchiness that rises in women when something they cherish greatly, as in sleep, is brutally taken from them. Honestly, I did make an attempt. I tried make the facts that Jason kept me up until two-thirty in the morning, kept waking me up repeatedly throughout the five hours I was in bed with his hideous snoring, and, as the second-to-final straw, woke me up at seven a.m. as repressed evidence in the argument to kick him out of the apartment at that exact moment. I really did try. But, often enough, ‘try’ is not sufficient.
“You ‘couldn’t really sleep’?” Flinging myself into a fully upright position in my bed and officially using whatever adrenaline I had been using to keep myself conscious to bitch at Jason just let him have it. “You have kept ME up all night with the hideous sounds of your various bodily functions, with your moping and your…” at a loss for words, this was the best I came up with, “… stupidness.”
“Stupidness?” His eyebrows jumped to his forehead, and his bottom lip stuck out. Aw, shit, I thought, I’m going to have a crying six-foot-four grown man on my hands. “Savannah Hunter?” Jason asked in a truly hurt tone. I wanted to cry just as badly as he did. “Do you want me to leave?”
Considering I was going back to my apartment in New West that afternoon, the answer was simple. “Jason, no, of course not,” vainly, I struggled to position my face so that the shadows in the room hid the department store shopping bags under my eyes, “Why would I want that? You know that you are welcome here as long as you want.”
“Yes, I’m sure,” I, once again, swallowed my pride and upper hand, “and you will have it all to yourself for a bit.”
His hand welled into fists, and his fists rose to the air, and his jaw opened widely, his knees began to bounce up and down, and I braced myself for his little cheer and dance. “Yay! Thank you, Savannah, love you!” And he proceeded to dance like a kid that just got ice cream and was now thanking the ice cream man.
That was how Jason ended up taking over one of my apartments; that was how the whole horrible, horrible mess started.