Kaj Tanaka

Your Craigslist Roommate

On his white leather couch, your Craigslist roommate: watching K-pop videos on YouTube, telling you about his wife who lives in Texas.

Your Craigslist roommate moves his things secretly. You go to the store for cigarettes and return to find a desk in the living room, a computer, a chair, and your Craigslist roommate playing StarCraft, yelling into his headset.

The cockroaches you find in the bathroom remind you, somehow, of your Craigslist roommate. But you feel guilty thinking that because he really isn’t such a bad guy.

In order to kill the roaches, you bomb your apartment with chemicals. A sweet smell lingers, an invisible film on the drywall.

Your Craigslist roommate saw the landlord yesterday, and he tells you the landlord is very young, like a baby. Why did he meet with the landlord? Why is the landlord a baby? Both questions seem relevant, but you ask neither.

You become alert to sounds in the night: a sea of tiny legs moving in the walls; your roommate banging around in the darkness with his late night pizza; this miserable baby crawling across your bedroom floor.

The cool autumn weather sets in. The smell of smoke sifts down from the mountains. You discover that your heating system is not very efficient. Your Craigslist roommate squats in front of your space heater in the bathroom for hours, eating his cheesy bread.

You find strange batches of canned chili warming on the stove, uncovered, dotted with feeding cockroaches.

The smell of death, of poison, of cockroach babies killed in their beds.

You go to the store for cigarettes, and return to find your Craigslist roommate’s wife has moved in while you were gone. The landlord wanted it to happen, your Craigslist roommate explains. The landlord believes in the sanctity of family.

Your Craigslist roommate’s wife is disabled. She spends her days at home mooning over her dog, who is small and fluffy and hates you. The dog barks whenever you open the door. Your Craigslist roommate takes this as an indication of your character.

From your bedroom, you hear the sounds of their late night revelries. They play video games, they watch old movies, they drink Crown Royal.

Fat, half-grown with a shell of glossy black hair like an exoskeleton, your landlord stops by to see how everyone is doing. He bangs on the heater. He informs you that the cockroaches will be difficult for him to eliminate.

You place the feet of your bed in plastic tupperware containers full of water.

You offer to take your Craigslist roommate and his wife shopping at Aldi because you were going anyway, and they do not have a car. Predictably, their purchases disgust you.

The wife’s disability prevents her from sleeping. She is in constant pain, she says. At night, she smokes weed and watches anime in the living room. In the darkness of you own room, you can hear her vocal reactions to the television.

They move like congealed shadows across the floor of the kitchen. You find them eating your food, secretly, in the bathroom. They are always warming themselves against your space heater. Their fecal matter decorates the toilet seat.

Someone comes to visit your Craigslist roommate and his wife from out of state. He has a beard and they all play video games together in the living room and eat Domino’s together and drink Crown Royal. The bearded fellow sleeps on the white leather couch. The tiny fluffy dog seems to love him. It is because of his good character, your Craigslist roommate explains to you.

The exterminator is this kindly old man. He sees how you live, and you can see it shocks him. You don’t mean to, but you tell him everything. No one is home and he listens to you. He lays glue traps around your house. He says it probably won’t help for more than a week, but he doesn’t charge you for his time.

You drink bad alcohol to reflect your misery. You drink malt liquor. You drink MD 20/20. You drink Crown Royal. You drink Christian Brothers. You drink Boone’s Farm. You listen to dark music on your headphones. Your behavior seems to unnerve the cockroaches, and they leave you alone for a while.

White early morning light after the first snowfall, picking through the living room to the front door in your boots and jacket, through the pizza boxes, trying not to awaken the vast multitudes asleep in front of the blue television screen.

The pink afternoon light creeps up your wall, radiating through the broken venetian blinds, setting your room ablaze with shadow. Some things no one can take away from you. No one.

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Kaj Tanaka’s fiction has recently appeared in Juked, PANK, Faultline and Knee-Jerk. His story “Dolly Parton” was one of Wigleaf’s top 50 (very) short fictions of 2014. Kaj is the nonfiction editor for BULL. Twitter him @othrrealppl.

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