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?
T: YOU….YOU FUCKING LEFT ME!
M: What are you talking about? I’m right here.
T: I WAS SUPPOSED TO GET THE JOHN ROOM! THIS LETTER SAYS I DON’T!
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.