In my second year of university, I dated my roommate Mike.* He was tall and handsome, with a back covered in tattoos he’d designed himself. And we had a sweet set-up: My four-person student apartment and his five-person one were joined by a door, which was open, since the building management had forgotten to replace the broken lock. He was a bit of a pothead, but it didn’t matter: He was cute, we had fun, and we didn’t even have to leave home to go on dates. Then a friend I’d met in first year called. She’d transferred to another university and was driving up for a visit.
Because not offering your couch is Mean Girls territory, I told her she could stay at my house. I even arranged a get-together at the local pub when she arrived. But my only memory from the bar is of trying to focus through a drunken fog as my friend stood up, yanked down one side of her jeans and showed the new tattoo she had on her lower stomach to my new boyfriend. Highly inappropriate, I thought.
When we got home, we watched a movie in Mike’s room. I sat on the end of the bed, and he rubbed her back. That’s rude, I decided. Then I left to go to the bathroom. When I came back, the door was closed. They yelled through it that it would be more comfortable if she slept in there. Wasn’t she going to sleep on the couch, I yelled back. Silence. That’s when I realized we’d gone way beyond rude.
While I was upset about what was happening, I was even more upset about how it sounded: My boyfriend was cheating on me with my friend — in my own apartment. That story was humiliating. I had to take control of the plot. Only one problem: They were in their love den, and I was out here. They obviously didn’t feel the appropriate amount of shame and guilt over this, not to mention the awkwardness. And really, those were my only weapons.
While pacing the halls, I stumbled upon her shoes — Mike had a rule about no shoes in his room, as he was a bit of an OCD pothead. That was a start. I stole her tiny flats, grabbed a bottle of rye and took off to my friends’ house down the street. “She’s effing Mike!” I announced, throwing the shoes in the middle of the room and challenging everyone to come up with the best revenge.
Our plan: Leave her shoes there, forcing her to buy new ones! The next day: success! Someone reported seeing her shuffling down the street in Mike’s shoes, off to the mall. But she just came back, put her new shoes outside the door and went into his room again. So a friend upped the ante and put dog poop in them. New shoes appeared again. That night, I watched slack-jawed as a roommate I barely knew unzipped his pants, sauntered over to Mike’s side and urinated over both their shoes. The genius thing about this, I thought, was that she wouldn’t know anything was wrong right away. First she’d think her foot was cold. Then she’d realize it was wet. And then, with any luck, she’d sniff it.
At this point in the battle, my side felt pretty victorious. But then we noticed a smell. Our kitchen had been a bit rank for a few days, but we were ignoring it in the true spirit of student living. Then we realized it was coming from the couch. The boys lifted it up and, underneath, we found two glistening white chicken breasts. They smelled like decomposing flesh. We gagged. All this time, they had just been waiting for the chicken smell to act. They’d chicken-bombed us. I think we all knew at this point that it was time to stop.
The next day I wasn’t surprised to see that the lock between our apartments had been replaced. We were no longer roommates. And you know what? That was enough. Now, I told myself, instead of being the girl whose boyfriend was sleeping with her friend in their house, I was the girl who had been in an all-out battle for revenge with her ex. I had changed the story.
*Names have been changed to protect the not so innocent.