So Long, Farewell

The time is ticking down on my dear roommate’s departure into the wide world of living alone and adoption counseling. (In hindsight, rooming with someone who will be able to drive to my doorstep and hand deliver–no pun intended–a baby to me should I ever decide I’m on the market for “One Baby, Minus Pregnancy” was brilliant. Everyone should keep an adoption counselor friend in their back pocket for times like these.)

Up until the day we moved in, Cal and I knew each other by sight only. We’d had a single conversation about living together, which basically amounted to each of us looking the other over and saying, “Well, I need a roommate–you’ll do.”

June-August of 2011 was some kind of trip, mostly a weird one. Our house was a merry-go-round of inhabitants at the time, with girls and roaches vying for space in beds, couches, and living room floors, so Callie and I, as the new kids on the block, staked our claim in one of the empty rooms and hunkered down until some of the crazy wore off.

It is a very odd feeling to move with all your worldly possessions into a tiny room with someone you know by name only. It’s even weirder when you two crawl into her bed that night, panting a little in the 85 degree heat because y’all are college students and want to save money, sandwich the body pillow between you because you’re an incredibly selfish sleeper and will probably push her to the ground if not blocked by something, and then lie there trying not to breath too loudly because you don’t know each other like that yet.

We survived. By dint of turning the air conditioner on, tunneling through our stuff so we could stumble from the doorway to bed each night, sleeping very rigidly, and regularly spraying our bed with bug spray, presumably to kill ourselves before the bugs got to us.

If we hadn’t ever lived together, I think we would have maintained a polite, respectful distance from one another. Not that we would have hated each other, but we’re just so different that I don’t know how we would have found connecting points.

We’re almost exact opposites.

I live in a tangled thought-web of abstractions. Cal thinks in concrete bricks. I love to cook things from scratch–as in, I feel a little gypped if I couldn’t grow my own wheat and lay my own eggs. Callie’s favorite method of cooking is to open a box and insert a fork. (The other day she was sick, poor thing, and after she refused to let me kill a chicken for some homemade broth, I offered to make her a packet of soup. After I stood by the stove puzzling over it for about 5 minutes, she finally had mercy on me and showed me how to tear open the packet and add water. Genius.) She’s an optimist, I’m a cynic. I pop out of bed singing at 5:30 AM, she starts really thriving at about 5 PM. The weirder a way of living is, the more I’m drawn to it (herbalism, holistic medicine, traditional nutrition. . .you name it, I find it fascinating). Callie is sane.

I could go on and on. Not all of these are significant, but they do add up. And the equation says that Cal and I are very, very different people.

But somehow, it’s worked. Some of it has been our emphasis on the ‘intentional’ part of ‘intentional community,’ looking for ways to serve the other person, clarifying our goals for things like hospitality, trying to stay in contact and on the same page as often as possible. A lot of it has been the fact that Callie is naturally laid back and extremely forgiving.

“Wow, I trust you a lot,” she said two days ago, as I pried a chicken bone from her fingers and threw it in a Ziploc bag of sundry chicken parts, assuring her that “I’m putting them to good use.”

Not many roommate are ok with being so abruptly de-boned. Not a lot of roommates would choose to be enthusiastic about my insane schemes to cut our lawn with kitchen shears, or let me invite friends over at 11:45 at night (because why not?) or encourage me try out recipes that she’s pretty sure she’s going to hate. Not many roommates would be ok with me deriving a lot of enjoyment from their foibles like wanting to plug in a lawnmower or wear side ponytails. She’s called me out on some things, and allowed me to do the same to her.

We’ve had numerous misadventures, starting with an ill-advised nighttime exploration of our neighborhood (you know, the one where we regularly hear gunshots and sirens) and ending with the time we spontaneously invited a Muslim co-worker over the one day in our lives we happened to have a pork butt in the oven, with Ricky Martin dance parties, Downton Abbey marathons, Bananagrams, Boggle, and a load of half-finished projects and plans sprinkled in between.

This started out as a commentary on intentional community, but I think instead I needed to celebrate this unlikely but incredible friendship. Roommate 22 was gold. I’ll miss you, Cal.

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