Chapter 2: My Roommate
My roommate Darren is an analyst and weapons expert for a large financial firm downtown. He got into it through his father, who at a young age started him following the stocks and going to the shooting range. Now he spends half of his day crunching numbers and the other half at the range beneath their office building (he’s taken me there, it’s a cool cement-walled action film kind of space) teaching up-and-coming stock market bigwigs how to clean and fire their company-issued automatic handguns. When the economy went completely to shit and people started assaulting downtown finance guys in public, his firm, Ridley Sawyer, was one of the first to begin requiring their employees to be armed at all times, so he managed to get in on the ground floor and make some serious coin doing it. He’s apparently a big up-and-comer in the field; the Voice did an interview with him.
None of this explains why he’s chosen to continue living with me these three years. His physique, wardrobe, bank account, and outlook on the world aren’t exactly unreachable to a dude of the evening like myself, but they would take some lifestyle choices for me to obtain, and this gap is pretty obvious to any woman he or I bring home. His room is a nicely-furnished bachelor pad space with a small bar, two massive closets, a king size bed, and a window looking out over the G-Dub. My “room”, generously called, consists of a mass of empties and towers of books and magazines that climb the walls. There’s a single small window that looks out onto a ventilation shaft. There used to be a rat king two feet in diameter down there that somehow survived for a year and a half before it was crushed by a falling air conditioner.
Obviously, Darren takes some sort of sick pleasure out of living with someone less successful than he is. People like my roommate are living examples that there is a way out of this perpetual cycle of disgust and enslavement that breeds here. Seeds planted between the cracks in the sidewalk can grow into thriving verdant plants that can disassemble a Sig Sauer handgun in under a minute.
In the morning, he’s waiting for me in his boxers and a wife-beater, furiously ripping through his typical pre-work breakfast of a grapefruit and a bowl of corn flakes. Our morning schedules actually work out—he doesn’t go in until noon, and I drink for a living.
“Looks like you had a rough night last night,” he says upon giving me an up-and-down while chewing with his mouth open. “You working?”
“Something like that,” I mumble, and then shuffle into the kitchen to make the coffee. Darren hates coffee, says it makes your hands shake. When I come back out with my cup, he fills me in on all of the sports scores, which I nod and hum at as though they mean anything to me this early in the morning. It’s not an unwelcome routine—later in the week, we’ll be watching a Mets game together and I’ll yank something about Faranza out of my ass and provide good, manly conversation—but the best I can do right now is pretend to care.
When he’s done telling me how Faranza pitched a no-hitter against that new guy on the Phillies with no nose, he gives me a second appraisal, this one including an explicit sniff of the air. “Hector, it’s not my place to pass judgment on you.”
“But maybe you should pass up on one or two of these reviews. You look tired.”
“I need the work,” I say. “Gives me balance. Pays the rent.” This is another routine of ours. Hector, you work too hard. No I don’t.
“Hector, you work too hard.”
“No, I don’t.”
He snorts, and we’re done, and he takes his bowl to our closet-sized kitchen and runs the faucet over it. I contemplate just heading back to bed, but every breath shaves a couple of grains off of the glittering geode of cocaine in my sinus, so now I’m accidentally high again. After he leaves, I’ll jerk off for a bit, and maybe that’ll put me back to bed. I have two bars to review tonight, and a party brunch tomorrow morning, as well as a couple of rewrites I haven’t gotten around to. Maybe rewrites, then a nap, then bars.
“All I’m saying is that you might want to minimize your field time,” he calls out sympathetically. “There’s no point in exhausting yourself every night if you’re not at least having a little fun with it, is all.”
“This is fun,” I respond. “I’m having plenty of fun.”
He goes into his room and comes back out wearing slacks and a nice striped Oxford shirt. “But are you, really?”
“Sure. Just last night, I was doing coke with this hot chick downtown.”
“Shit, really?” he scoffs as he does his tie. “God dammit. See, I work to make money in the hopes of doing that.”
“Exactly. Don’t worry about my job.” My brains are too scrambled for this, so I pull the closer early. “Besides, it pays. I’ve never missed a month’s rent.”
He laughs, patting his pockets to make sure he’s fully strapped. “Fair, totally fair. All I know is, one should come away from their career, two clips, scope, okay, with a sense of fulfillment, like you’ve done something with your day.”
“Cool. I’ll let you know how that goes.”
He snaps his briefcase shut and stands up straight in front of me. “How am I looking?”
“Deadly. Like there’s a diplomat that needs killing.”
“Great. Think about taking a break, that’s all. I’ll be home late.” He tucks a handgun into the back of his slacks and runs out the door, leaving me to stare into my coffee and not think. Darren loves dropping bombs of wisdom on people in-transit—it obviously helps him concentrate to impart some snappy wisdom and then not wait for a reply.
Again, he’s not a bad guy. Can’t blame a dude for doing his thing.