The Love Story Series is my journal of the events that led to Eric and I falling in love. You can find all the Love Story chapters here.
I arrived back at home with the uneasy feeling that something was chasing me, and immediately poured myself into activities. I decided to go back to college, this time to become a paramedic, and eagerly devoured anatomy, chemistry and medical terminology classes. I was cast in a couple theater productions and worked full time at Starbucks.
Somehow between dissecting pigs, memorizing all the bones in the human body, learning more Latin than I could ever need to know, rehearsing dance numbers and slinging coffee, I also threw myself into every cast party, work party or just plain party that came my way. I subsisted on about 25 hours of sleep a week and lots of caffeine. My lifestyle was more unhealthy than I was willing to admit, in fact it was downright destructive once you factored in the alcohol I consumed at all these parties and the dangerous situations I got myself into while under the influence of alcohol or sleeplessness.
I went through cycles of burnout, getting horribly sick with bronchitis or pneumonia and doing nothing but sleeping for a week or two, then going another two or three months at my typical breakneck speed.
I ended up moving into a three bedroom house with a guy I met through musical theater, and his younger sister. The house was a beautiful A frame from the seventies, built into a ridge overlooking the Manoa Valley. The area was surrounded by rainforest, and stepping around Jackson chameleons and tree frogs in the driveway was a normal part of my morning routine. It felt peaceful and serene, and I somehow thought that it would change my life.
It actually did seem better for the first two weeks I was there. I worked early mornings, then went to school, and could study in the afternoons while my roommates were at work. I loved sitting on the wraparound porch, listening to the birds sing while I attacked my textbooks with a highlighter.
Then the parties started.
I had for some foolish reason ignored the fact that my new roommate got blackout drunk at nearly every party he went to, often bringing his own flask to bars to supplement the drinks he bought. I don’t remember if I actually thought he’d be different as a roommate or if I was so desperate for a change that I just didn’t even pay attention, but either way it’s a good example of desperation outweighing common sense.
At first it seemed like fun. We had an ‘80s housewarming party and about fifty people showed up bringing food and drinks, dressed for the occasion. Several of my Starbucks co-workers came and we hung out in my room, the most spacious room I’d had since moving away from my parents, listening to Morrisey and talking about things like existentialism and Jack Kerouac. I thought I looked adorable with my poofy bangs, neon socks, cut off denim shorts and baggy Anthony Michael Hall t-shirt with one corner shoved through a heart shaped shirt clip. It was an exciting night and I agreed with my co-workers’ comments that I was so lucky to have such cool roommates.
I guess I thought there would be parties once a month, not realizing that our house would actually be the place for my roommate and all his military friends and bar buddies to hang out pretty much anytime they wanted.
Over the next few weeks, a parade of people poured through the front door at all hours of the night. Usually they’d be drunk from whatever bar they’d met my roommate at, and would all come back to our house to get absolutely wasted. This didn’t really bother me on nights that I had the next day off, but it was especially upsetting when I had to open the coffee shop at 4am the next morning.
I remember laying in my bed as people stood outside the jalousie windows of my bedroom, laughing and smoking. I’d try earplugs, pulling the covers over my head, even stuffing my pillow in my ears, but nothing could block out the sound of their “merriment”. When I brought it up with my roommate the next day he flippantly told me that if it bothered me I should “just come out and tell people to shut the *#@$ up!” It’s possible he knew that my obvious fears of confrontation would prevent me from doing that, but more likely that he was just telling me what he would do in my place. The bottom line was, he paid most of the rent so he was going to do what he wanted and if I wanted quiet it was up to me to figure that out.
In my codependent way I tried to make it work. On nights that I had to open the next day, I would go to bed early and sleep until the party arrived, then get ready for work and sleep in my car outside the store until it was time to open. On nights that I didn’t have work ahead of me, I’d join in the festivities, trying to convince myself that if I just had more fun with his group of friends then I’d be less annoyed by them on work nights.
One night there were about twenty of us sitting around the living room. Some people were smoking a raspberry tobacco from my roommate’s hookah, teaching each other to blow smoke rings. My roommate’s newest acquisition to his group of followers was a stripper. He and the other guys sat enthralled at her story of how empowering her job was and what some of her craziest customers were like. I was just trying to think up a good excuse to sneak off to my bedroom when there was a knock at the door.
“I’ll get it!” I jumped out of my chair figuring the entrance of the newest partygoer would allow me to make a gracious exit. But when I opened my door, it wasn’t a young woman in perfect hair and makeup, or a young man in carefully matched vintage duds from the local thrift store.
It was a woman in her late twenties. Her frizzy brown hair was twisted into a knot on the top of her head, wayward strands hanging crazily around her face. She wore glasses that kept slipping down to the end of her nose, probably due to the sweat glistening on her face from the humid night air. Her eyebrows were pinched together in pained expression that turned her forehead into corrugated cardboard, and I could tell she was about to cry.
Immediately concerned and thinking maybe she was lost or her car had broken down, I asked, “Can we help you?”
“Can you guys please be quiet? We live right below you and can hear every word.” As she indicated her house which was slightly down the ridge, I realized she must have walked the windy road to get here, and thought about offering her some water. “I have little children, and a brand new baby, and they’ve hardly slept the past five weeks because of your parties. PLEASE! I’m begging you!”
There was a heavy silence in the room as everyone uncomfortably waited for someone else to respond. I started to apologize, but was interrupted by my roommate.
“All we were doing tonight was talking. It’s a free country, deal with it.”
I saw the momma bear in her start to rear its head. “Yes, talking LOUDLY. About SEX, and other things my three year old doesn’t need to know about. This was a nice neighborhood before you moved in, and I’m asking you to show some respect to your neighbors and keep it down. PLEASE!”
“I’m not disrespecting anyone, our landlord doesn’t care so you’re really the one with the problem.”
She whirled around and marched off the porch, and I could hear her muffled sobs as I quietly closed the door.
“If she didn’t want to deal with kids that don’t sleep, maybe she shouldn’t have gotten knocked up!”
“Her real problem is the stick up her-” I closed my door to try and drown out the sounds of my roommate and his groupies try to outdo each other in insulting the poor, desperate mother. I wished there was a door in my room so I could chase after and confide that I want to be from them as much as she did. I remember thinking, “Who are these people and why did I want to fit in with them?” But I was trapped, I had nowhere else to go.
The final straw came two nights later. I was closing the store and, wanting to avoid my home situation, went out for drinks with my co-workers after we locked up. I didn’t really drink anything because I was realizing the drinking scene wasn’t quite as fun as I’d been pretending. I got home around 3am, relieved that the house was dark.
Exhausted and emotionally drained, I didn’t even bother to turn on a light when I got into my room, just climbed into bed.
Only I wasn’t alone.