Friday, March 27, 2009

Why home is where your roommates are

There's something I've been walking carefully around for the last few months here at the Diary of Why, something I have avoided all mention of, and for the sole reason that I chose to remain as long as possible in complete and utter denial. Blindfold over my eyes, fingers firmly planted in my ears, la la la, nothing's gonna change my world. But there comes a point when one has to face reality, and my reality is that in approximately eight short days, Casa di Patrice, Fred, and Rachel will cease to exist. Well, I suppose it will continue to exist, but in an altered (and much inferior form) known instead as Casa di Patrice and Fred. I'm moving.

[insert mushroom cloud of devastation]

I suppose in your world this is perhaps not an end-of-the-world type scenario, but in my world, where I know approximately 2.5 people, two of which are my roommates, and in which my life consists mostly of shuttling back and forth between my school bubble and my home bubble, this is a fairly traumatic turn of events, and one which leaves me prone to shortness of breath and feelings of impending doom in the middle of the night. (Another side effect seems to be an increased tendency towards ridiculously long and drama-filled run-on sentences. I think I need a comma intervention). The obvious question that I suppose comes to mind is, if I'm so upset about it, then why am I moving? Well, that's a good question, Internet, and the answer is really pretty boring. Here, let me tell it to you.

Basically, Patrice told me months ago that we would all have to move out in mid-April. He didn't really elaborate, and only said he had "des soucis avec le propriƩtaire," or "concerns with the landlord." Using my rocket scientist powers of deduction, I came to the conclusion that, brief bouts of productivity aside, Patrice being unemployed pretty much the entire time I've known him equals a Patrice who is probably not paying rent to the landlord. And as the long arm of the law here is sluggish in matters of real estate, and pretty much skips the winter months altogether, an eviction date was scheduled for the 15th of April. But back in December when he told me this (although omitting all the important details), I put it out of my mind, and hoped that by the time April rolled around the situation would have somehow righted itself, and that Patrice would manage to kick his solitaire habit, find himself a job, and maybe go crawling back to the landlord with a dozen roses and several months worth of back rent money. By the time March rolled around, though, with no apparent change in the situation, I started to worry. And, not to be all egocentric, because I know I'm not the only one in this house, but this couldn't have happened at a worse time for me. My teaching assistant contract ends April 30. I promised I would stay with the baby-sitting job (from hell) until the end of June. So I needed to find a new place, with roommates (because I can't afford anything else) for three months, tops. The caveats being that it had to be furnished, it had to be close enough to Paris, close enough to school (even though I would only be there for two more weeks), with no lease, and it had to be 350
€ or less a month, and even that would be pushing it. Fred and I did entertain the thought of looking for a place together (leaving Patrice out of our plans for perhaps obvious reasons), but ultimately it seemed that he felt no particular urgency about the situation, and we made little progress. I, however, was feeling more and more urgent as April approached, and not having the luxury of friends and acquaintances here to fall back, if necessary, I started looking on my own.

I reviewed some postings on the internet, and started to freak out, just a little. Holy shit this shit is expensive, I thought. Plus, no one's going to want to go through the hassle of a roommate search for someone who's only going to stick around for three months. I left e-mails and phone calls that weren't returned. I went to see a place that was 100
€ more a month than I'm paying right now. It was far from the train station, and involved a long bus ride. I followed the propriĆ©taire up a staircase that was so steep it was practically a ladder. She knocked on a door and went in, saying, "Oh, you're here!" to the girl inside. She led me through the girl's bedroom to another room, the room for rent. "Oh, it's no problem," she replied to my questioning. "She's very nice, and you just knock first, and she works a lot, anyway." The shared shower was in the other girl's bedroom. No wall separating it, but simply a frosted glass stall conspicuously out of place in the corner of the tiny bedroom. "Well, you have to work out a schedule, obviously," the landlady said. I thanked her for her time, and started to worry a lot.

I called a guy who was offering what seemed to be the perfect situation. A big room in a big house for 100
€ a month in rent in exchange for housecleaning: dishes, laundry, bathrooms, etc. I pretty much do that now for free, I thought, and so I called one Friday evening at about 7:00. A drunk guy answered, or at least I hope he was drunk, because otherwise he was completely insane. I was ensnared for fifteen minutes, unable to break free from the most uncomfortable phone conversation I have ever had, full of nonsense and blatantly racist statements and passing the phone back and forth to a friend who invited me to come over and take a look at the place that night. My hopes of having reached a wrong number diminished; nope, it was him, alright. Not wishing to provoke the perhaps mentally unstable drunk guy, who, after all, now had my phone number, I carefully said that I would call him back the next day, and then hung up, defeated. A few days later I received a reply to the e-mail I had sent prior to talking to him: "Give me your phone number ASAP so I can call you," it said.

"I'm pretty sure we already spoke," I replied. "You don't remember? Thanks, but I'm no longer interested."

I responded to another posting and reached a deeply suspicious and somewhat abrasive man who grilled me on my nationality, job, and family situation, and treated all my answers with disdain. Do you speak French? he asked nastily when I asked him to repeat himself, as the connection was bad. I attempted to set up a visit for the next day, but he refused to give me any details as to time or location. "Just call me tomorrow," he said. "Alright," I agreed. "And your name is...?"

"You just call me at this number, alright? I mean, we don't discuss things like that before we meet! I don't just give out details..."

"Yeah, okthanksbye," I replied, my stomach sinking. I pulled the phone away from my ear, but a tinny voice kept talking. When I put it back to my ear, he was still going with his indignant tirade.

"Rightbye," I said again as I hung up and marked another X through my list. I began to lose hope.

Finally I found something that seemed promising. A two-bedroom, shared with only one other girl, a medical student. Furnished bedroom, seperate bathroom, a living room, a kitchen. Though I only talked to the girl for about thirty seconds or so, she seemed nice enough. I went upstairs to iron out the details with the landlord. Apparently landlords do all the interviewing in these types of situations here, and the inhabitants have no say in who their roommate will be? It seems weird. But I wasn't necessarily in a position to be picky. "I'll take it," I said. I came back the following week to pay a deposit of one month's rent that very nearly depleted my bank account. "I'll move in the first weekend in April," I told him. Though I knew I had until April 15 in my current place, I also knew that on April 15 I would be mid-way through an eleven day tour of France and Italy, acting as fearless leader to 26 high school students and their assorted teachers and chaperones. (Help). Not wanting to come back from my trip and find all the locks had changed, I decided that the only thing that made sense was to move out and get settled in to my new place before the vacation. So here I am, T minus 8 days and counting until moving day, feeling the fingers of panic slowly wrapping themselves around my throat.

I saw Fred last night for the first time in over a week. Apparently in the roughly ten minutes or so per week of face time I have with him, I had neglected to tell him of my updated plans. Sitting on my bed, he played with the stuffed panther he once bought for me, holding it up to my face for a kiss. "So have you made any progress in finding a place?" I asked him, giving the stuffed animal a peck on the nose. Little Fred, I call him, because at one time I thought it would be funny.

"Nah," he said. "We're allowed to stay until the end of April now," he said, his tone of voice indicating that it might as well be the end of the summer, or the end of the year. Plenty of time, he seemed to be saying.

"Well I'm still moving out at the beginning of April," I replied.

"What?" he said, surprised. "When?" I tapped my calendar. "What, next week?" he said, seeming genuinely shocked. "Rachel, no!"

"What do you mean, no?" I said. "I didn't know we had until the end of April when I was looking, and anyway, I already paid a deposit."

"So you ask for it back!" he said indignantly.

"What, so I can start over again looking for another place in a couple weeks? Right."

"But you don't even know if you're staying after the end of April," he said.

"I'm staying until the end of June," I said.


"I already paid the deposit, Fred. It's done." And then he left my room in a semblance of a huff, although how much of it was a put-on, and how much was real, even I, with my rocket scientist powers of deduction, wasn't able to figure out.

So here I am, counting down the rest of my days in this big, messy, comfortable, bachelor pad of a house with my roommates, whom I have developed quite a fondness for over the last six months. I hate when things have to change. And the thought of Patrice and Fred continuing to live here after I'm gone makes my heart hurt, a little. But that's life, right? Making decisions you'd rather not, facing the unknown. Saying goodbye.


  1. Awwwww. I'm sorry you feel that way. But, really, you did the right thing. You don't need the anxiety of not knowing where you'll live. Besides, you'll likely like the new place too. :)

  2. All things must come to an end I guess. I've live with the same roommate for almost three years now with add ons interchanged between. She was talking the other day about moving in with her boyfriend. I got sad. It does feel a little like the end of an era to part with roommates.

  3. I'm excited for you! You may really like this new roommate...and perhaps she'll have a sexy, singly, male med student peer??? Plus you can always come visit your old roommates and make an elaborate dinner for them, and then leave all the dishes for them to do!

  4. It is always bittersweet to leave people and situations that you're so familiar with - but try to focus on the positives. As Dawn said, you'll probably quite like the new place, and as Georgia noted, you might really like this new roomie. Good luck!

  5. Yuk! I hate change........

    And it usually turns out wonderful!

    But, that still doesn't make it easy.

  6. It's always better to have certainty with the living situation, and considering that you didn't find out about staying till the end of April until the last minute? I think you made the right choice.

    I mean, if you can even see it as a choice, right?

  7. Ha, I didn't even look at the date on this entry till just now. Hope it turned out well.