Artwork by Robyn Janine
I have a roommate named Marina.
I’ve met her mom, but I’ve never met her Dad so I can’t say for sure that she isn’t half squirrel.
She’s not very big so I imagine she must get tired carrying her huge heart around all day. It gets bruised so easily and yet she still insists on wearing it proudly on her sleeve.
Most of the food she eats is either fermented or pickled and she burns most of her calories from farting. And laughing.
Unsurprisingly, men fall in love with her fast and hard. She charms them without realizing it. She underestimates the power behind her clear green eyes and long eyelashes. Boys become stupid around her and they usually end up embarrassing themselves. I’ve seen it happen a handful of times in the few short months I’ve known her.
Once a guy wrote her a three page love note and left it attached to some hipster record on our porch. The letter opened with the line “Since meeting you, every song has become about you”.
Another guy left a bag of raw dumplings in our mail box in an attempt to be cute. It looked like he had spent hours writing her name perfectly in cursive on the package.
A man has never tried to pull off a grand romantic gesture like this for me but it’s pretty much the status quo for Marina. I can never help but roll my eyes and laugh at these attempts at courtship left in our mailbox. She of course becomes more doe eyed than usual and says “It’s sweet, don’t laugh!” even though she knows it’s ridiculous.
We first met very briefly years ago in Halifax, though neither of us really remember it. The only proof we have of this meeting is the fact that we were already Facebook friends.
Our second meeting was complete serendipity, when I got a job at the restaurant she was already working at. We didn’t know it as we stood next to each other behind the bar polishing glasses that we were both nursing broken hearts and needed someone to help pick up the pieces..
I broke the silence.
“This guy hasn’t texted me back. Do you think I should say anything?”
“Tell him your sorry about his gonorrhea” She said blandly without skipping a beat. She smirked.
Did you feel that? A spark.
“That’s actually not a terrible idea” I said as I weighed the pros and cons in my head
She laughed “Yes it is- it’s a REALLY terrible idea”
It was a quiet night at the restaurant. We were desperate for entertainment and I was desperate for a friend. I’d rather make her laugh than ever talk to this totally mediocre guy ever again. I had no interest in ever seeing him again, but I also really hate being ignored.
“What if I just wrote ‘Sorry about the news, I just heard’... he’d be crazy not to respond, right?” I said as I was typing it into iMessage. I had caught her attention. She came and watched over my shoulder.
We stared at the phone for a moment and waited. Right away that magic ellipsis appeared.
We both rolled our eyes.
“That’s the first message he’s responded to in days!”
“That’s because men always need to feel in control” She said, with the wisdom of a 300 year old witch.
There’s a quality about her that I couldn’t figure out at first. Initially I thought it was endless confidence. She’s ethereal and full of whimsy, two qualities I severely lack and am therefore immediately intimidated by and drawn to. It had been a while since I was worried if another female liked me. I felt like I was 12 again but instead of wanting the blonde cheerleader to like me because maybe-if-I-stood-next-to-her-people-wouldn’t-notice-my-body-hair-as-much, it was this spritely little woke feminist with hairy armpits who I wanted to like me because I couldn’t quite understand her.
“What are you going to say to him?”
“That I heard about his gonorrhea and that I’m sorry” I said as I typed.
She laughed it off. I could tell she didn’t believe me.
I handed her the phone.
“You actually did that!”
There was a beat. A moment of complete disbelief. She stared at me, eyes wide. I immediately spiralled.
Did I take it too far?Am I trying to hard? I will do pretty much anything for a laugh, did I just come off as desperate?
And then the laughter came. I was completely caught off guard by the hugeness of her laugh. It erupted from deep down inside her and was contagious. I started laughing too. Harder than I had laughed in months. Maybe years. Possibly ever. We both were wiping tears from our faces. My stomach ached.
We got off work early and neither of us were ready for the laughter to stop. We walked a few doors down to a quiet bar.
“How would you feel about a bottle of red and some french fries?” She said to me.
“Where have you been my whole life?” I said. Never have I meant that so much.
The wine and fries arrived. “So.” She said, “Tell me about your break up.”
I felt a pang inside but I shrugged it off. “Ah, there’s not much to tell really.”
“How long were you together?”
“Almost six years.” I said. I still felt bashful about that. That’s a long time for someone our age. People treat you differently when they find out you’re coming out of a relationship that long. Their voices tend to get higher. They start to back away like you're a ticking time bomb of emotion.
Not Marina. She dug right in. She made me talk. I trusted her immediately. I told her things I had never said out loud before. She opened a floodgate of honesty within me. She looked me in the eye, and nodded along with me, feeling my pain as I felt it. She really wanted me to talk. She wanted to hear me.
I knew it right away. This was not just a friend, this was a sister.
We polished off the wine. There was that moment that you have on a good first date where neither person wants it to end but aren’t sure how the other one is feeling.
“What do you want to do now, are you tired?” She asked.
I was tired in ways that sleep couldn’t cure.
“Uhhh, well. I could have one more if you wanted one more”
“Great!” She smiled broadly “I know this guy who owns a place down the street who always gives me free drinks, let’s go see if he’s there”
Some harmless flirting with strange men and three shots of top shelf Hennessy each we were officially drunk and off to our third bar of the night.
We saddled up.
“Two Johnny Walkers on the rocks” She ordered us.
This little nymph can drink like a friggin’ sailor.
“Ugh, why aren’t you looking for a roommate??” I said out loud but mostly to myself.
“I am!” she said.
“Yeah. I’ve been living with my mom since I came back to Toronto two years ago and it’s fine, but it’s a long commute to work. I’m subletting a place for the next few weeks around the corner, but after that I’m back with my mom if I don’t find a place.”
“Well… I’m staying with my friends in their spare room short term but was thinking of getting a studio apartment for September”
“Want to get a two bedroom with me?”
I laughed “We’re drunk. We shouldn’t make big life decisions right now”
“Why!” She said loudly. “I like you. Do you like me?”
“Yes, I do!”
“Right! We have connected! Let’s do it! We’ll write a contract. Do you have paper? A pen?”
I got out my bag.
She also got out her own notebook and pen and we drunkenly wrote out a very official document that stated if either parties woke up the next morning sober and filled with regret in making this agreement, the other party was legally allowed to shit in the other person’s bed. Then we took 20 selfies (including one with the bartender) to make it really official.
We’ve been roommates now for 8 short months. We’ve spent most of that time working at our various jobs but also working tirelessly on our own creative endeavors. Marina is an actor who is incredibly dedicated to her craft. She’s beautiful on camera and I have no doubt she’ll get her much deserved break. Talent aside, she just doesn’t give up and she’s anything but lazy.
We call our house the Cougar Crib and our wifi password is “sexybaby1991”. I’ve almost peed myself from laughing on multiple occasions and once she actually did. She lives for sneaking up on people and scaring them and we love playing pranks on various gentlemen callers who come around. She’s usually naked around the house except for when she wears her “naked blanket” which is just a gross brown blanket she wraps around herself while she’s naked as a courtesy to me and for protection while she's cooking bacon. It didn’t take long for us to figure out how to make each other laugh. We’ve also spent a lot of time holding each other up. We are self proclaimed “tough girls on the mend”. Life has given us a run for our money this year and it’s comforting to know at the end of the day you get to come home to a comrade in arms.
What I first mistook for endless confidence I’ve learned is actually a gorgeous and pure fragility. She doesn’t know how to suppress her feelings. When she’s riding high so is everyone else in the room and when she has a dark day, the sun doesn’t come out. She forces me to be honest with my own self and calls me on my bullshit when I try to put up my tough girl exterior.
It’s really impressive for someone who is fifty percent squirrel and always running late for something.