BY JAMIE VALENTINO
I’ve been preparing to live with roommates in New York City since I was inside my mother’s womb in Colombia. Consider it a timeshare schedule mix-up between four fraternal twin brothers. If you think sharing a space with three people is hard, try being attached to a placenta.
We broke our lease early, to my mother’s horror, and I, as the only gay one, naturally demanded they take me out first. Briefly experiencing my moment of independence, every two minutes each one of them followed, one after the other. My quadruplet clan has always been kind of two minutes away, ever since.
“Taking the cheapest flight available to New York, I was ready to experience living on my own. Almost seven years later, I’m still wondering what that must be like.”
I love my brothers dearly. After graduating high school in Miami, I hugged each one and congratulated them goodbye. Taking the cheapest flight available to New York, I was ready to experience living on my own. Almost seven years later, I’m still wondering what that must be like. I’ve worked my way down from five roommates to two, then briefly back up to three because life never happens in order, and finally, for the love of Joan Rivers, one. But now I’m not sure if I’ll ever get rid of that addition.
Thankfully, with experience, I’ve learned to deal with the eccentric traits or unhygienic habits of strangers, like leaving too many dirty dishes in the sink or playing porn too loud. The past couple of years, I’ve been living with my best friend – let’s call her Cinderella to protect her privacy – and it’s made the situation more pleasant. We verbally agreed to be roommates until one of us “gets married or something.” Then COVID-19 started trending on Twitter, and we’re now spending what would previously have been an unimaginable amount of time with each other. I never predicted being pressured to question if verbal contracts are enforceable.
The affair started innocently enough, with virtual tours of mansions I couldn’t afford in South Beach. My lust fixated around the idea of living alone in the mansion, but I got anxious thinking about the work it would take to clean such a large home, so I switched to browsing online showings of luxury one-bedrooms in Hell’s Kitchen. Even studios got the job done.
But as rent prices drop, I’m now seriously exploring the idea of decoupling with my roommate – though it would require losing my attachment to Hell’s Kitchen as well.
“I noticed my roommate had failed to replace my laundry detergent … as she also does with the dish soap, toilet paper, paper towels, cleaning supplies, and freaking salt and pepper.”
Looking at real estate anywhere outside this island, it’s mind-boggling that society elsewhere does not consider a washer/dryer inside the home to be the absolute definition of luxury. The idea of not having to take a crowded elevator to the third floor with my laundry bag filled with used underwear felt especially enticing when I noticed my roommate had failed to replace my Seventh Generation laundry detergent … as she also does with the dish soap, toilet paper, paper towels, cleaning supplies, and freaking salt and pepper (of course, I’ll be buried with this secret because confrontations with your best friend should be saved for rare, big, wine-stained explosions and be carried out passive-aggressively for the build-up until then).
I feel inclined to clarify that it’s not about the money. It’s the act of fetching these goods when I need them that annoys me. Simply put: it’s a chore, and I’m lazy. More uncomplicated: she thinks a free housekeeper comes in during the day while she’s at work or shopping.
Having a roommate has taught me two things:
It’s possible to love someone unrelated to you as much, if not more, as family.
You can hate small, insignificant, idiosyncratic details about them as much, if not more, as those of your own family. So much so that you find yourself unconsciously steering conversations to these little occurrences. For instance, if someone says it’s a beautiful day, I might acknowledge that, yes, it would be a beautiful day if this morning my roommate hadn’t stepped on animal feces, trailing it all the way to the 33rd floor of our building and into our apartment, leaving a path for Hansel and Gretel to find my own room when she came in to ask if I knew the best way to clean dog shit. I yelled at her to knock. She argued that my bedroom doesn’t have a door. I cursed my building’s policy on flexes. From the stench, I suspect the culprit was a horse.
Regardless, some friends pause when I mention leaving Manhattan. “Well, at least you’ll have so much free time during the commute,” they say. “Imagine all of the books you can read.”
I prefer reading on the grass by the pier, or in Sheep Meadow, surrounded by muscle men tanning. Also, that’s when it occurred to me that I work from home. Technically, I don’t even need to be here, but here I am, seven years later. It’s hard to imagine life without access to a bodega one block away at 2am. It was difficult enough parting ways with Five Brothers Deli when I moved to W42nd St – 10th Ave, but the aptly named Hell’s Kitchen Deli welcomed me with open arms.
Like family, I thought.
“Like the drunk uncle who always craves a sandwich,” my roommate suggested.
“The toilet paper still ran out, but no one was there to discreetly rescue me with a replacement when I discovered too late.”
After we reached our boozy climax at the beginning of April, Cinderella booked a trip home for the month. I pictured the initial scene in Home Alone when Macaulay Culkin realizes his family is gone, and he’s free to prance around and eat ice-cream and pizza in poorly fitting boxers. The adult version of that is with designer briefs and alcohol; however, the caveat to all that spontaneous, uninhibited fun is that I already mostly do whatever I want. And, usually, it’s more enjoyable when my roommate is there in her bra, joining for a glass – or bottles – of wine.
After a few weeks of her absence, the toilet paper still ran out, but no one was there to discreetly rescue me with a replacement when I discovered too late. Of course, it would be nice to live alone. But I’m not ready to always remember my keys.
When I messaged Cinderella to say I missed her, she instantly responded: “Me too!”
Above all else, Jamie Valentino is a New Yorker in love with every idiosyncrasy the city has to offer. He moved apartments to W42nd St last year, and started writing for W42ST shortly after. His life has never made more sense. He interviews celebrities and influencers for POP Style TV, and his work has been published in Google Arts & Culture, Daily Motion, LUXE Magazine, The Queer Review, and more. @jamie_valentino
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