Previous installments: Part 1
, Part 2
, Part 3
, Part 4
, Part 5
At times, being Mat's roommate was an exercise in helpless frustration. At other times, it was a source of endless hilarity. As much as I hated the unceasing sexcapades going on across the room for me, I was constantly amazed at the lengths girls would go to in order to sleep with my roommate. They were willing to be put on display, offered up as sloppy seconds, forced to drive halfway across the country for a booty call, so on and so forth. Some even did his homework for him. I had always assumed that this sort of treatment was reserved for men who were already rich and famous. Now I was learning that some women are willing to demean themselves based solely on a man's Tremendous Upside Potential
. Mat was undeniably huge, and, as basketball scouts and experts love to say, you can't teach size. It was therefore widely assumed that he'd immediately become a great college player, after which he'd naturally transition into a long and productive NBA career.
Yeah. That didn't happen. But nobody could have known at the time.
Girls were in and out of Mat's bed so fast you'd think his genitals were the baton in some sort of secret (and bizarre) relay race. It got so out of hand at one point early in the semester that girls were cold calling him with offers of casual sex. I am not
kidding. One day I came home from class to discover the following message on our answering machine: "Hi, Mat. [giggle]. My name's [whatever]. I've never met you before, but I know you're really [giggle] big
, and I bet that means you have a big [deep breath] penis
[giggle]. And I was hoping you might want to [deep breath] put it in
me. If you're interested, please call me at [phone number]. Byeeee!"
In case you're wondering, the answers are: yes, he called her; yes, she came over; and yes, they had sex. (I'm sure it was three and a half minutes she will forever treasure.) That wasn't the only call of its kind. These weren't trolls or beastly goblin-women, either. These were hot girls. Some of them were actually intelligent and well-read. I know this only because sometimes they would chat me up after Mat had rolled over and gone to sleep. (I never discovered whether he was genuinely tired or that was his method of dismissal.) Not because they found me interesting or anything like that. They simply wanted to pump me for information about Mat.
I soon became, more or less by default, Mat's accomplice and sex secretary. I kept his secrets, covered his ass, and made sure his various "dates" (which were usually nothing more than hookups or booty calls) never overlapped. This was not something Mat and I agreed on, or something we ever even discussed openly. It just sort of evolved out of the unspoken Bro Code
that guys live by. I didn't enjoy it, but soon I was in so deep there was no way out...other than pulling down the house of cards that Mat had been so carelessly building around him. And it felt wrong to do that to him. What a laugh, right?
It wasn't always easy, either. I often became the focus of womanly wrath. And let me tell you, hell hath no fury like it. Unable to get to Mat, many of these girls -- who were usually jilted and ignored after the first date -- chose to vent their rage at me. In fact, some of them blamed me outright. "Why didn't you tell me he was such a selfish pig?!" one of them screamed at me over the phone. Another showed up at our door, shrieked "How could you let him do that to me?!" and demanded to go through his things. (To what purpose, I have no idea.) When I didn't let her in the room, she yelled through the door for a couple minutes before storming off. When I told Mat about these incidents, he'd just laugh.
So the f*ckbuddies and booty calls came and went. The only constant female presence in Mat's life was Shelly...until Jennifer came along.
Jennifer was a freshman who was planning to major in English. She was "only" slightly above average in appearance, which made her seem incredibly plain next to most of Mat's conquests. But she was the most persistent and patient of Mat's suitors. She also was the one who asked for the least. In most cases, girls became clingy and demanding almost immediately after they slept with Mat, which might be part of the reason why he ditched them so quickly. Jennifer, on the other hand, was eager and submissive. I'm not trying to be mean when I say this, but she reminded me of a dog that had been abused for so long that she was willing to endure anything for the teensiest scrap of human kindness.
And so she became Mat's first and only "regular." That's not to say that Mat stopped dating around and sleeping with other women, but Jennifer was the only girl who made return appearances. She was also the only girl, other than Shelly, whose phone calls Mat returned. Sometimes, he even called her on his own. Jennifer made the mistake of assuming this treatment meant Mat cared about her, maybe even loved her. I have to admit, I made the same mistake.
See, at the time, I couldn't believe that a guy would want to sleep around without commitment. To me, the only relationship model was: fall in love, have sex, get married, live happily ever after. And sometimes the "have sex" part came after the "get married" part. Yeah, I know. I was a schmuck.
As Mat's de facto sex secretary, dealing with Jennifer became a part-time job. She called frequently and, even more dangerously, showed up at random times. Unlike the other girls who tried to glom onto my roommate, she was never checking up on him or trying to catch him with someone else. Jennifer simply enjoyed being with Mat and wanted to shower him with love and affection. And gifts. She was always bringing him things. Food, CDs, jewelry, little knickknacks that reminded her of him. She truly loved Mat, or she believed she did anyway.
Things started to get very serious very fast. Within a few weeks of "dating" Mat, Jennifer dropped out of school to work at Taco Bell full time. Why? So she could provide economic support to Mat, who was unable to work due to his responsibilities to the men's basketball team. "He's under a lot of pressure," she explained to me. "And until he goes to the NBA, he's going to need a lot of emotional and financial help. That's where I come in." I still remember the sweet, stupid smile she had on her face when she said that. I honestly didn't know whether to pity her or try to slap her back to human reality. I opted for pity.
The situation started to wear on my conscience, though, because Jennifer was making some really bad life decisions for a guy who probably couldn't be counted on to do right by her in the long-run. Still, for some strange reason, I wanted to give Mat the benefit of the doubt. I wanted to believe he wasn't a complete douchebag. So one day when we were alone, I asked whether he wanted to date Jennifer long term.
"I dunno," he said, and it was pretty clear he didn't want to think about it.
I wouldn't relent, though. "Look, Mat," I said, "you realize Jennifer's in love with you, right?"
"And you also realize that she dropped out of school to support you, right?" I said, searching for any sign of humanity within him.
He said nothing.
"Mat, she's giving up her future
for you," I said. "If you don't want to be with her, why are you stringing her along?"
He paused for a second, and then he said something I will never, ever forget. "Because she swallows."
He was being completely serious too.
So the weeks passed. Jennifer would come by every night or every other night. She'd bring Taco Bell, service Mat physically (by massaging him or whatever) and sexually (self-explanatory), and then she'd stay overnight or Mat would usher her out, either because he wanted time "alone" (except for me, because I was always in the room) or he had another date lined up.
It was a pretty sweet setup for Mat, because, again, she never once asked for anything except a little of his spare time here or there. But eventually, for whatever reason, Mat got tired of her. One day, he let me know, "I'm done with Jennifer."
I had figured the day was coming. And even though I felt Jennifer was stupid for not seeing Mat for who he was, I also had a lot of empathy for her. "Just let her down easy okay?"
"F*** that!" he said. "I'm gonna just ignore her 'til she goes away."
I couldn't believe it. Well, I could, sort of, but I still said, "Don't do that to her, man. She deserves better than that. Just tell her."
"No way," he said. And that was the end of the conversation.
The next two weeks were an exercise in avoidance. Mat wouldn't take her calls, nor would he return them. He actually left the door closed and locked until he figured it was too late for her to come by. And she did come by. Mat simply used the peephole to make sure the door never got opened when she knocked. It was surprisingly cowardly for such a big, scary man.
Near the end of the second week, she stopped by one evening when I was in the room alone. By this point, she was frantic. "Please," she pleaded, eyes brimming with tears, "just tell me what's going on."
I figured at this point there was no point beating around the bush or trying to keep Mat's secrets. He wanted her out of his life. "Okay," I replied, "but do you want me to let you down easy, or do you want the whole truth? Because the truth is pretty ugly."
"I want the truth," she said.
"And you're completely sure abo..."
"Tell me!" she screamed.
Part of me still wishes I hadn't made that offer. I would rather have told her that Mat simply didn't want to date her anymore and left it at that. Maybe she would have accepted it. Maybe she wouldn't have. But it sucked -- I mean really
sucked -- being the one to have to break her heart so completely.
"Mat's avoiding you," I began. "He doesn't want to date you anymore, and he hopes that if he ignores you long enough you'll just go away. He doesn't love you and he never did. He's been dating and sleeping around the entire time he's been dating you. He kept you around because you were convenient and because you swallowed. But he's tired of you know, so whatever the two of you had, it's over."
"I was a virgin," she said quietly, almost to herself.
Jennifer hiccupped a couple times and took a deep breath to steady herself. I was expecting more tears, maybe even a mild to moderate freakout. But she looked oddly calm, almost serene. She thanked me for my honesty, walked slowly away, and then disappeared down the stairs. I assumed I would never see her again.
Two nights later, around 1 a.m., I was in bed suffering through my usual half-sleep while Mat sat in his giant chair watching MTV in the glow of his Heineken light. The door to our room was wide open. Suddenly, even in my semi-consciousness, I became aware of a silhouette in the doorway. It was Jennifer. She had a grocery bag in one hand. The other hand was at her side, shaking and balled into a fist.
I sat up without a word and walked past her out of the room. I sat on the floor across the hall and waited. Jennifer turned off the Heineken sign and turned on the room's main light. She then proceeded to rip Mat a new asshole for the next hour. She recited all the things she'd done for him, all the sacrifices, not the least of which had been her college career. She tallied up the money she'd given him (which I hadn't known about until then). She described the whole lot of nothing Mat had done for her, which was capped off by the spineless way he'd tried to break up with her. I have to tell you, she was venomous and she was mean. And even though Mat totally deserved it, I couldn't help but feel a little sorry for the guy.
To wrap things up, she opened the grocery bag and dumped its contents onto the floor. It was all the remained of the gifts she had bought him in advance. I remember only two things from the pile: a Care Bear doll and a 14K gold earring of his jersey number that she'd had custom made.
"Take it," she said. "Take it all. I don't want it."
With that, she turned off the light. Then she broke down and began to sob. She covered her face with her hands and then ran from the room. I never saw her again. As far as I know, Mat didn't either. I have no idea what happened to her.
I got up and walked to the doorway. Mat was dead silent. The room was pitch black, and I could barely make out his outline in the glow of the hallway lights. Like I said, he had deserved the verbal beat down. There's no question about that. But he was also a human being, and he'd gotten blistered pretty badly. I felt my first major surge of compassion for him...a feeling that I would experience only one other time while we lived together.
"Dude," I said with all the empathy I could muster, "are you okay?"
He was quiet for another second or two, and then he started to laugh. It started out as a low chuckle and then built into a huge, full-forced howl.
"OH MY GOD," he bellowed, "I REALLY F*CKED HER OVER DIDN'T I?" And his laughter continued.
I know I keep using the phrase "I couldn't believe it" with regards to my old roommate, but I really couldn't believe it. Mat had broken a young girl as utterly and completely as she could be broken by her first serious romance, and he thought it was funny. I don't know. Maybe he was just putting up a front. Maybe that was his way of dealing with whatever guilt he felt. Or maybe he was just a rat bastard. I'll never know for sure.
Anyway, I'm done flash-forwarding for now. As this story continues, just know that Jennifer was always around, if not always noticed, a running subplot in the drama of that first semester. A subplot that ended badly and (to me) revealed a rather jarring truth about Mat's personality.
Now, back to the day after Mat stole that giant chair from some nameless sorority. I spent the day dreading the night, at which time I was sure he'd ask to bunk our beds. But now that he had the chair, he was exceptionally content with the room the way it was. And while the bed bunking would come up again, for now everything was copacetic. So much so, in fact, that he purchased a disposable camera to take pictures of the room that he could mail to his parents in Holland.
He then took two pictures of me. "My parents wanna know what my roommate looks like," he explained. I still remember what I was working on: an essay about gender construction in the advertisements shown in Cosmo. As you look at these pictures, you'll note that 1) I hadn't yet emerged from my "painfully nerdy" stage, 2) I hadn't yet found a barber in my new town and thus my hair was out-of-control long, 3) I studied in my glasses (the contacts came out promptly at 8 p.m.) which were laughably huge, and 4) I was wearing the immortal Larry Bird shorts that Wild Yams
often gives me a hard time about. Not also the stark contrast between my side of the room and Mat's.
Dig my super-awesome entertainment center. Otherwise known as a desk chair.
And since I'm being completely self-indulgent, here's a picture of our floor's undefeated flag football team, the Smokers Club. You'll notice me in the back row on the far right, sans glasses and apparently after a haircut. Oh, and that guy giving the peace sign? That's none other than BadDave
. I find the peace sign somewhat ironic since BadDave was known for knocking people on their ass. (BadDave's motto was: "The body's part of the flag.") He was a helluva block, and he led our team in quarter back sacks. A total flag football rockstar. Which very nearly excuses his super-mullet.Next time:
A brief visit from the Future NBA All-Star.Part 7
Labels: college stories, Livin' Large