Monday, April 11, 2011

Tiger'ish Tales Vol. 13: My Flaming Trousers

As sure as I was in my desire to be an RA, I was even surer that Tiger’ish must never know about it.  He made it clear that he saw our future together as roommates, and I knew him well enough to know that I couldn’t dissuade him of that belief.  I also knew that he would see my attempt to abandon him as a betrayal, and that it would be met with horrible retaliation.  I decided to lie.  He offered me his room assignment postcard and I took it.  He figured I would use my high ranking to get us a private bathroom and I figured I would make something up when I didn’t do it.  Hell, I wasn’t even going to claim a room, as I would already have one as an RA.  I’d tell him it was beyond my control, that they practically forced me to take the job and that it was a condition of one of my student loans.  He wouldn’t know the difference.

With that in mind, I set out to quietly go about getting the job.  The first step, obviously enough, was to go to the housing office and fill out an application.  The first page was fairly run-of-the-mill; requesting personal data and contact information.  Evidently your academic standing played a part (which was fine by me) and, funnily enough, priority might be given on the basis of financial aid.  Maybe I wouldn’t have to lie as much as I thought.  I was on financial aid, and being an RA qualified for my required on-campus employment.  

The second page wasn’t as straight forward, but it was the type of bullshit you’d expect.  Why do you want to be an RA?  What personal experiences make you an ideal candidate?  What do you consider to be the primary duty of a resident assistant? Etc.   Nothing unexpected there, but then there was a third page.

The third page was very brief and simple:  On the lines provided please include the names and e-mail addresses of:  Your current RA/Your current RLC/Your academic advisor/Your current roommate.  Fuck.  The academic advisor request made sense, but why the rest?  First of all, they should have a record of who my current RA is, let alone my RLC as they were only one per dorm.  Was the housing department that lazy?  Obviously the big problem was the “current roommate”.  That one didn’t make sense regardless of my particular situation.  As the primary motivation for the RA application was to get one’s own room, I doubt many applicants have a good relationship with their current roommates.  I left the page blank and went back to the housing office.  I explained to them that my roommate, although we all had university issued e-mail addresses, simply didn’t check his.  He didn’t have a computer and I just wanted to explain why I would be leaving that line blank.  The receptionist said that she understood, and that I should instead provide our room’s telephone extension.  FUCK!  For the briefest moment I considered the possibility of intercepting the call and pretending to be him, but as soon as I thought of it, I knew it would never work.  Tiger’ish never left the room and he certainly made it no secret that he listened to my half of every phone conversation I had.  I could still leave it blank, but then they might call him anyway.  I decided to just write down his e-mail address and hope that he didn’t check it.  Stranger things have happened.  I knew for a fact that he received several academic warnings that he didn’t so much as open, so maybe an e-mail from the dean of housing would also go ignored.  I submitted my application and I waited.

While I waited for news, life was relatively peaceful.  While I was busy with classes by day and theatre work by night, Tiger’ish had discovered a fascination with gerbils.  Fascination might not be the right word; it would be more accurate to say that he was pricing them.  In bulk.  He searched the internet for deals on buying gerbils by the dozen, and was continually frustrated that they wouldn’t be shipped per his specifications.  I never dared inquire what those specifications might be and I’m glad to say that although his fascination and research continued throughout our time together, he never actually bought any.  If he had, I assure you, they would’ve ended up inside his ass.

 His relationship with the witch was also going strong.  They had developed quite the taste for conversing entirely in animal sounds, and so long as Tiger’ish didn’t jack off while they did it, I didn’t let it bother me.  I hadn’t felt the ill effects of any curses, and for the most part we lived peacefully while I counted down the days to the end of the semester.  Life was quiet, and that was a good thing.

The only problem with the quiet, however, is that I hadn’t heard back about the RA job.  The housing selection process was due to begin in a few days, and I was nervous that for some reason, I had been excluded from the running.  I headed back to the housing office to find out.  I could’ve called, but then Tiger’ish would’ve probably found out what I was up to.  I was happy to find out that I hadn’t missed the selection process.  That happiness was short lived, however, because that meant I was supposed to go and reserve a room in case I didn’t get hired.  I had honestly never considered the possibility that I wouldn’t get hired.  I had great academic standing, and even more, if the useless fuck of an RA I had could get the job, what possible reason could there be for me to get passed over?  I was still confident that the job was mine, but now I was stuck with my original problem: how to navigate room selection without pissing off Tiger’ish?

I considered just doing what he assumed I would, and signing him up as my roommate.  There was no way he was coming back the next year, and that would be that.  Besides the fear that he would, somehow, some way stay and I would again be stuck with him, the simple fact was that I couldn’t afford it if he didn’t.  People who lose their roommates were stuck with the whole room expense, and I didn’t have that kind of money.  Depending on how on top of things the housing department was, I could even be forced to move, or accept some other degenerate as my roommate.  I wasn’t going to declare him as my potential roommate, that much was clear.   I resigned myself to simply signing up for the room I wanted, and hoping that –by virtue of having a similar academic standing  -whomever took the other side of the room was at least not going to be an idiot douche bag.  Since I had assumed I would be getting the RA job, I hadn’t solicited any of my friends to be roommates, and now it was too late.  They had all paired off amongst themselves and I was stuck with the unknown.  

The only thing left to decide was whether or not I should tell Tiger’ish that I wouldn’t be locking him in as my roommate.  If I was honest and came clean, there would definitely be consequences.  On the other hand, if I simply kept my mouth shut, and let him miss the room selection all together, he might not even realize it.  I didn’t know what the protocol was when people didn’t sign up, but I guessed that it didn’t get sorted out for some time after the initial selections were made.  I decided that it was my only choice.  I would slip his card back among his things and just play dumb.  Soon enough I would be an RA and it wouldn’t matter anyway.

I showed up for my time slot and reserved one half of one of the private-bathroom rooms.  I had already buried Tiger’ish’s card among furry drawings and printouts on his desk, and my fate was sealed.  A few days later, I got an e-mail from the housing office inviting me to an interview.  I was relieved to say the least.  I took that invitation to mean that somehow, Tiger’ish never did get, or at least read, the e-mail they sent or that he didn’t realize what the e-mail was really about.  He had made no indication that he knew I was applying for the job, and it looked as if I was going to get away with the whole thing.

The interview was a breeze.  Besides the same bullshit questions from the application where talk about being an RA as the best thing in the world, I was able to spin some lies about being the youngest of seven kids (true) and that I was so excited to finally be a “big brother” to a wing full of “little brothers” (utter horseshit).  I said all the right things, I kissed the right asses, and I had the job in the bag.  They invited me to participate in some “ice-breaker events” with the other potential RAs that would be coming up in the next few evenings.  They stressed that these weren’t mandatory and I knew I couldn’t go anyways because of evening shows in the theatre department, but I pretended to be interested.  As the interview finished up, they told me that they were very impressed and that, after contacting my references, a decision would be made.  My blood ran cold.  I sheepishly asked who they meant, and of course they meant my current RA, RLC, advisor, and god damn it all to hell, my roommate.  Fucker was going to find out, and then he would murder me.

I thought about coming clean, telling Tiger’ish what I did, and just bracing for the impact of his insane wrath, but the coward in me knew that every day of his ignorance was another day closer to the end of the semester, and also one less day for him to go crazy.  The meltdown was certainly inevitable, but if I could prolong it, so much the better.  What I didn’t know was that while I was being interviewed, Tiger’ish was opening the mail.

When I reserved the room I wasn’t even going to use for next year, they immediately printed out a confirmation and gave it to me.  The room (or at least half of it) was mine, and this document was my assurance of that fact.  However, if you never showed up to claim a room, you didn’t get a confirmation.  Instead, a room was assigned by default and the confirmation was mailed.  These default assignments, however, were not random.  The university’s solution to the problem of idiots and stoners who miss the selection process was to leave two wings of rooms out of the selection process, one each for males and females.  These wings were then available to those poor unfortunate goons who couldn’t or didn’t pick a room.  The side effect of this plan was that rather than having these fuckwits spread throughout the campus housing, they were entirely concentrated in one environment, and in fact, one building.  The worst the student body had to offer were sent to what amounted to the campus ghetto.  Even the wings from that building open for selection were filled by the only slightly less idiotic; by those too stupid to have earned enough credits to choose anywhere else, and too socially retarded to befriend and subsequently room up with someone smarter.  I knew that our campus had a ghetto dorm; everyone knew it.  I just didn’t know why.  I thought it was because it was by far the most run-down and unkempt building that no one wanted to be there.  It was really old and while other buildings regularly got upgrades of one sort or another, that dorm never had, and that, to my mind, was why nobody wanted to live there.  As it turns out, I had it backwards.  The school didn’t bother with that dorm because they knew it was a lost cause.  It was, by design, the campus shithole.  It was the dumping ground for those who only had their tuition dollars left to contribute as members of our little society, and Tiger’ish had just gotten confirmation that he was among them.

I came through the door of our room feeling pretty good about things.  My interview went well enough, and somehow knowing that the shit would hit the fan with Tiger’ish, I had obtained a strange sort of relief and peace with the situation.  I had given up on keeping it a total secret, so the simple weight of deception had begun to lift from my shoulders.  It was replaced however, by a punch to the back of my head.  

When the hit came, it was a total surprise.  It wasn’t all that forceful, but I wasn’t ready for it and I kind of reflexively stepped forward with the force of what turned out to be Tiger’ish’s fist.  The fucker was hiding in his closet next to our door so he could ambush me.   That was a new one, even for him.  I spun around ready to fight, but I stopped myself pretty quickly when I saw the sword.  For the first time, Tiger’ish was actually brandishing his sword at me.  There have been a handful of times in my life where I genuinely feared I might be killed, and that was one of them.  The sword was in his left hand, pointing right at me.  His right hand was still balled into a fist, and his housing letter was crumpled and sticking out of it.  He was red-faced and hyperventilating, I was noticing that he was effectively between me and the door.  He just stood there, breathing like a bull.  After what seemed like forever, but what probably was no more than 10 seconds, I spoke:

Me: Tiger’ish, why did you hit me and why is your sword out?

Tiger’ish:  YOU KNOW WHY!

M: No, buddy, I don’t.  What’s the matter?


M: What are you talking about?  I’m right here.


M: What letter?  Show me.

Tiger’ish pulled the sword back, stabbed the letter onto the tip and thrust it back at me.  Thinking fast, I took the letter and pretended to be confused by what it said.

M: Well, this is a mistake, I signed you up.  They fucked this up, man.

T: So you took my card?  You signed us up together?

M: Of course, that was the deal.  I’m going to get this straightened out.  I turned in your card with mine.  I don’t want some god damn freak for a roommate.

T: Good.  Sorry I brained ya.  Now that we’ve settled on that, I gotta go to the crapper.  I’ve been waiting in the closet for a while.  Can’t wait for our own throne!

He dropped the sword, and ran out of the room.  As soon as he was in the bathroom, I locked our door and searched for his room card among his stuff.  Luckily I found it pretty quickly and crammed it into my pocket.  Once he came back, he had returned to his version of normal; going to his computer to participate in strange things with strange people.  I left and like a paranoid coward went up two flights of stairs to one of the men’s bathrooms on the top floor.  I then went into a stall and tore up his card into little pieces and flushed them.  I didn’t want him to see a stray floater and I knew he never dared to use any bathroom but the one on our wing.  Any sense of peaceful resignation about our housing situations was gone.  He really came close to killing me, and I had just lied to him again.  I might not be so lucky when he finds out again.  I felt guilty about lying, but at the same time, I felt entirely vindicated in my need to be rid of him.  I didn’t know if I wanted to report him, or if anyone would take the claim “He pulled a sword on me” seriously.  I decided that I was probably safest if I kept him in the loop.  As long as he thought we were in this together, he wouldn’t try to kill me again. 

The next day, I told him all about the housing problem, and how we were both screwed out of a sweet bathroom room.  I told him that what happened was kind of my fault.  Given my excess of credits, and combining them with my financial aid needs, I was elected to be an RA next year.  The decision wasn’t mine, and in fact I had no idea this was even a possibility.  To be clear, I’d rather not be an RA at all, but what can I do?  As for his room assignment, they didn’t really know what to say, other than when I lost the room with the bathroom, I lost it for the both of us.  I apologized profusely, and the poor bastard seemed to buy it.  He genuinely felt sorrier for me having to be an RA than for himself losing out on his dream room.  I mentioned something about them telling me they would contact him about my being an RA, and he should just go along with it, because there wasn’t anything we could do about it anyway.  He nodded in understanding, and I had somehow pulled the whole thing off.

The next week or so went by pretty smoothly.  I was just waiting for the official announcement.  I knew there was no chance in hell that I could be placed in one of the campus apartments –those were for upper classmen “career” RAs.  I also figured the better dorms were out as they seemed to go to veteran RAs, but I felt pretty good about my odds getting placed right back where I was in the freshman dorms.  Obviously it would still be the same shitty rooms and amenities, but being an RA meant not having to pay room and board, plus you got a small stipend every other week.  Best of all, the room would be all mine.  I checked the mailbox daily, hoping for the letter.   Evidently, so did Tiger’ish.

I came into our room one afternoon to see him beaming.  He had gotten the mail before I could, and seeing a letter for me from the housing office, he just couldn’t wait to open it.  As it turns out, where as I assured him that our hands were tied, and I was stuck being an RA, he found a loophole.  When they sent him a series of questions via e-mail, he took the opportunity to make me look as ill-suited for the job as he possibly could.  He assured them that I resented having to be an RA, and that I would do a bad job out of spite.  He handed me the letter and I took it in my trembling hands and read:

While we appreciate your interest in joining the Housing family as a resident assistant, the number of quality candidates exceeded our needs.  We encourage you to apply again next year, and we sincerely thank you for your participation in the selection process.

Tiger’ish was elated because he figured this meant that we were going to get our private bathroom after all.  Well, he was half right, and I was going to be fucked when he figured out the rest.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Tiger'ish Tales Vol. 12: In For A Penny, In For A Pound

My tenure with Tiger’ish was not my first experience with room sharing.  My crib was in a room that already held two of my brothers and a nephew.  We stayed in that arrangement long enough for me to remember getting myself into and out of my crib.  Eventually my older brother and nephew (who was older than all three of us brothers) were sent to sleep in the attic, and I got to move on to the lower bunk –my first regular bed and only a few years too late.  I hated sharing a room with my brother because the arrangement was treated as if it was his room and I was squatting.  What was mine was his and what was his was his.  If I wanted to play in the room, I needed his permission.  If I needed the light on to finish some homework, it was at his discretion.  I couldn’t wait for the chance to have my own room.  My brother was pretty eager for it, too. 
Our prayers were answered when I was 10 and one of my sisters got married.  The night of her wedding reception, my brother single-handedly moved all of my shit into her old room, and my new one.  We didn’t get back from the wedding until well after midnight, and he worked until dawn.  He didn’t want to spend another second sharing a room with me.  Our other sister was set to be married in a couple months and he decided that he’d rather wait for the bigger room to free up.  It was an easy decision as my new room was the size of a closet and his new room was the second largest bedroom after the attic.  I would have preferred to wait until he moved out and keep our medium-sized room, but I wasn’t given the choice.  It wasn’t even going to be converted into something else; it became the “back bedroom” complete with our old posters and bunk beds.

Honestly though, I didn’t care.  I wanted my own room too much to argue.  I loved the freedom of having my own space, even if it barely held a twin bed and a dresser.  I could do what I want, when I want.  I could escape my brothers by jamming a chair under the knob.  It was awesome for a while, but eventually my brothers learned there were benefits for them as well.  For example, they loved to shit in a box and hide it in my room.  Or piss on my sheets, cover it with my blanket, and wait.  Or simply just trash the room.

The worst was when my older brother discovered the keys to all the interior doors in my mother’s room.  He now had the power to lock me out of my room entirely.  Or to open the windows and pop out the screens during a rain storm.  That one had the added bonus of a stray cat finding its way up onto our neighbor’s roof, from which it leapt into my room to get out of the rain.  More than once I was locked in my room by my older brother, sometimes for the full eight hours my mother would be at work.

I hated those the most.  My every survival instinct had trained me to flee my brothers.  They were five and three years older and I wasn’t going to win any fight at 10 or 11 years old against a 15 or 16 year old, especially with his 13 year old tag-team partner.  Being trapped was awful.  I could take the lack of food, and bathroom emergencies weren’t an issue as I could usually find someplace they’d already shit or pissed if I really had to go, but just being at their total mercy was unbearable.  I never got over it, and I never learned a way to stop it.  The best I did was just before leaving for college, I stole the keys from my brother to lock my room up while I was away and kept them with me 141 miles and two states away.  In fact, I still have them with me, 1033 miles and four states away.  I vowed to be the dominant roommate in my dorm room.  I was determined to assert my preference over my roommate’s.  I would dictate what went on and when.  I would be tough, but fair.  I would be open to compromise, but would always maintain the upper hand.  Then, of course, I walked into the room for the first time and met Tiger’ish.

Needless to say, much of my plans of room-domination were scrapped.  I just wasn’t prepared for him.  I tolerated him as much as I could, and he did the same with me.  I tried to change him in any way that I could, and sometimes succeeded.  When I failed, I learned to live with it.  No amount of conditioning would make Tiger’ish change; he either took the suggestion or he didn’t.  Time made no difference, nor did arguing.  I learned to pick my battles and accept that our arrangement was temporary.  Most importantly, I could always leave and often did.  We were well into our second semester and I had come to trust that we had met a balance in our living arrangement.  There would be no surprises left.  

It was therefore quite alarming one morning when I woke up to see Tiger’ish squatting over the sink that was just at the foot of my bed.

I could tell he was bottomless, and I had a pretty good idea what he was doing, but I couldn’t fathom why.  He never tried this before, so why start now?

Me:  What are you doing?

Tiger’ish:  What’s it look like?

M: Don’t mistake this for approval, but tell me you’re only taking a piss.

T: Well, I ain’t facing the right way for a dumper, am I?

M: Nope, I suppose not.  Why are you pissing in the sink?

He then hopped down and sat on his bed.  I got up and ran some water through the sink. He wiped his hands on his pillow and said:

Door’s locked.

M: So unlock it.

T: Can’t.

M: What do you mean “can’t”?  Turn the deadbolt and open the door.

T: Can’t.

I went over to the door and discovered he was absolutely correct.  The deadbolt wouldn’t budge.  The knob wouldn’t turn.  I was trapped.  We were trapped.  I was trapped in a room with Tiger’ish, and in this room, he rarely wore pants.

I couldn’t imagine how this could happen, and started to freak out a bit.  He just went over to his computer and started clicking around, like it was a power outage; something that happened every so often, and was an inconvenience you simply had to wait out.  I tried turning the deadbolt until my thumb and forefinger was bruised.  I tried turning the knob until my palm was blistered.  They simply wouldn’t move, not even a little bit.  

I tried calling our RA, he didn’t answer and I left a message.  I called his supervisor, the heretofore useless RLC and was told that she couldn’t do anything and that I should call my RA, then she hung up.  I called the campus physical plant services, the department responsible for these locks and knobs and was told that they don’t take work orders from students and that I should contact my RA or RLC.  So I called the RLC back and she told me that she won’t do anything until she hears from my RA.  So I called him back and left another message.  I listened at the door to hear if I could hear laughter or whispers, as this had to be some sort of fucking prank.  I didn’t hear anything.

I was trapped and that would upset me by itself, but it was even worse because Tiger’ish was in there with me.   I worried what would happen if there was a fire.  It was certainly possible; the building was old enough that things like toasters were prohibited, and a toaster-related electrical fire was a fairly regular occurrence.  I worried even more about the alarm getting pulled without there being a fire.  Drunken alarm pulls were a nightly ritual and Tiger’ish never got used to them.  He always panicked and ran out the door as fast as he could, thankfully pulling some pants on in the process.  What would happen if he panicked like that and couldn’t leave?

Eventually I calmed down enough to realize that if someone had intended to do that, they probably would have done so in the middle of the night.  They couldn’t wait for us to wake up, and since neither of us had resorted to desperately pounding on the door or yelling for help, they probably didn’t even know that we knew we were stuck.  Plus, I didn’t even know for certain that someone had done this anyhow.  I couldn’t imagine how the door could get stuck on its own, but I had just as much difficulty imagining how someone could have done this to the door.  Giving up, I went back to bed to wait for our RA to call back.

About an hour later, I woke up because Tiger’ish had begun to listen to The Phantom Menace.  He had recently taken up the habit of listening to the first Star Wars prequel while doing other things.  He likened it to classic radio drama.  I had gotten used to hearing the battle sequences blare out of his computer speakers, but the really annoying part was hearing the dialogue without the distraction of images.  That movie has some shitty writing, but the acting doesn’t do it any favors, either.  Especially that fucker Anakin.

Anyhow, he’s clearly strapped himself in for the long haul, and to be honest, I didn’t even know if this door problem had even affected his plans for the day.  I went over to the phone to make sure the ringer was on and to check if our RA had tried calling.  He hadn’t, so I called him back.  Still no answer, so I called our RLC again.  I tried explaining to her that our RA wasn’t answering his phone and that I was missing classes as a result and could she please just do something about it, even if it only meant walking up the three flights of stairs to our door and telling me what the problem seemed to be.  She asked me if anyone was in labor or dying.  When I told her that we weren’t she hung up again.  I called her back and she finally said that if it was such a fucking emergency why don’t I call the cops?  So I did.

Our campus police force loved to boast that they were one of the few legitimate police forces on any college campus.  They weren’t rent-a-cops.  No sir, they were officers of the law with all of the rights and responsibilities of any other cop.  Why they thought this would impress the students, I don’t know.  The point is, if they are “real” cops, why do they work for a campus “precinct” and not the local police force?  The answer, as I would find out time and again, was that they were shitty cops.  They just sucked at their jobs bad enough to have to work here or not be a cop at all.  As far as I was concerned, their day of reckoning was at hand.  If they could help me, they would have my respect from then on.  If not, they were no more than the squad car of former townie high school jocks, parked outside the frat house on Friday nights, waiting to rough up a few privileged drunk kids.

Fuckers asked me the nature of the problem.  I told them.  They asked me if anyone was severely hurt or dying (I’m not kidding), and I told them that nobody was.  They then told me that mechanical issues were the responsibility of the campus physical plant services, and that I should call them.  Fuck.

I headed over to my computer and started playing solitaire.  I had given up.  Everyone I thought to call was at class or their line was busy, and I didn’t really want to ask for help, anyway.  I still didn’t know what had happened and I was afraid I’d somehow embarrass myself.  Tiger’ish had kept himself busy with Star Wars and furry porn, and as long as he wasn’t talking or trying to jack off, I left him to it.  I tried to distract myself, but I couldn’t focus on anything.  I was contemplating breaking a window, and he wasn’t even bothered.  I’m puzzling over who would do this and why –we’d been pranked plenty of times, but this time it went too far into potentially harmful territory –and he’s trying to download the audio from X-Men.  I’m making a mental list of the people I’m going to sue and he’s instant messaging with his girlfriend.  In other words, he was handling this much better than I was.

After a few more hours of my pacing, checking the phone, and leaving messages with our RA, Tiger’ish finally got off his ass and headed toward the phone.

Me:  What are you doing?

Tiger’ish: What?  I’m making a call.

M: Are you stupid?  What if the RA calls back?

T: He’ll leave a message.  I’m hungry.

M: So eat something, and put on some pants.  When they get here I don’t want your dick out.

T: I’m ordering a pizza.

M: What?

T: I’m calling Papa John’s.  I’m hungry and I can’t make it to the cafeteria, can I?

M:  But you can’t…the door…how…Fuck it.  Order away.

So he did.  Another hour and 15 minutes later we get a knock and the “Papa John’s!” holler.  I immediately try to shanghai the situation for my own benefit and start asking the pizza guy if he can tell me anything about our door.  He just starts laughing his ass off and asks if we are locked in.  I tell him we are and that we need help.  He tells me that maybe I should stop fucking horses and that we’d better find a way to pay him.  I tell him to fuck off, but Tiger’ish slips 15 bucks under the door.  The guy leaves the pizza –we can smell it –and takes off.  

Maybe I should stop fucking horses.  It became pretty clear at that point that someone had done something and that they targeted us because of Tiger’ish’s damn horse pictures on our door.  I blew up at my roommate.

Me: See!  This is all your fault.

Tiger’ish: What is?

M: The door, retard!  The same door that is so fucking locked that you can’t get your fucking pizza you fucking stupid fuck!  What did you think would happen?  Did you think he’d slide the pizza under the door?  God damn I hate you.

T: So how is this my fault?

M: Horse fucker!  HORSE!  FUCKER!  Who put up the horse pictures?  Who is a weird freak that everyone hates?

T: But I don’t fuck horses.

M: Goddammit…

I went over to the phone and called my girlfriend’s room.  I left her a message saying that she should call me as soon as she got the message.  By that point, I didn’t care if I would get embarrassed, and with what the pizza fucker said, I was convinced I was once again collateral damage in the war against Tiger’ish.

I also by then really had to piss.  I thought about using the sink, as he had already popped its cherry, but I was better than that.  I thought about emptying a Gatorade bottle to use, but ultimately decided I wasn’t ready to do that in front of Tiger’ish.  It would only give him ideas.  I went back to solitaire and waited.

Eventually our phone rang; it was my girlfriend.  I explained the situation, and she came over.  When she got to our door she told us that someone had jammed pennies all along the lock side of the door and had glued pennies to the door, spelling out “HORSE FUCKER”.  They then had put some sort of sealant along the lock side, sealing the pennies in.  Whoever did this took their time, and really wanted to fuck things up for Tiger’ish, and by association, me.  She went to our RA’s room and got him.  Apparently, he’d been in and out all day, but his phone’s ringer was off.  He had a hangover the other day and turned it off and he forgot to turn it back on.  He came to our door with a screw driver and hammer and, with a constant stream of laughter, went about the work of chipping the sealant away and unwedging the pennies.  He left “HORSE FUCKER” intact.  I eventually pried “HORSE FUCKER” off; I didn’t want to get billed for door damage if Tiger’ish or anyone else did it and fucked the door up.  We never found out who did it to our door, and by the time we got out, the pizza was gone.

A few days later Tiger’ish was very excited to see we had received our room assignment postcards for next year.  Every student at the university got ranked numerically by projected number of completed credits and was then assigned a time block in which to go and register a room for next year.  The more credits, the better selection of rooms.  If you so desired, you could bring a friend’s postcard and they would be your roommate, regardless of their rank.  

Tiger’ish, obviously, was ranked very low.  I, on the other hand, was ranked very highly for a first year student.  I came to college with a sophomore academic standing because I got the maximum score on the U.S. History, English, Physics, and Calculus AP exams while in high school.  That meant I had doubled the credits of most freshmen, and subsequently doubled my rank.  I had my sights set on taking one of the dorm rooms that came with its own bathroom.  Most of the highest ranking students were either living off campus or would take one of the on-campus apartment spots, leaving the dorm room with a bath but no kitchen open and definitely attainable by me.

I couldn’t imagine why Tiger’ish would care, though.  He was going to flunk out.  It was a certainty, and I assumed he knew it.  He’d been told as much by several people and he had pretty much given up on all classes and homework, so I assumed he had resigned himself to the fact that he wouldn’t be at school next year.

Unfortunately, his self-denial was too great.  He was excited because he, too, knew what my ranking meant, and he, too, wanted a room with a bathroom.  He was even willing to have me as a roommate to get it.  I didn’t know what I could say that would do any good.  Prior to that day, I had figured my ranking was high, and planned to take a room with a bath and simply roll the dice that if none of my theatre friends wanted to room with me, that at least whomever took the other half of the room couldn’t be as horrible as Tiger’ish.  Sitting there, however, hearing his plans for decorating our future bathroom, I knew I was finished.  I wasn’t going to risk living with anyone I didn’t personally choose again.  The potential roommate wouldn’t be as bad a Tiger’ish.  But they would still get annoying, even if they were a friend.  Fuck that.  It was time for me to finally have a room of my own where I held the key.  I couldn’t afford to live off campus, so I was left with only one option.  I was going to do my damndest to join the ranks of that group I had grown to most resent.  I was going to kiss all the right asses, say all the right things, get my own room, and god damn it, get paid for the privilege.  I was going to be an RA.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Tiger'ish Tales Vol. 11: The Canadian Girlfriend

When I was in high school there was a phenomenon known as “The Canadian Girlfriend.”  Every so often, someone in school would awkwardly excuse themselves from some social event by saying that they couldn’t go because they have a girlfriend who can’t come and they wouldn’t want to go without her.  Upon further questioning, it was made clear that this girlfriend, of whom no one else had ever heard, was Canadian.  She was usually a model, and because of exotic Canadian laws, the lucky boyfriend couldn’t show the rest of us any pictures, but she’s the most amazingly hot woman, like, ever.  This Canadian girlfriend had previously gone unmentioned because he didn’t want to make us jealous.  She’s that hot.  Where did they meet?  Well his uncle has a business in Ontario and he knows someone who knows someone and they started talking on the phone, etc. etc. etc.
Obviously, there never was any girlfriend at all and the poor kid thought it was better to lie then own up to the fact that he didn’t get a date for the Sweetheart’s Dance.  The invocation of The Canadian Girlfriend is far more humiliating than having no girlfriend at all, and yet, it was used time and time again.  She wasn’t always Canadian, sometimes she was from Chicago.  Sometimes she was from a different school, but a religious one and her asshole father won’t let her attend school functions at any school but her own.  She’s not always a model, but she is always the most beautiful creature to have ever graced the earth and there is never an accompanying photo –except in the most pathetic of cases.  Once in a while, the Canadian girlfriend’s photo looks like it was carefully cut out of a magazine.  In those instances, she looks exactly like Heidi Klum.  In even more pathetic instances, she looks like the model from the fucking Target ad in this past Sunday’s paper. 
Strangely enough, despite the general social awkwardness, lack of hygiene and general slovenly nature of the boyfriend, this vision of beauty found him to be so desirable, so charming that she had eyes for no other.  Occasionally they were engaged.  Sure, these crazy love-birds are only 16, but in Canada that’s like, ideal marrying age.  Culturally speaking.  The rest of us wouldn’t understand.
It’s not as if everyone else in school had dates or girlfriends or any hope for either.  Sure there were some of us who found our way into relationships, but there twice as many who simply didn’t, and could tell that that was OK.  The crippling lack of social awareness of those with Canadian Girlfriends kept them from realizing that to have a Canadian Girlfriend was far worse than to have no girlfriend at all.  In one truly sad instance, the boyfriend was so committed to his fantasy that when challenged to call his Canadian Girlfriend, he stepped up to the plate, actually to the payphone, and dialed.  In this case she wasn’t so much Canadian as she was Minnesotan, and with all of our Wisconsin-bred ears pressed to the phone we heard him explain his reason for calling and her shattering denial.  Just because they were cousins, and even if they shared a bedroom at Grandma’s during Christmas, no, they were not boyfriend and girlfriend.  In fact, she’s telling her Dad and she won’t be sharing a bedroom with him anymore. 
Someone so committed to a fantasy life, or rather, so unsatisfied with the reality of their life, is a truly sad and pathetic beast.  In other words, someone like Tiger’ish.  It was for these reasons that upon hearing his claims of having a girlfriend, my mind went immediately from any thoughts of personal testicular safety and straight to the fervent hope that Tiger’ish had a Canadian Girlfriend.  There was no doubting that he was talking to someone on the phone, and there was no reason to think it wasn’t a female, but I held out hope that whomever he had on the line, no matter how much they liked him, would bristle at the identification as his girlfriend. After all, he had put the phone against his shoulder when he told me he was speaking to his girlfriend; she might not have heard.  I prayed it would be a misunderstanding akin to that of the Minnesotan Cousin. 
If Tiger’ish had a girlfriend, that meant there was someone out there who thought of him -to cut right down to it- as a potential mate.  I sat there, trying to listen to Tiger’ish’s conversation, but my mind kept filling with visions of returning to our room to find him fucking this girl and doing so exactly as the pictures had shown him fucking the goats.  He would be behind her, holding her legs up and apart, while she held herself up on her elbows.  Like a wheelbarrow race with only one naked team in the running.  For whatever reason, I pictured her overweight and with severe acne on her back.  I had no face for her in my vision of the damned because, of course, she was wearing an animal mask.  Like some satanic rite, she was wearing the face of a goat.  Just like at his computer, I would have the displeasure of seeing his orgasm.  Even within my own mind, all of this was enough for me to dry-heave.  I ended up leaving the room for a while; I was pretty shaken up.  He just couldn’t have a girlfriend.  I wouldn’t allow it.  If the universe made any sense at all, there could be no one out there for him.  Surely whoever was on the phone was a fucking furry, but even they have to draw the line somewhere, and Tiger’ish had to be beyond what would be deemed acceptable.  Tiger’ish could not have a girlfriend.  She had to be a Canadian Girlfriend.  She had to.
One of the characteristics of the Canadian Girlfriend is that no matter how unlikely the story, no matter how obvious the ruse, the boyfriend won’t admit his lie.  In the instance of Minnesotan Cousin, no amount of debate will get him to see the truth.  A friendly girl will be seen as a girlfriend until the friendship ends.  For these reasons, I had no intention to even bother asking Tiger’ish about his girlfriend; what would be would be.  Instead, upon my return, he had a question for me.  He wanted to know if I was sure that my balls didn’t hurt. 
Me: What the fucking hell!  What are you asking me?  No, they don’t fucking hurt and why do you keep asking?
Tiger’ish:  Well, do they itch, do you have a rash?
M: Goddammit!  I will punch you in the nuts if you don’t stop it!  No, my balls don’t hurt, and you had better stop!  What the fuck?
T: No aches or swollenness?
M:  That’s fucking it!  You’re done.  Why are you even asking?
T: My girlfriend wants to know.  I don’t care about your balls one way or the other, but I told her I’d ask, so I’m asking.
M:  Well, and I can’t believe I’m even participating in this discussion, I already told you they feel fine.  Stop asking.  Why does she even want to know?  Who is she and does she know that she’s your girlfriend?
T:  She should know; she’s the one who asked me to be her boyfriend,
-Fuck me…­-
T: and it is really strange that your balls don’t hurt at all.
M: Why?
T: Because she’s a witch,
-Are you fucking kidding me?-
T: and she’s really good, too.
M:  You mean she’s like Wiccan, or something?
T: What?  I don’t know even know what that is.  She’s a witch.  A really powerful one and she cast a spell on you to make your balls hurt and that’s why they should hurt.
He went on to explain that the witch, Zebedorah, was in fact a fellow furry and that as a powerful sorceress, she was honing her craft.  The problem was, much like Tiger’ish, she was entirely limited in her regular interactions with only fellow on-line furries.  She needed a guinea pig that was both able to be observed repeatedly but not anyone she felt bad about harming.  Tiger’ish suggested me.  She could cast the spells, he could watch the results and thus, their romantic bond was forged. 
Now, as I rule, I don’t consider myself superstitious.  I find it hard to believe that if things like magic existed, that it would remain only on the fringes of society and not be fully incorporated into everyday life.  On the other hand, I always went to parochial school, and every good Christian knows that magic is make-believe, but miracles are the work of God. 
When I was in second grade I had a teacher who was a total fanatic about the occult and, more exactly, training her class in the art of combating Satan’s evil forces.  When other eight-year-olds were learning math, we were watching films allegedly recorded in secret during Black Masses.  Instead of science we learned how to detect Satan’s influence in rock music.  We weren’t allowed to watch The Grinch during the Christmas party, but we were allowed to watch videos recounting tales of child-abduction and sacrifice.  We wouldn’t know Abraham Lincoln from Albert Einstein, but we could all identify Anton LaVey.  All of this was to prepare us.  As good Christian soldiers, it was inevitable that Satan would come for us with a vengeance.  I’m sure our teacher meant well, but we were too young.  One kid freaked out at the grocery store because their mother tried to buy a magazine with Michael J. Fox on the cover.  He was looking into a crystal ball to determine what new fall shows would be hits, and that is a satanic act.  Another child couldn’t sleep the night without waking up in terror, convinced that he was going to be hung from an inverted cross and bled out.  Needless to say, most parents got upset.
My mother, however, was all for it.  My mom had a habit of cruising neighborhood garage sales in the hopes of finding Ouija boards.  She fought her own little holy war by buying these board games and then smashing them to bits.  Strangely enough, her righteous fury only applied to games she could buy at a bargain; she never bought the new sets at full price from Woolworth’s.  At any rate, when most parents started to complain, my mother just rolled her eyes.
The school administrators, in their infinite wisdom, agreed with the parents and decided that the teacher was a bit intense for second graders, so they changed her assignment for the next year.  Instead of warping the minds of impressionable second graders they entrusted her with the infinitely more mature third and fourth grades.
Yes, that meant she had the same students and we had the same crazy fucking teacher.  For three years in a row.  The occult remained a focus of her curriculum and that was that.  I'm sure the parents tried their best, but only a couple kids were pulled from the school. 
I mention this to stress that on a conscious, intellectual level, I knew that Zebedorah couldn’t be a witch, but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that being conditioned for so long at such a young age didn’t leave me with some concerns.  I’ve always been around people who firmly believe in such things as the supernatural and that those who dabble with it are, in fact, dancing with the Devil.  Willful participation in occultic practices such as witchcraft came with it the very real chance that you were opening yourself up to demon-possession.  Dozens of examples have been cited to me over the years.  That’s where I was worried.  Regardless of what I believe, what happens when Tiger’ish and Zeb believe they are possessed?  When they go on their inevitable killing spree, won’t I be the first to meet their wrath? 
Even without any attempts from Tiger’ish to carve a pentagram into my chest, this new wrinkle in our lives proved to be a great annoyance.  First, there were the interrogations.  Is my hair thinning?  Have I discovered any new teeth, and if so, were they in my mouth?  Did my ass hurt?  Was my vision blurry?  Have I received any visits from a dead relative?  Was I pissing blood?  Shitting blood?  Was I attacked by a squirrel?
As near as I could tell, Zeb didn’t have any resource or spell book that she was consulting.  Based on hearing Tiger’ish’s half of their conversations, she was trying to compile her own tome of original recipes.  Which leads me to the second annoyance:  their phone conversations.  They spoke on the phone a lot.  Most of the time, it was furry speak (complete with conversations comprised entirely of animal sounds), but almost as often it was about me.  Evidently, Zeb needed to really know me to fuck with me.  Tiger’ish didn’t really talk about me, though.  Instead, he gave a running commentary about me.  “He’s checking his email.  He got a drink from the fridge.  Dr. Pepper.  A can.  He’s looking at me.  He’s flipping me off.  He’s leav--.”  Another side-effect of their conversations was Tiger’ish couldn’t use the phone without standing right next to its wall mounted cradle.  The cord was more than long enough to reach anywhere in the room, but he stood stock still next to the wall where it hung.  Doing this, he’d get fidgety, and without fail, he would turn the ringer volume down to zero.  It took me a good two weeks to figure out why I wasn’t getting any calls but tons of voice mails.  He didn’t have that problem because she never called him; they’d arrange a time for him to call her because our long distance was built into the room costs.
I began to compulsively check the voice mail every time I returned to the room.  The campus phone system was really shitty and there was no way of knowing if you had mail; you just had to call the voice mail box and find out.   There was call-waiting on our phone system, but Tiger’ish never knew how to use it and wouldn’t give me the phone even if he did.  Luckily, the voice mail would take a message even if the phone was in use.  This led to one of the creepier moments of my life. 
I don’t know what happened exactly, but I think someone had called our number while Tiger’ish was on the phone with Zebedorah.  My guess is that the caller hung up just as the voice mail kicked in, and the result was a voice mail recording of Tiger’ish’s conversation with his witch.  Prior to this, I had never heard her voice.  I never answered her calls because she never did call.  When he called her I could hear just enough to infer that she was in fact female.  Now I had the chance to hear them both, and during a time when they thought they were completely alone.  She spoke like the fucking wicked witch of the west from The Wizard of Oz.  Like a goddamn joke, she really was playing up the hokey, over-the-top, broom and pointy hat witch identity.  He was speaking normally, but much lower, like he was trying to seduce her with his voice.  It was what they were saying that was really bizarre.  For five minutes straight –the time limit for our voice mail box –they were just repeating the phrase, “Tonight is the night of pain.”  They repeated that over and over and over.
Suitably creeped out, I was more than happy to be going to the final dress rehearsal for our school’s production of the opera The Ballad Of Baby Doe.  Being a theatre major, I, like most other theatre majors, took the biennial opera as my opportunity to fulfill some of the backstage requirements for my major.  The opera always attracted vocal performance majors, and they are easily the worst people on earth.  Worse than witches.   Rather than spend weeks in daily rehearsal with assholes that wear scarves indoors and constantly sip hot water with honey, I chose to limit my exposure to tech week and the two weeks of performances of the opera.  I had snagged a pretty sweet spot as an assistant stage manager, which was much preferred than being tasked with costume or makeup work on these narcissistic assholes.
The Ballad Of Baby Doe features an off-stage gunshot and the director wanted an actual shot with an actual smell of gunpowder instead of an obviously fake recorded sound effect.   Part of my various duties as ASM, I was responsible for retrieving and loading a starter pistol.  When cued by the Stage Manager, I fired the pistol off stage and then left the back stage area to unload and replace the pistol in its lock box, which was kept in a locker –also locked- in the Technical Director’s office.   Every previous night, this was no problem.  I had more than enough time to follow procedure and return to the backstage and my communication headset to be ready for my next cue.  The night of the final dress, however, was very different.
Our school was fortunate enough to have a state-of-the-art fine arts complex.  While a lot of the cash for this building came from alumni donors, a pretty sizable chunk came from the city.  The sole condition on which this cash was given was that whenever the city desired, and always assuming the school wasn’t already using it, the city could use our building as a banquet hall.  In fact, the final design of the lobby was created for this purpose, and a full catering-ready kitchen area was added to the plans.
Well, when the front office of the Fine Arts building got the call asking if the building was available for that particular Thursday night, the calendar seemed all clear.  Sure the opera would be opening the next day, but Friday is not Thursday.  So the building was booked.  When they realized their mistake, the building managers decided it would work out.  We, the opera, would remain enclosed in the theatre spaces, while the guests had the run of the lobby.  Theoretically we wouldn’t even know each other was there.  Of course none of these decisions were made by people who knew anything about the actual requirements of this opera.  Requirements like returning a gun to the TD’s office, which was next to the catering kitchen. 
When we got to rehearsal that night, they told all of us about the event (as if we couldn’t tell by the lobby being set for it, and the caterers running around), and stressed that we weren’t to leave the theatre spaces.  When I asked about the gun, they told me to do the same thing I always did.  As long as I stayed away from the lobby, I should be in the clear.
Now, you might be wondering why any of us would even bother wanting to go to the lobby.  Most of these events were either city parties, or the occasional wedding reception.  This night however, was unique.  It was the spring of 2001, and the crown-jewel of Indiana, the great city of Gary, had won the honor of hosting the Miss USA Pageant.  Gary, Indiana is a filthy stinking shithole and the pageant organizers knew it.  The sole venue that even began to match what the organizers wanted was booked for the pageant itself, so they had to look elsewhere for a pre-show venue.  Somewhere that looked elegant, somewhere nice that the pageant host could have his traditional pre-show dinner with the contestants a few days before the actual event.  Somewhere befitting the level of celebrity of their esteemed pageant host and dinner guest-of-honor.  They found that venue in a small college town just 25 miles away from Gary.
The host?  William Mother-Fucking Shatner.
Now I suspect if you asked anyone at our school, the concern was that we would try and sneak a peek at the young beauty queens.  On the other hand, I can only imagine that Captain Kirk wouldn’t travel with a twelve member security squadron unless he felt he needed to.  All I know for certain is that what these twelve men lack in reasoning ability they make up for in brute strength.
I had fired the shot, and was on my way to return the gun to its lock box.  As luck would have it, right as I was heading down the hallway that granted access to the TD’s office, there too was Bill and his men, waiting just outside the kitchen for his proper introduction to the contestants.  The twelve all eye-balled me, and Shatner gave me a quick nod and turned back toward the curtain they had set up through which he would enter the lobby.  I just went ahead with what I was supposed to do, and unlocked the office door.  I went in and unlocked the locker.  I entered the combination on the lock-box.  I pulled the gun out of my pocket.  Faster than any human movement I could imagine three of the twelve came through the door and slammed me right into the open locker door.  It hit my ribs with the narrow edge of the door and the pain was intense.  Next thing I knew I was face-down on the ground, with one dude standing on my neck, while the other two were each standing on my wrists, with my arms fully extended out from my body.  The gun was lying by the door to the office.  Like the fucking Secret Service, they start talking into their sleeves and the other nine rush in.  Nobody says anything to me, and I can’t talk because my face is shoved into the ground and I can’t really breathe anyhow.  A moment later, out of my peripheral vision, I see Shatner’s shiny tuxedo shoe enter the room.  He steps on the gun.  He picks it up.  I hear it open and see the remaining seven starter blanks fall out onto the ground.  I hear him say, “Jesus Christ you shitheads.  Don’t you know a fucking starter pistol when you see one? Twelve of you gorillas and none of you’ve ever gone to a track meet?  Lift the fucker up.”
I get lifted up by my shoulders and turned to face Shatner.  He asks me what I’m doing, and I tell him.  He tells them to let me go and they do.  By now I’m so mixed up and in pain that I just squat down and start picking up the blanks.  I put them in the locker and I feel a nudge on my arm.  I turn to see William Shatner pointing the gun right at me.  He waits a moment, turns it around so I can grab it properly and I take the handle.  I put it away and he says, “Kid, your lip's bleeding and I’m sorry for that.  I’d offer you an autograph or a cup of coffee, but I’m late for an appointment with 50 beautiful women and you’ve got a show to do yourself.” Still barely able to breathe, I just nodded and he left.  I went back to the backstage -luckily with enough time for my next cue- put on my headset and leaned against the wall and tried to catch my breath.
The locker slam bruised a rib and I felt every breath I took, as I would for days afterward.  Tiger’ish’s phone call kept coming back to me while I finished the rehearsal.  It truly was a night of pain.  When I got back to our room, he immediately interrogated me, “My girlfriend wants to know, was tonight a night of pain?” 
I didn’t want to admit that it was and encourage them, so instead I said, “Fuck you dude.  Stop asking because I won’t answer one way or the other from now on.  Man I wish your girlfriend was Canadian.”
“She is.  She’s from Toronto.”
Fucker’s girlfriend really was Canadian.  Just like William Mother-Fucking Shatner.