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