I moved to New York City after graduating from college four years ago to pursue my dream of being an actor. During the day, I go to as many auditions as I can and at night I bartend to pay the bills. To be honest, I enjoy bartending, even if it isn’t my dream. I like meeting people and experimenting with new drink concoctions. I don’t know anyone who can afford their own apartment in New York. I certainly can’t. I’ve had a bunch of roommates over the past four years, but I needed a new roommate to move into my two-bedroom apartment with me this February when my lease was up. So, when an acquaintance from back home commented on my Facebook status about the room in my apartment opening up, I was thrilled.
She moved in the following week. I couldn’t believe how perfect the timing was. When she came to check out the apartment before she moved in, she mentioned she worked a 9-5 job and rowed on an intramural crew team early in the morning before work. I thought it would be the perfect arrangement -- our schedules were so opposite that it would feel like having the place to myself, for once. It sounded like we’d only bump into each other on weekends or the occasional fight over the bathroom on a morning when I had an early audition.
And that’s how it was at first. I saw her on Saturday mornings, sitting on our couch in the living room, while I ran out the door to my brunch shift. I’d give her a wave and she’d lock eyes with me and give me a smile after half a second of a puzzled stare. I am always so tired that I spend the whole day on Sunday in my room with the door closed, watching Netflix and chatting with my mom over the phone. Sometimes I’d see her darting into the bathroom when I’d walk out to get my Seamless delivery at the door. Occasionally, I’d catch her coming home from work during the week, heaving her keys down on the table in the foyer with a heavy sigh. I’d give her a pat on the shoulder of commiseration as I passed her on my way to work or an evening rehearsal. I always seemed to startle her whenever I ran into her, almost like she jumped out of my way, her eyes wide and shining.
As the months grew warmer, however, I noticed I was seeing her less and less frequently. I would go entire weeks without seeing her, but there were traces of her everywhere. A lonely hair-tie on the rug in the living room, her laptop strewn on her bed visible to me through the cracked-open door, and, to my frustration, I’d often find a couple of dirty dishes in the sink. There were sounds of her, too. One early morning, drenched in a cold sweat, I could hear a toilet flushing through my fitful sleep. After about a month of not physically seeing her in our small apartment I started to wonder if she had started dating someone and was practically living elsewhere -- this might explain how she could be so bold as to leave dirty dishes in the sink for weeks at a time, and clothing dropped carelessly in the hallway.
Eventually, even this reasoning did not seem compelling enough to explain just how long we had gone without laying eyes on one another. Months had gone by without seeing her. Peculiarly, the longer I went without seeing her, the more intensely traces and sounds of her increased so that I felt the reminder of her physical absence was surrounding me. One muggy August night I had had enough of a sink drowning in dirty dishes and belongings strewn around the common spaces. I walked into the hallway and I shouted, “Sarah! Enough is enough! I know you’re here! Just because you haven’t seen me in a while doesn’t mean I don’t live here too!” I banged on her closed bedroom door. I knew she was in there. My outburst was met with silence and, resigned, I started walking back into my bedroom when I heard the defiant click of a lock. When I turned around to look at her, she was frozen in her tracks, and white as a sheet. She looked terrified, like she had just seen a ghost.
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