Monday, September 17, 2007

Boys' House

Summer 2000

To enter a boys’ house is to enter another world. I’m not talking about a house in which a boy lives with his parents, or his girlfriend, or whomever. I’m talking about a house in which a boy lives with other boys. A house that contains 225 DVDs, three video game systems, and no fresh fruits or vegetables.

To first set foot in my ex-boyfriend’s apartment, I had to throw my purse over the edge of the waist-high fence surrounding the patio, step up on the drainpipe, and propel myself over. This was not the most graceful move I have ever executed, and not one I especially wanted Matt, whom I had just started dating, to see. Why was it necessary? Because the front door’s knob had gotten stuck. Why hadn’t Matt and his roommates called the manager? Because they had decided they could fix the door themselves. I witnessed this show of mechanical expertise, in which one of the roommates and a friend used a butter knife as a screwdriver and fiddled with the door until they were satisfied. When they tested the doorknob, it promptly came off in their hands. So they abandoned the project, leaving a gaping hole in the front door where the broken knob had been. Thus I had to jump over the fence every time I entered the apartment, which resulted in several cuts and bruises, as well as severe annoyance. Matt and his roommate Jeff didn’t get the door fixed until the week they moved out, and by that time I’d grown accustomed to hopping the fence.

Because the front door was out of order, and the screen door didn’t have a key, the apartment remained unlocked at all times. I found this lack of security disturbing, considering the wealth of electronics inside, and I half expected a murderous burglar to be inside the apartment every time I came in. Fueling my fears was a life-sized cutout of The Rock (a musclebound wrestler), which loomed out of the darkness, a hulk staring down anyone daring to enter the living room.

Visiting the boys’ house felt to me like roughing it in the wilderness. Even after I overcame my fear of being mauled by an intruder, I had to forage for food. One night, I was hungry and looked in the kitchen for something to eat. In the fridge, I found a Brita water purifier that no one had bothered to fill, a few condiments, several bottles of beer, and a Tupperware container of chili.

“Is this edible?” I asked Jeff.

“No,” he said, “That’s been there for months. It’s part of us now—we’re too attached to it to throw it away.”

Frustrated, I looked in the cupboard. Nothing was there except Top Ramen and a can of Planter’s Peanuts.

“They’re from last Christmas,” said Jeff. It was August when I found them.

If the food situation weren’t enough to make me feel like I was camping, it was the bathrooms, whose toilets clogged during one out of three flushes. The boys had toilet paper sometimes (usually no one bothered to change the empty roll), the soap (when there was any) lay in shards, and the toilet seat was always up. There was no garbage can in the bathroom, so I had to throw Kleenex into the kitchen wastebasket, which was constantly smelly and overflowing (“It’s Jeff’s turn to throw it out,” Matt told me for weeks). I didn’t dare use the shower, because Jeff had informed me that he peed in it every morning.

“It eliminates a whole step,” he said. “I’m too tired in the morning to lift the toilet seat, pee, flush, then get in the shower.”

This disgusting show of laziness did not bother Matt in the least. “Pee is good for your feet,” he told me. “It prevents athlete’s foot.”

The boys’ house was not only unfriendly to human visitors, but to animals as well. The third roommate, Troy, had moved out a month before my first visit to the apartment, and he had left behind a cat that Matt and Jeff both hated. I heard that poor Maverick had been overweight when the boys first moved in, but by the time I arrived on the scene, he had slimmed down considerably. Matt and Jeff had barely enough money to buy food for themselves (hence the empty fridge and cupboards), much less for the cat they loathed. Therefore, Maverick went from fat to scrawny in a matter of weeks, and when visitors asked about the rapid change, Matt and Jeff would nod knowingly and say, “He’s on a special diet.”

When the lease was up and the boys moved out, I did not envy the person who had to clean the place, scrubbing the smelly corner by the piano where Maverick had peed, and the space under the leaky fridge that had grown green with mold. However, I missed the apartment much more than I thought I would, despite its toxicity and lack of amenities expected by a civilized person.

I didn’t need to feel nostalgic for long, as Matt soon moved into a new boys’ house with two new roommates. I felt an unexpected sense of comfort when I saw the coffee table they had fashioned out of a wooden board laid over two speakers, and when I realized that they had a complete home entertainment center but no silverware. I loved to hang out with the boys, staying up late watching useless movies on HBO and eating cereal out of casserole dishes because there were no clean bowls.

Since I always had fun at Matt’s place and came away with good stories, I wondered occasionally if I could ever move in. I quickly thought better of it. A boys’ house would be intolerable for someone who couldn’t stomach a steady diet of Top Ramen, and who didn’t get fired up by watching Rocky 2 for the tenth time. In other words, it would be intolerable for girls in general. For any girl with basic standards of cleanliness and civilized behavior, a boys’ house is an exciting place to visit, but a frightening place to live.


Margaret said...

Awesome. You are an encouragement to us all!

Marcus said...

Brilliant! Catches the spirit of my dream house :)