Previous installments: Part 1
, Part 2
, Part 3
, Part 4
The following week with Mat was more of the same: casual hookups, late-night conversations with Shelly, and a schedule that regularly kept him up until around 5 a.m. He also developed the troubling habit of leaving the door to our room open all night (unless he was having sex), which meant everybody who walked by got an unobstructed view of our living quarters. And that happened a lot, by the way, since we were located directly across the hall from the bathroom. We were only a few weeks into the semester and Mat's lifestyle was already starting to get to me. It seemed as if I never got a full night's sleep, and I hardly ever felt completely comfortable in my own room. The situation was made even worse by a new item that arrived for Mat in the mail.
Mat's favorite beer was Heineken. He raved about that flavorless dreck, claiming it was the best beer in the world. That, of course, is scientifically impossible, since we all know that Guinness is the world's best beer. But if beauty is in the eye of the beholder, then drinkability is entirely in the taste buds of the beer drinker, so Mat maintained his delusion about Heineken for the duration of our time together. And that was fine. However, the way he was now able to express that delusion was not.
Mat had ordered a neon Heineken sign. The evil thing immediately went up on the wall over our phone, and that's where it stayed until he moved out of the room. I quickly learned to hate that sign with every last molecule of my being. It was actually pretty cool, as far as neon signs go, and it was a pretty sweet decorative accent to a dorm room. BUT...it was also as bright as the noon sun, and Mat never turned it off. Never. It was like having a spotlight shining in the room 24 hours a day.
I couldn't escape that dreaded light. Even when I wrapped a pillow around my head, I could detect a faint glow through the cheap foam. This made it even more difficult to get any sleep. Mind you, I turned the light off any time Mat left the room, even if he was only going across the hall to pee, but he'd simply turn it back on when he returned.
I didn't know what to do. Mat was intimidating. I must once again stress that he was almost unbelievably enormous. How enormous exactly? Let me put it this way. Early in the semester, the athletic director asked the basketball players for measurements so a warm-up suit could be ordered or, if necessary, custom-made. When it came time for Mat to measure himself, he asked me to write down the results while he wrapped a measuring tape up, over and around his vast girth. The only measurement I still remember is the one for his thighs. They were 34 inches around. For some perspective, that was (and still is) my waist size.
And as if that wasn't disturbing enough, I couldn't help but notice a huge, jagged scar on one of those mammoth legs. It was truly grisly, and I was being entirely serious when I asked him, "How'd that happen? Did you get attacked by a shark or something?"
"No," he said. "I got in a knife fight. The other guys got worse, though"
Guys, as in plural? And they got worse?! Oh God.
He was also a black belt in Judo and claimed to have once been the Dutch National Judo Champion of his age group. (For whatever reason, I never asked what age that was.) He even had a picture on his desk that was taken after he had won some kind of martial arts tournament (or at least that's what he told
me it was a picture of.) So here was a gigantic man who was a black belt and got into (and presumably emerged victorious from) brutal knife fights. And I was going to tell him to turn off his damn beer sign?
Since I didn't know what to do, I went to my R.A., Brett, for advice. I hadn't really spoken to Brett after the first weekend. This was partly because he had written me a disciplinary report for something I hadn't done, and partly because my roommate had had sex with his hotty cousin, Shelly. But R.A.'s were supposed to deal with roommate conflicts, so I figured it was time to make Brett earn his free room and board.
Mind you, the Heineken sign wasn't The Problem. It was simply the latest problem. Mat's hours, the rampant sex in the room, the violations of my personal space, and my general lack of sleep because of it all...that combination of things was making me nervous and on edge. Worse, it was making me absolutely hate my life at college. And that's exactly what I told Brett.
Brett's "solution" was pretty much the last thing I wanted to hear. "You have to talk to him," Brett explained. "Sit down with him, explain your position, and ask him to make some changes. He's a great guy, the situation with my cousin notwithstanding. I bet he'll listen to you, and things will work themselves out. If they don't, let me know. But I really think they will."
It was like I'd told Brett there was a lion in my room, and he sent me back to tame the beast without a chair or whip. I figured I'd give it a try, though, but only because I didn't have any other choice. I just hoped the lion wouldn't bite off my head. Or anything else, for that matter.
I spent my evening shift at the dorm's food service rehearsing what I was going to say. In my mind, the speech was powerful and compelling, the kind of oration that no man could ignore. Unfortunately, it ended up being a complete waste of three hours worth of mental speechwriting. My mind went blank as soon as Mat walked in the door from his nightly wanderings. All I could do was improvise.
"Look, Mat," I started, "we need to talk."
He sat down on his bed and stared at me with quiet interest. At least he looked sort of receptive. I continued.
"This, uh, roommate relationship isn't working for me. Some of the things you do, like, you know, having sex in the room, staying up all night, leaving the door open all the time, keeping the Heineken light on, all those things are making me really uncomfortable. I'm not saying, you know, don't do them or whatever. It's just, like, could you not do them all the time? I mean, if you could just, you know, pull back a little, it would be really...help me out. So, uh, like, is that cool with you?"
He nodded slowly. "Yeah," he said. "Sure."
I know now I was being incredibly naive to believe it would be that easy, but relief washed over me in an awesome wave. "Wow. Thanks, Mat. I really appreciate it."
"No problem," he said. "Hey, while we talking, I was thinkin' we should bunk our beds."
One thing I haven't yet mentioned is that there was one seriously kickass benefit to rooming with Mat. Many student athletes, basketball and football players in particular, are simply too big for a standard dorm bed. For this reason, most dorms have special, extra-large beds for their special, extra-large residents. And since many residents bunk their beds to save room space, both beds had to be the same size. Therefore, my bed was eight feet long and wider than the standard dorm bed.
The downside, it seemed, was that Mat actually wanted to sleep either directly above or below me. I probably don't need to explain why the thought of that made me exceptionally uncomfortable.
My immediate reaction was, "Uh, why would you want to do that?"
"Well I was thinking," Mat replied, "it would be cool if we got some furniture. Like a couch or sumting."
Here was a dilemma. On the one hand, Mat had just seemingly agreed to some serious compromises in his lifestyle. On the other hand, I in no way wanted my bed coming into contact with his unless there was an explosion or natural disaster of some kind. However, in light of his apparent concessions, I didn't feel like I could say "no" without looking like a giant asshat. If only there was a way to say "no" but make it look like I was saying "yes"...
"Well," I began, mind racing, "I don't want to right now, but if we do get a couch or whatever, I'd probably do it."
That answer seemed to satisfy him. "Okay, cool," he said.
Whew. It seemed like a safe bet. I couldn't afford a couch, and Mat was always complaining that he had no money. It was like I'd perfected the art of fighting without fighting
! I felt so like Bruce Lee. You know, except for the whole "not knowing martial arts" and "not being Asian" things.
"By the way," he said, "you got mail today. I put it on your desk."
It turned out to be card from Aimee's roommate, Latrisse. I don't remember what the card said, exactly, but it was one of those noncommittal "thinking of you" cards, and it was filled with glitter and little pieces of confetti. It totally warmed my heart that somebody thought enough to send me something. It would have been even better if Aimee or maybe my mom had thought to do it, but beggars can't be choosers.
As I was looking over the card, Mat left the room and didn't come back for two days. It was weird. I actually got a little worried. At the time, I remember thinking, "Gosh, he gets drunk and uses drugs indiscriminately. He might be dead!" Shelly, who continued to call in Mat's absence, was sure he was fine. However, she let me know that I would have to be her substitute phone buddy until he got back. "You don't mind that, do you baby?" she cooed. Naturally, I couldn't say no to that. Then she said, "So, tell me what Mat does in his spare time? Is he seeing any other girls...?" Great. Now I was stuck lying for Mat, because there was no way I was going to face his wrath for telling Shelly the truth. I felt like such a sucker.
Anyway, this scenario would become a regular occurrence for the rest of my time with Mat: random, multi-day disappearances. Sometimes they happened during the week, sometimes they happened over the weekend. But they were never announced, and I never found out where he had been or what he had done. And I usually ended up covering for him with girls, teachers and coaches.
I did, however, find out at least one thing he'd done during this initial absence. It was around midnight. I was in bed, of course, and the room was mercifully dark and quiet. Suddenly, the door slammed open, and I saw Mat's huge silhouette framed in the light of the hallway. He had something with him. Something big.
He flipped on that damned Heineken sign and I saw what it was: a giant chair. I mean, this chair was so big it was practically a loveseat. Somehow, he had found a Mat-sized chair. I was stunned. Where the hell did he get that thing? Was "Big Chairs 'R Us" having a midnight liquidation sale or something?
Suddenly I noticed that Mat was sweaty and out of breath, two things I had never seen before. He forced the chair awkwardly through the door frame, scraping off paint and breaking off chunks of doorjamb in the process. Then he muscled the chair into the gap between our beds, after which he collapsed into it with a mighty sigh.
"What...where...?" I tried to ask.
"Oh, f*** me," he said with a laugh. "I just stole this chair from a sorority!"
"You did what
He let loose a rumbling belly laugh. "I was at a party at dis sorority, and I saw dis chair." He said. "I liked it. I mean, I really
liked it. So I just picked it up and walked out with it."
I can only assume my eyes were popping out of my skull. "And...and they just let
you leave with it?"
"Hell no, dey didn't let me!" he cracked. "A few girls came runnin' after me, yellin', 'Bring back our chair, bring back our chair!' But you tink sum girls are gonna stop me
? Ha! I just kept walkin', and eventually dey stopped chasin' me."
"I...I can't believe it."
Mat just laughed. He was obviously very proud of himself. Then he flipped on the TV and said, "We'll have to bunk our beds tomorrow."
Uh oh.Next time:
Pictures of our room!Part 6
Labels: college stories, Livin' Large