Waiting for Rabbits #1 – Bertha Mason and the Married Roommate

As I come to the end of my four years of college, I find myself in quite a reflective mood. Each day is a melancholy trip down memory lane as I prepare to move out of my college home of Dundalk. As I am a sentimentalist, I wish to have as many records of my time here. The best moments have been lamented in photographs and a #throwbackthursday Facebook post. But to maintain balance, and to ensure that my future self doesn’t look back on these ‘glory days’ as picture perfect memories, I now begin a blog series about the worst moments in college, which can be summarised in one word. Roommates.

First Year

At some point in my childhood, my mother stopped making my lunch for school. This was never a problem, I probably took over one day and she just let me. My parents always left me to be independent, much to my loner selfs delight. I classed myself as independent from early in my teenage years. I enjoyed learning new things such as how to make my own dinners, how to use the washing machine, what to do if the electricity trips, you know…basic survival in a house. So the prospect of living away from my parents was never daunting. What did catch me off guard was the suddenness in which it happened. Within a matter of days, I went from my cushy life in Dublin to being dropped off in the back of housing estate in Dundalk. My parents drove me up, we dropped off my stuff, I picked a room, we went for dinner, we bought the essentials -tea bags and tomato ketchup- and they left me in my new home.

The first night in 73 Rockfield was perhaps one of the darkest nights of my life thus far. Here’s the setup. The house was on the end of a row of houses. When you walk in the door there is the staircase in front of you. To your left is a door into the front room and kitchen. To your right is a locked door that I was told I could never open. Red flag No.1

The landlady was a woman by the name of Martina, she and my mother bonded over their shared birth names. Martina emerged from behind the house, not through the front door. Shortly after her mysterious warning that I could never open the door, she explained. The house had an extension, like a granny flat. In this extension is where Martina lived. She stated this as if it was normal, but I read Jane Eyre and a locked off section of a house with a woman living in it ends in bizarre happenings and a fire, both of which would happen later during my time here. Martina asked that all the month’s rent be sent to an account with the name “King..” something or other. Red Flag Numero dos. Now if you’re reading this with the anticipation that I will eventually explain who King something or other is, I’m sorry but I’ll disappoint you now instead of later by stating that I never met his majesty, the King and he remains a mystery to me to this day.

This brings us to the darkest night, literally. So turns out I had moved in earlier than Martina and the King expected, so they had yet to turn on the electricity in my ‘wing’ of the house. My room was cold, empty and bare. I assured myself that once I settle into bed with a cup of tea and a movie I’d feel more secure. Apparently, my privileged existence thus far had led me to momentarily forget about my lack of electricity. So I had no computer, no wifi, no way of charging my phone, no light to read a book. Although the only book I had with me was my yearbook and I was already feeling sad that I had to leave my friends behind so that would have added insult to injury. Regardless, my optimism persevered and I took to the kitchen. By the light of dark blue September sky, I found joy in the knowledge that the stove was gas – not electric, and it did in fact work. The tap, it had running water. I had tea bags, a cup and room temperature milk. My night didn’t seem so dark. Until I found the pot. The only pot in my humble abode was rusted and flaking. I didn’t realise this until after the water was boiled, you know with all the darkness and that. So tea bag in cup, I pour in the water and notice my cup becoming littered with pieces of the pot. Desperate, I took the cup of tea up to my room and drank it anyway.

So it’s about 10:30pm, I am sitting on the cold wooden floors, drinking a rust filled cup of tea, in darkness. I think about where I am, and how I got here. I don’t remember how long I sat there for, mainly because my phone had died. I don’t cry, I don’t laugh. I am just alone.

Now there are 2 kinds of people, if any, reading this right now. One is feeling sad for me, one is going “oh boo hoo your life is so sad”.  I hear your sympathy and sarcasm and I want you to know that I don’t write this to encourage either reaction. I write this to remind myself of when life seemed darkest now that I sit in a room with blistering sunshine. I write as at the time, I was at the top of my game. I had a great group of friends, I had finished my leaving cert, I had gone to Debs. It felt like I had peaked and my life would only get better. But I had just been knocked by to a -literal- dark age. This night, it thought me a number of lessons that I would only realise in the following years. But that’s for another post, for now, lets get on with the roommates.

I plan to write a number of blog posts about my many roommates, and while I doubt any of them will ever read this, I will give them a pseudonym. My experience with roommates is that they have been messy, smelly and generally unwanted in my life, for these reasons I will name each roommate after a type of cheese.

Brie

Now Brie was the first roommate and by far the most complex of them all. Two days after moving into the house, I was out with a friend of a friend who was showing me around Dundalk when the landlady called. She told me that one of the roommates had moved in so they would be there when I arrive home. Later that evening I arrived back to a dark house -there was electricity at this stage. I called out “Hello” like some idiot in a horror movie, but no answer. I quickly made my way up to my room when I notice the door at the end of the hall was closed. I call out “Hello” once again no answer. So I knock on the door and hear a crash, a mumble and the door swings open. A tall dark haired man stood in front of me with eyes squinted. I introduced myself and soon realised he wasn’t in any mood to talk to anyone. I left and went downstairs to make a cup of tea – minus the rust. Not long after the kettle boiled, Brie joined me. Apologising for being dismissive, we sat in the living room for a chat. It should be noted that at this stage I was starting to feel more comfortable in my new surroundings so having a roommate who wanted to chat over tea was yet another relief. Although one thing that baffled me was that Brie drank boiled water, as he put it “it helps with anxiety”. We talked for over an hour, I learned that he was in 3rd year of Computer science in the college. We got on well and I was happy to have company in the house, we even had a little bitch about how weird it was that the landlady lived behind the locked door. At one point Brie awkwardly said, “there are no bars for people like me up here”. I quickly picked up what he was putting down, he was referring to gay bars. I said, “that’ll be the same for me so”. We spoke in code like 2 gay spies sussing each other out at some sort of money drop.

Brie and I became friends fairly fast and I started to learn more about him. He was a loud personality with little regard for personal hygiene. We got on well and it was nice to have a roommate to talk to when I came home every day. After about a month of living together is when I started to notice something odd about Brie. He spoke about a woman lets call her Cheddar. The other roommates knew Brie was texting Cheddar and I overheard that Brie was clearly angry about this woman. But I didn’t ask for a while. My memory is hazy so I’ll just sum up what happened. I soon learned that Brie and Cheddar were married. They had a child together and Cheddar was pregnant with their second child. I discovered this after several weeks of living with him. I got a bit curious and asked, were they separated because he was gay. He said no, it was because he was a woman. You see Brie had told me he was gay, but that was just a stepping stone to his true reveal. I continue to use the male pronoun not to be dismissive, but because Bries story will change many times in this post so the male pronoun makes the most sense for reasons that will soon become apparent.

Lets fast forward a little, mid-October. Personally, I am struggling with living away from my family and friends, I am struggling to find friends in college that I am comfortable with, I am miserable. But yet staying at home, locked in my room isn’t an option because Brie now sees me a confidant. The only person he can talk to about his life. I wanted to be there for him and so I continued to listen to him. As of this point, Brie has asked me to address him with a female name, he has gone to a transgender support group, and his wife is still pregnant. Until one day when I hear Brie is obviously distressed on the phone. He has learned that his wife is in labour, yet she doesn’t want him anywhere near the birth. He is fuming, I try to help any way I can. He tells me he wants to go to the hospital. So off we go. Two of us march up to Louth Hospital and outside the entrance, he asks to use my phone, as she is no longer answering his call. I suspect it’s because she’s pushing a human out of her but hey I give him my phone anyway. The baby has been born and she doesn’t want him in the hospital. In fact, if he tries to see her, she will call the guards. Now any sane person would have tried to distance themselves from this situation at this point, but her I am. Instead of doing assignments, or hanging out with college peeps, I’m standing outside of a hospital calming down a man who identifies as a woman while his wife and new son (she had a boy) are meters away.

The following weeks were Brie telling me he was stalking Cheddars Facebook (they were no longer friends on it) and he had now seen a picture of his son. In this time it should also be noted that Brie finally admitted that he wasn’t a student in DkIT and lied so he could live in the house. I had my suspicions as he needed stuff printed one day but refused to go to the library as he “still didn’t get a student card”. So I’m starting to realise that this guy is a bit of a liar. I was kind of getting sick of listening to him and he would never take that hint that I didn’t want him in my room. My personal space invaded, I started distancing myself from him. Until one night he sat on my bed and wouldn’t leave because he was having his 3rd existential crisis.

We were talking about the operations and hormones that would be his next step to physically becoming a woman. He started to shrug it off as if it was nothing. After I pressed, Brie became a little panicked and described his attraction to men. I was calm because to be fair, I was under the impression that he was a gay man for weeks before he told me he was a woman. Now he was a straight woman. No biggie. But his panic continued when he told me that he wasn’t a woman (hence why I never dropped the pronoun) but in fact, Brie now realised he was a gay man. Jumping up he ran out of the house. Honestly, I did try to stop him but he just left.

Now, this latest twist in the tale wasn’t a major shock, but I had just spent the past 2 months calling Brie by his preferred female name, so I was starting to get a bit confused. You may be asking yourself, why would I believe anything this person tells me. His mind changed every other day. I was asking the same question, and I went back to the whole married with kids debocal. I was now second guessing everything he told me. Until a few days later when he called me into his room. Up on top of his wardrobe was a single photograph of a wedding day, his wedding day! There was a child in it, so I now knew the married with kids thing was real. I could feel myself becoming sympathetic towards him. Married to a woman while not even knowing who you are or what you want must have been difficult.

The story took a sharp twist in late November. I walked into the front room where all the roommates were chatting. Sidenote: all the roommates knew Brie had identified as a woman and they all address him by his female name, which was pretty cool. Now, I walked in and Brie was speaking in a deep manly voice. He was laughing and joking like he was a “lad”. No one else seemed to find this odd except me. I asked him in front of everyone why he was acting like this, he said “Ah I don’t know what I was thinking. That whole being a girl thing was weird man”.

I had spent night after night comforting him, reassuring him, adapting to him, and now he’s acting like those months were just nothing. I was getting incredibly frustrated with him.

The story ends with Brie meeting a girl on Tinder. They began dating in late November, by mid-December he’s head over heals for her. I’m sitting at my desk when he comes barging in (no knocking which was unusual) and said “c’mon say bye” Blindside I ask what he’s talking about. He tells me he’s moving in with the Tinder girl and he won’t see me again. We hug and he leaves. The end.

I think back on my time with Brie, he is certainly the most bizarre person I have ever lived with. He infuriated me with his complete disregard for me and my life, his little effort to reach out to his family,  his ignorance of his family in the months after his son’s birth. Now he left to live with a woman who I doubt knows anything about his past. Yet, I feel sorry for him. I suppose he probably had mental health issues that needed to be addressed. I wish I could meet him now, 3 years later. I wish him only the best.

Brie was the first roommate I had and I’m sorry but I hope I never have another one like him.

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