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|Gather 'round, young GFDers. Today, your old Uncle Chisa relates a tale from the days of lore, from before there was even a GFD to complain about it on... a tale some of you may have heard before at parties when Chisa has had a few too many bottles of gin, and the rest have only heard about in whispered rumors... a tale of sheer woe and misfortune, ending in ruin, madness, and quite an inventive use of racial epithets.|
It is the story -- nay, the Legend -- of King James, the worst roommate in all of Delaware.
It begins with a crackhouse.
|113 Madison Drive, to be exact. There lived Adam McGlynn, the most famous of all the drug dealers ever to grace the slums of Newark Delaware. I knew Adam from way back, before he ever got into selling, so I was a semi-regular fixture at the place. Most of the time I just brought some records and spun a mix of IDM, hip-hop and retro 80s hits on the turntables in the basement.|
But, in the fading summer of 2000, I had not been to Adam's in quite a while. In fact, I had just returned from my short stint in North Carolina, and was bordering on homeless. Even stranger was that I had been offered a position as a junior engineer for an IT startup in Wilmington, so I needed a place to stay rather soon.
I crashed on Adam's couch the night before my first day, where I met a guy named Jason. He had a place up in Elsmere, right on the border of Wilmington. It was within walking distance of my new job, and was owned directly by Jason. Furthermore, as his mortgage was quite low, I would only have to pay $200 a month, utilities included.
It seemed too good to be true. After my first day of work, I had Jason come pick me up. He informed me that there was another roommate there, his friend James, who lived in the room next to mine. Upon reaching the house, he let me out, then drove off, having another engagement to fulfill. I sacked out on the living room floor, where Jason had laid out a matress. I was out quite a while, not having gotten very much sleep at the crackhouse on the previous night.
I awoke to find a shaven-headed, bespeckled, slightly Mongloid-looking skinny white man sitting on the closest couch, watching me sleep.
This, of course, was James.
"Hello, brother," he said in a slow, slurred, oddly soothing voice. "You were asleep a long time."
"Yeah," I said. "I definitely needed it." I got up and proceeded to the kitchen, looking for something to eat.
James followed me. "Have you found Jesus?"
"Cheeses? No, it looks like there's only some bread and peanut butter in here."
"No, no -- JESUS, the Son of God."
Oh, great. Jason apparently forgot to inform me that James was a born-again Christian. Well, I do try to have an open mind about everyone's beliefs, so I took a deep breath and explained: "Er, well, yes, I found him a long time ago. However, we did not agree on certain points, so I looked elsewhere. I'm currently studying Buddhism."
James looked visibly disgusted. "That is the domain of Satan. They believe in demons."
Though I have dealt with a lot of ignorance in this life, I was yet stunned by this rather blunt accusation. "Erm, well, I don't see it that way. But thank you for your concern." I finished making my peanut-butter sandwich, and went upstairs to break in my new room.
For the next three days, James would try to save me in the glory of Christ every time we crossed paths in the house. With a slow burn of increasing annoyance, I politely informed him over and again that no, thank you, I would prefer not to be saved, and if that meant I was going to Hell, I was quite comfortable with that decision. On the third day, I had had enough God-talk. "James," I said, "enough. Don't try to save me. I don't care. If Heaven is where people like you go, I would rather spend eternity in Hell."
I feel at this juncture it is important to fill in a little backstory.
James and Jason had been best friends in school. They were both troublemakers, stealing everything from candybars to cars in a constant game of one-upmanship. At some point after high school, James became an acid freak. One night he took too far much, went totally over-the-edge batshit, and never came back. It was then that he claimed he saw Jesus, during a terrible psychodelic episode on more hits of LSD than he could count. Jason, having essentially lost the James he knew, still felt a sort of responsibility toward his old friend. So when homeless James needed a place to stay, Jason took him in.
James had very few material possessions. In his room were his clothes, of which there were maybe 4 or 5 total outfits, an array of religious tracts / bibles / concordances, a stack of religious cassettes, a small cassette deck, and a matress. He was, by and large, the quintessential eremite.
All of this would have been a perfectly honorable situation if James had simply kept to himself. But he didn't. He badgered me at every opportunity, and his array of offensive strategies were quite fascinating. Once, for example, I was woken at 3 AM by a torrential blast of hymnal music, which James was singing over the top of. I wrapped a blanket around my naked form and pounded on his door.
Me: James, what the fuck? I have to work in the morning, you thoughtless asshole.
James: I was just makin' a joyful noise to the Lord!
Me: If you don't cut that shit off in three seconds I'm going to make a less-than-joyful noise to the landlord.
It didn't stop; in fact, it got more and more belligerent. I eventually did take up my greivances with Jason. "Look, I know this guy is fucked up in the head and you want to look out for him, but this has got to cease."
Jason shrugged. "He doesn't really bother me, and he's got as much right to his music as you do to yours. You guys are gonna have to work out your differences yourselves. I don't want to get involved."
My anger peaked one night when I was sitting around with my friend Kathy, making collage art from a bunch of Sears catalogs. I had not put on any music, and we could hear James' little radio through the vent. This was fine, as there was some expected bleedover between the rooms, and we weren't really paying attention to it.
Then, for some reason, the radio got a little bit louder and a whole lot clearer. Immediately following that, we heard the bathroom door close and the shower come on. Kathy gave me a slightly puzzled look, and I shook my head in disbelief -- nay, denial, even though there was no doubt as to what had transpired. He wouldn't, would he? God fucking damn it. He would.
I opened my door and found both the bathroom door and James' door closed. The shower was indeed running. Gently, I pushed James' door open. There, as I expected, was the radio -- pointed directly into the vent with the clear intention of broadcasting into my room.
When James came out of the shower, I accosted him, wet and dripping. "Don't ever do that again."
"Oh, uh, well, I just thought you guys might enjoy--"
"We didn't. We were rather offended, in fact, especially since I've told you repeatedly that behaviour like this is unacceptable." James acquiesced long enough to get to his room -- he seemed rather upset about being seen half-naked and wet by another man. I decided I had had quite enough of this nonsense, and made plans to give James a taste of his own medicine.
James worked day-labor at a variety of restaurants. He generally made enough to cover rent, but not much else, and he was always dog-tired after a shift. A week after the shower incident, I waited patiently for him to come home, listening through the vent as he collapsed into bed and fell to sleep.
I waited exactly one hour, so he would be good and out of it. When I was satisfied he was well into REM sleep, I pointed my magnetic-shielded theater speakers into the vent, turned the amplifier up to 11, and started Aphex Twin's "Come To Daddy."
Then I kicked open his door and sung along at the top of my lungs, an inch from his face.
I don't know exactly what James told Jason after that incident, but I have it on good authority that from that day forward, James truly believed that I was Lucifer himself, sent to personally drag him to Hell. At any rate, Jason was finally tired of the bitching and moaning. "Look, you two, just leave each other alone. If this keeps up both of you are out."
Of course, that was all I wanted in the first place. Mission accomplished, I thought, clapping the dirt from my hands, and a job well done.
I couldn't have been more wronger. In the acid-stained eyes of King James, quixotically battling the forces of darkness, this just meant that the gloves were off.
James started going to a Baptist church in inner Wilmington. There, he made several friends in a congregation that was otherwise entirely of low-income Afro-Americans. James was recruiting backup, and his next volley at the Dark Lord would be quite fierce.
The first one to start coming over was Carol. Carol would be at our house quite early in the morning -- sometimes he slept there, in James' room (I shudder to think of the logistics of THAT setup). He would use up our phone all day, which kept me from being able to get on the internet. When he wasn't on the phone, he would hog the television by playing endless rounds of Contra -- "target practice for the soldiers of God," he would call it. Carol was even more vociferous and insistant than James, and never missed an opportunity to cast some fire and brimstone my way.
Then there was Raleigh, who was twice Carol's size and had a voice like a foghorn. Raleigh had aspirations of being a gospel rant preacher, and it was quite obvious when his Brother Cerillu-esque shouts came over the conversation.
I complained again to Jason, but the pleas fell on deaf ears. "Look," he said, "would you want me to ban your friends because James had a problem with them?"
"James has a problem with everyone. He thinks Kathy is going to Hell for being a lesbian. That's because he's COMPLETELY INSANE. I just have a problem with not being able to function in a house I pay rent in because there are missionaries constantly in my face."
"Hey, James pays rent too, you know. I have no allegiances in this stupid crap, and I've warned you both already -- if you can't find a way to work this out yourselves, I'll kick you BOTH out. You want that?"
The final breaking point came one night while I and a couple of friends were sitting in the living room, having quite an enjoyable weekend watching reruns of Mr Show. Without warning, in barge the Three Wise Men.
"Hell and damnation!" screamed Raleigh. "This show is SIN!"
"Okay, fine, whatever." I had no wish to ruin my evening with religious nonsense. "Just shut up and leave us alone, we want to watch our sin in peace."
They wouldn't let up. They stood in front of the television, made sweeping threats about how God was going to see us burn for eternity for not heeding their warnings. The situation rapidly devolved into a screaming match, with fundamentalists insisting we repent while secularists pleaded over and again for them to shut up and get out of the way.
Jason came home in the middle of it, and threw up his hands in disgust. "ALRIGHT, DAMN IT! EVERYONE WHO DOESN'T LIVE HERE, LEAVE NOW!"
Great. My friends were now being kicked out of my home simply for trying to watch TV while being bombarded by nutcases. James grinned maniacally from the stairwell as his own friends left, claiming persecution against their beliefs.
Okay, pal. This is war. You thought the gloves were off?
*grabs wrists with fingernails; peels skin off of own hands; clenches bloody, boney fists*
NOW the gloves are off.
A week later, when the ban on friends was lifted, Carol was back the first morning. I had invited some friends over later in the day -- a couple of girls named Lori and Marcia -- and we had planned on going out to get away from the madness.
Down the stairs bounds Carol, grinning like the cat who got the mouse, with James in tow behind him. Lori and Marcia were sitting on the couch with Jason. Carol launched into his shtick immediately, trying to demonize me in the eyes of my own friends, whom of course were next on the list of potential converts.
"Carol," I said as politely as humanly possible, "it's not that I don't want to be saved in the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ."
"That why won't you let me save you?"
"Because I can't be saved by a nigger."
If they made grenades out of silence, you would have thought one just exploded. Carol blinked fourteen times. Yes, I counted.
"What... did... you... just... say?"
"Satan sent you mud-people to lead us away from the path of rigtheousness," I explained congenially. "I'm sorry, but I just don't believe that niggers have souls, so how could I possibly be saved by one?"
Carol's face became a veritable sand-sculpture of emotions. On one hand, he had made a promise to Jesus to always turn the other cheek, and lashing out in rage would have certainly discredited him from then point on. On the other hand, the whitest man on the planet just called him a nigger to his face, and was standing well within striking distance.
Nobody said SHIT. I waited, smiling. I *wanted* him to hit me.
Carol was still shaking his head in sheer cognitive dissonance and muttering in tongues when the door closed behind him.
He never came back, and neither did any of James' other friends. Thoroughly defeated, James himself moved out two weeks later.
And he never came back, either. Amen.
Though this GFD does officially conclude there, there are two additional endings. I ran into both James and Carol, separately, about a year later.
I was waiting for a bus home from work one day when another rider walked up. He was wearing the hood of his sweatshirt up, hiding his face. After a few moments, I realized that it was Carol. "Hey, buddy!" I said, smiling widely. I had no reason to be anything other than friendly -- water under the bridge, and all that.
"Hey man," he said quietly. "How's it going." He didn't look at me. In fact, he seemed rather terrified. Though he admitted he was also waiting for the Route 6, he got on the very next bus -- the Route 19 -- just to get away from me.
A little while later, I found King James in a record store on Main Street in Newark. He had let his hair grow out, and had quite a healthy glow to his skin -- he looked like a surfer. Upon seeing me, he grinned widely and gave me a great big bear hug.
"Hey, buddy," I said, genuinely surprised by his lack of animosity -- especially considering the incident with Carol. "Uh, how're you doing?"
With a hearty laugh that carried all the way down the street, he confessed: "I'm still findin' it!"