My freshman year of school, a stroke of unfortunate luck landed me with a roommate who was—for lack of a better word—an addict. The substance in question? Pure, unadulterated sex.
Though I’m usually not one to judge a book by its cover, the first time I met Emily*, her sturdy frame, bushy hair and nondescript garb didn’t exactly do much to scream “seductress.” In fact, as she unloaded her boxes of physics and calculus textbooks the first day of move-in, “sex-addict” was possibly the last label I would have ever branded her with.
Though Beth and I were paired together courtesy of our school’s blind housing system, a bit of Facebook research revealed us to actually have a few things in common—namely, that we were both from Mombasa, musicians and aspiring scientists—so I had high hopes that the match would be a good one. As she was my first ever roommate, I wanted to do my best to ensure that we had a smooth and perhaps even amicable relationship. And for the first few weeks of classes, we succeeded. That is, until she met Michael*.
That day, she came home late, smiling coyly as she glided into the room and collapsed on her bed. I didn’t have to ask what happened because at once, she turned to me eyes alight with satisfaction and said simply, “I met someone.” At the time, I thought this news was spectacular. And it was. I considered Emily* a friend and was happy to see her succeed in the shark pool that is the college dating world.
But to say their relationship progressed quickly is an understatement. That very next day, Emily* came home even later than she had the night before. And this time, she stumbled into the room giggling. I took this to be a positive sign and smiling, I prompted, “So I assume you talked to Michael* again today?”
“We didn’t do much talking,” she responded as she dissolved into a fit of laughter. I chuckled nervously, not really registering the connotation. Then, she dropped the bomb: “But the police did give us a citation for doing it in the park.”
I stared at Emily* in utter astonishment as she continued laughing. And I was still staring in shock when, a few minutes later, she spilled the contents of her large backpack bag onto her bed to reveal upwards of about 80 condoms. My draw dropped to the floor. “Are those…?” I gasped, pointing at the gleaming pile on her mattress.
“Yes!” She responded, excitement animating her plain features. “They had the flavored ones in the Student Center today! But there were barely any left when I got there…” She added, clearly disappointed. I balked, taking in the condom pedestal that was once her bed. Then, with an expert sweep of her arm, she pushed the mound into her nightstand drawer (where dwelt her burgeoning dildo collection) and clicked off the light.
It stunned me how she could take her situation so lightly. I admit I’m somewhat of a Chicken Little when it comes to anticipating worst possible scenarios, but I was imagining Emily’s impending expulsion, housing eviction, eventual career failure and angry children who grow up to become drug-lords or strippers—or even worse—drug-lord strippers… Needless to say, my mind was racing. But hers… wasn’t. She was fast asleep. And for the first time, I began to wonder what kind of person my roommate really was.
A couple days later, she came to me with a request. It was close to midnight as I was walking back to the dorm from my late volleyball practice when she called to ambiguously ask me if she could “have the room” for a few hours. The circumstances were beyond inconvenient (seeing as it was very late and I had heaps of work due the next morning), but I hesitantly agreed under the naïve guise that this was a “one-time” thing. I figured Emily and I had our differences, but I would still try to do her the courtesy of compromising to accommodate both of our room needs.
However, the next morning, as I was yawning through my chemistry test, I reflected back on the night before and how bold it was of Emily to make such a difficult request of me. I was bothered that she could be so inconsiderate, but additionally, I was shocked at how soon she had taken to “bedding” Michael. Coming from my relatively sheltered background (cue Catholic upbringing, close-knit family and a non-existent social life), I was amongst the few girls over 15 who still believed kissing was a big deal. But that discrepancy wasn’t enough to compel my bad judgment. The issue wasn’t that she was sexually active; it was how her sexual appetite eventually grew to take over and impede my life.
That first night of sexile was the first in a string of many over the course of the next few months. Emily took complete advantage of my compliancy and began ousting me multiple nights per week—always between the hours of 11 p.m. and a.m. Regardless of what tests or papers I had to complete, she never failed to message me for “room time.”
By late October, Michael had all but moved into our dorm. Because he wasn’t a student and only had a part-time job at the halal food cart on the corner, he was always around. He had clothes stashed under her bed, a toothbrush in the drawer and on the few occasions he wasn’t in the room itself, he was staked out in front of the floor elevator, watching for when I would leave. Almost every time I returned to my room, I would either be walking in on them in the act, having to step over condom wrappers to get to my desk, or I would be shooed away at the door by a naked Michael waving a slimy dildo in his outstretched hand.
At one low point, I walked in to find him sitting bare-bottomed on my desk chair. And at an even lower point—towards the end of the year—I found out from Emily’s closest friend that she and Michael had apparently regularly pushed our beds together when I went home for breaks so that they could have an “increased surface area” for their sexual escapades.
To say life was miserable would be an understatement. I felt like I wasn’t welcome in my own room. Michael’s sex addiction drove my life into the ground, and no amount of mediation or housing-transfer requests was able to stop it.
In retrospect, though this experience isn’t one I look upon fondly, I can say that it taught me a lot about not only myself, but also other people. Living with someone who led such a profoundly different lifestyle than my own was challenging, but at the same time, it forced me to really face the reality of the world we live in—that, contrary to what we all learn in Kindergarten, not everyone is going to get along. At the end of the day, you just have to know who you are and what you are comfortable living with. So, in closing, even though Emily’s sex addiction made my room feel like a part-time brothel, it was ultimately thanks to her that I discovered a deep passion and appreciation for single rooms.