I can smell the incense burning in her bedroom. The bedroom that used to be my office. Her boyfriend is in the bathroom brushing his teeth. Not her, the other her. There are two of them, here in my home, watching Bobby Brown sing Every Little Step on The Tyra Banks Show. Actually, as of April 20 it's our home. All three of us, one big happy family.
When I graduated college and moved out of my parents home into my very own apartment I loved it so much that I vowed I would never live with another soul again until I got married. I eventually bought a three bedroom house for me and me alone. I loved the privacy and autonomy of living alone. If there was a mess, it was my mess and I could clean it up or leave it there as I saw fit. Nudity in the living room was more than allowed, it was required. And my business was mine all mine. Even when the house felt too big for just me and I longed for company, it was always of the tall dark man variety, perfect for snuggling on the couch.
Then fate brought the Curly Haired Stick Figure into my life. Fast friends, we spent an exorbitant amount of time together, mostly at my house. Sleepovers were common and before long my couch doubled as her bedroom (the bed in the guest bedroom was broken...and no not from THAT. Get your minds out the gutter). When her lease was up and she moved in with a friend, all of her belongings that wouldn't fit in her new place were stored in my basement. Even with a change of address, she was a permanent fixture on my couch. And I can't complain. I enjoyed having her here. When she would leave for a few days at a time there was a definite void. I missed her presence, the jokes, laughter, food, and friendship.
One day it became more than obvious to both the Stick Figure and I, that for all intents and purposes we were roommates. While technically she still lived with her other friend, 90% of her belongings resided at my house and she slept here darn near every night. The only thing she didn't have was her own personal bedroom, since the guest room didn't have a viable bed. In order for her to feel at home, I knew she needed a place all her own. One where she could shut the door and relax. So to give her that peace, I fixed the guest bed, bought new sheets and turned the guest bedroom into Stick Figure's bedroom.
I liked to think of us as accidental roommates. It wasn't planned, it just happened, but it worked. Together we ravaged the living room, dining room and kitchen, and together we cleaned them up just to do it all over again. When one of us would get sick of the clutter, we cleaned up, making the other feel obligated to help out. I would tell people that the Curly Haired Stick Figure was the only person I could have as a roommate.
But then I spoke too soon. Our mutual friend the Curly Haired Munchkin, a recent college grad, needed a place to live when living with the parental units proved to not be the ideal situation. Technically, I was sitting on an extra bedroom. But I didn't look at it that way, since that bedroom was my office. But after careful consideration, I figured that giving up the room could be mutually beneficial to both of us. Munchkin could get out from under her parents' roof and I could get a bit of extra rent money. Sure, the walls in the "big" house seemed to close in, making the space a million times more cramped the moment I said yes, but I figured that was all in my head. The Munchkin agreed to move my office into the back den for me and also pay for installing all the phone and internet hookups I'd need to reestablish my work area.
I came home from vacation three weeks ago to find my office was no longer and her bedroom had been resurrected in its place. Walking past the dining room, my desk greeted me in the cubby hole that was once a dumping ground for errant furniture, junk mail, exercise equipment, and sundry other crap. I felt cramped, the couch placed too close to my desk, and the exercise balls I rarely use squeezed into a corner.
Today I came home to a clean house. The mail that usually littered the dining room table was now in a pile in my office. The shoes I left under the table were placed on the steps leading up to my bedroom. The message was loud and clear. "Put your shit away!" The kitchen was wiped clean and my beautiful quesadilla maker had a new home on top of the refrigerator, a Brita water filter having taken its place on the countertop. Then, I went to the bathroom. My beautiful duck decor was traded in for pink bath rugs and a matching shower curtain. I thought to myself, "Now wait just a damn minute. First ya'll clear off MY dining room table. Then you clean MY kitchen and move MY quesadilla maker. Now ya'll have the audacity to redecorate MY bathroom! Aww hell NO!!"
Then it hit me, when I agreed to let them move in, I made this our home. That bathroom is just as much theirs as it is mine, no matter who's name is on the property deed. Their Brita water filters have just as much right to counterspace as my quesadilla maker. Just because I bought the TV, doesn't mean I have the right to control what's on 24/7. And my shoes no longer have a home underneath our dining room table. I can't say that the changes have been easy for me to take. After almost three years of living with me, myself, and I, I'd gotten used to answering to no one else. There are definitely times when I get sick of the weary looks from the Stick Figure because I insist on spending hours in front of the computer, either blogging, bullshitting, or trying to write the next sentence in my great American novel. And I definitely can't stand when the Munchkin's morning routine wakes me up before my internal alarm. But despite all of my roommate reservations, I like having them here. The house feels full and warm. Yes, there are still days when I would love to enjoy all the perks of living alone. I haven't walked naked through this house in ages, nor have I brought anyone home because I have a house all to myself (but first I'd need someone to bring home, so that's a moot point). But it's an even trade to get to live with two fabulous women who complement me, always know where I left my keys or my glasses, eat the extra food in the basement, and help me keep the house semi neat. Well at least for the first two days of the week.