My first three or four years out of high school were less than glorious. I attempted to go to college, but I had no goals in mind and didn’t see the point. Amazingly, I didn’t do so well. Academics would have been fun if it lacked two boring things – study and writing. Both were an anathema to me at that time. It would be another few years before education would have a role in my life. I bounced around in the job market, but as I got bored with one thing, I’d start looking for another.
I had moved into an apartment with a friend who went psycho on me. We’ll call him ‘Jay’. I worked with him and he approached me with an invitation to go in together on an apartment. I was already looking at moving out on my own and splitting the expenses seemed like a great idea. Jay was a little different, but it wasn’t like I was marrying him, so I agreed.
After finding a nice place in Marietta, I packed my belongings into my Ford Escort and headed into a new adventure. The Apartments were called Wind Cliff Luxury Apartments. In Georgia, Luxury has a slightly different meaning than it does in Upstate New York. They were nice apartments, but I wouldn’t exactly call it living in luxury. But they at least had a high enough standard to not allow us to put sheets up as curtains. That’s one point to their credit.
Within a few weeks I discovered something less than desirable about Jay. He had an alcohol problem. When Jay got drunk, he was just a wee bit annoying. I had two jobs at the time and sleep was precious to me when I got it. One night Jay came in at 3am and turned his stereo on full blast. After I vibrated out of bed, I went into the room and turned the volume down to a reasonable level. Just as I got back in bed, he cranked it back up. We went back and forth a few times until I finally pulled the plug and said a few less than kind words. The stereo came back on, but at a volume we could both live with.
I finally conditioned Jay to play the stereo at a volume where words were actually distinguishable; however, when I was not home, he gladly shared his music with the neighbors. This was very unfortunate. We had befriended a couple above our apartment and they often cooked meals for us. For a single guy, having someone cook for you wasn’t a privilege to be taken lightly. They started complaining to me every time I came home and I promised to talk to Jay. But it never did any good and I couldn’t keep him in check if I wasn’t there. As that relationship soured, the food supply cut off. Maybe this roommate thing isn’t what it was cracked up to be.
Jay’s favorite meal to cook was mystery dinner theater. The mystery was trying to figure out what he had made. The theatrical was Jay’s belief that he was the iron chef. Too bad that show hadn’t been invented yet, for he would surely have been on it. That is providing having something edible wasn’t required. Dinner…well, I just threw that word in because it fit the idea, but it didn’t fit the definition of meal in a literal sense.
“Eddie, I can make the best meal with nothing but a little of everything and a crock pot.” He proceeded to throw in what was once vegetables, bologna, last week’s beef, and anything else he could find in the fridge. He plugged in the crockpot and topped it off with water. “Now when I get home from work, dinner is ready to be served.”
After walking in that evening, the smell hit me. I decided to visit Ronald McDonald for the evening. Jay ate happily. And he ate strangely. Jay always filled his mouth until his cheeks bulged. He looked like a shaggy-haired chipmunk with glasses. But what they heck, he was enjoying his chef’s surprise. Since he was the only one eating from the pot, it lasted for a long time. Four days later, he was still bragging about his meal as he served up a new helping. But something had changed.
“Jay, is that supposed to be black?” I asked.
“Oh, it’s okay. It always does this after a few days,” he said. “I just keep it in the crockpot so it stays hot. It still tastes just as good as it did the day I made it.”
Of that I was confident. Well, maybe not. Since it had been cooking now for over four days, I had a hard time believing it wasn’t getting a burnt taste. But if Jay is happy, I’m happy for him.
Our relationship ended on a rather sour note. One evening I came home and flicked on the light switch. Nothing happened. I could turn on my bedroom light, so I knew the power wasn’t out. I grabbed a flashlight and returned to the living room. It looked like a rabid gorilla had been caged there. The lamp didn’t come on because it was in millions of pieces. Also in pieces was Jay’s vinyl album collection. What fragments were left now protruded from the living room walls. The stereo was smashed. Well, at least one good thing came out of this. Worse of all, Jay’s prized beer stein collection was shattered all over the floor.
Three things Jay always bragged about was his albums, his beer steins, and his five foot speakers he bought in Germany. The speakers were not even in the room. Jay never figured out what happened to them. As I stood there trying to take in the damage I was viewing, the door came open and in staggered Jay. I looked at Jay expecting him to share my horror, but he acted as if nothing was unusual. “Look at that!” I said.
“Oh. I didn’t mean to leave that in the floor,” Jay said. He tromped to his pile of broken steins and scooped up a load of glass with his bare hands. In astonishment I watched him cut his hands, but not feel anything. He tossed a pile of glass in the trash and returned.
Whatever he’s on, I know I probably don’t need to be around him right now, I thought. I left the apartment and went to sit by the pool for a few minutes. A short time later he wandered by and said something incoherent. “I know you,” he said. “I’ve seen you before and I know you.”
It dawned on me that it might be time to leave. So I did. The next day when he had a clear head, I returned and told him this was the parting of the ways. He agreed and signed to take over the lease.
This was also confirmation of another thing. For the previous few months I had been seriously contemplating joining the Army. I wanted to force myself into a position where I had to stick something out. I had no direction, but I figured this would at least force me to stay the course for the next three years. I talked to my high school friend, Ron, and to my surprise, he jumped at the opportunity.
We had the nicest recruiter. He promised that we’d love basic training, have great jobs, and it would be the opportunity of a lifetime. Even as we signed the dotted line, somewhere a drill sergeant’s wife was baking us cookies and pouring the milk. Fort Jackson, put a mint on the pillow. Here we come!
Eddie Snipes 2012