– Originally published as “Mike (Mike Second Roommate)” on August 30, 2010 on “Big Pulp Magazine.”
There was a drop of red on the floor; a small dark spot on the otherwise flawless off-white carpet spread throughout our apartment, and I just knew it was blood.
I hovered on my haunches and stared down at the spot, took my finger and touched it to the stain and then to my tongue just like they do in the movies, but since I didn’t really know what blood tasted like, it didn’t help. Regardless, it was a stain and I was pissed.
Clenching my teeth, I looked toward the closed bedroom door of my new roommate, Mike.
“What about the deposit, you idiot,” I mumbled. “What about the deposit?”
But, instead of complaining like I had every right to do, I let it go with a sigh, stood and went to my room and shut the door. Mike and I had to get along. This wasn’t about to be another Sam situation.
Tell the truth, I was pretty thrilled when Mike answered my ad. I’d never met a movie star before, and he used to be a pretty big one. You’ve probably seen some of his comedies.
“I caught your last movie on satellite,” I told him during his interview. “It was pretty decent.” And he just nodded quietly the way he always does; that pale mask he never seems to remove revealing nothing.
I chalked it up to the eccentricities of celebrity. I’ve seen those television shows about famous people in rehab, publicly working out all their bizzaro problems. I figured Mike was much the same. So, he didn’t really talk or interact at all, consistently wore this outfit consisting of a creepy mask and overalls, came dragging in at all hours of the night and occasionally tracked droplets of blood into our home? I still sleep with a stuffed animal. We all got our ticks.
Take, for instance, Sam. He was nothing but ball of eccentricity, all long hair and pompous attitude, ranting and raving about how he was smarter than his philosophy professor and how he was taking Japanese so that he could better understand the intricacies of anime. He also watched a lot of art flicks, which I hated; foreign language coming-of-age stories and low budget black-and-white shit with lots of talk and little happening. Worst part was he always wanted me to hang out with him and never understood why I didn’t. I spent my free time shut in my room, playing video games or reading while he’d go out and do stuff – attend film screenings in this tiny room at the top of the student union or go out and eat Greek or Thai. I was invited, but I’d never go; never really wanted to, either. I liked to be alone. Nothing wrong with that right?
Wrong, I suppose, as it was a real sore point between the two of us, right up until I’d had enough of him.
But, I just knew things with Mike were going to be different; that the two of us were going to get along exceptionally well. First off, he never said anything, which meant I never had to listen to him ramble on and on endlessly about teachers being pretentious assholes or scream the word “fuck” eight times in a row at bleed-through-walls volume about how his computer doesn’t work right even though he was the idiot who didn’t know how the “insert” key functioned. Instead of ranting, Mike did a lot of quiet staring — hours spent in silence in one corner of our small apartment, staring out at nothing in particular. It was great.
But then, two weeks into what I considered to be a very symbiotic relationship, I found the blood on the floor. The next night, he brought home his first girl. She was a brunette, I think, though it was hard to tell with all that dried blood matting her hair and the arrow sticking out of her face.
Mike, of course, assumed I hadn’t seen him dragging the body into the house so late. But, I’m a frequent pee-er, so I was just closing the door to my room after my usual 3 A.M. piss when he happened to walk in, pulling this chick’s corpse behind him like a caveman in one of those cartoons. Through my cracked bedroom door I watched as he hauled her to his room and shut the door, and through the paper thin walls of our apartment I could hear him shoving her body in his closet and, afterwards, the groaning of his bed as it bore his heavy weight.
The next morning Mike was gone, so I sneaked into his room and opened the closet, just to see. Her one remaining eye was wide open, which was kind of creepy, and she stared out just beyond my head at the wall behind me kind of like Mike does from his corner of the living room. I wondered who she was and what classes she had been taking or why Mike decided to bring her here instead of dumping her body in a lake or something, like in the mafia flicks. In the end, I guess I figured maybe Mike was too busy making movies to be watching them all the time, unlike my last roommate. All he did was goof off.
Sam didn’t even have a job; his parents paid his portion of the rent and half our utilities and gave him extra spending money to waste on his artsy movies and foreign lunches. I shoveled popcorn into tubs and then tubs into the hands of fatty moviegoers and obnoxious teens at the local theater every weekend in order to pay my portion of the rent. Sometimes I’d see Sam there with some of his pretentious asshole buddies, if we had some subtitled German indie flick on one of the small screens. He’d come to the counter and ask “What’s up?” and then buy a pack of Twizzlers or something and I’d just look at him and not even say anything. And he still had the balls to ask why I never hung out on the weekends.
But Mike was cool. He never did any shit like that. I mean, I don’t know what the hell he did on the weekends because I was never there, and he never brought any of the girls he murdered to the movies or anything; but he also never gave me guff about working to pay the bills. Thank God.
But, you know, despite the fact that Mike was famous and didn’t irritate the shit out of me like Sam, I began to have a real problem with his messy hobby. There’s only so much eccentricity a guy can take, after all. Over the next few days, Mike began to drag more and more bodies into his room, all young girls – brunettes, blonds and redheads alike; he didn’t seem to have a preference — all hacked to pieces or brutally slain with some manner of home care or sporting equipment. And little droplets of blood began spotting all over the damn carpet and although I scrubbed on my hands and knees with cold water and everything I just couldn’t get them up and it pissed me off because I knew we weren’t ever going to get that $500 deposit back. It wasn’t long before the neighbors started complaining about the smell and, frankly, they had every right to do so because our apartment was fairly ripe.
Although I never saw them for myself, the bodies must have really begun piling up in Mike’s room because soon he was cramming them in the hallway closet too, though he still never said anything about it. Despite the fact that I could no longer sit comfortably in the living room without having to neutralize a sizable army of buzzing flies or that once the closet door hadn’t closed completely because clearly, clearly there was a person’s hand caught in it and as I walked by I said as loudly and clearly as possible “Geez, I wonder what this is coming out of the hallway closet. It looks like fingers. Oh well,” Mike still didn’t say word one about it. I was beginning to think that maybe Sam hadn’t been so bad after all. I mean, sure he was overbearing and annoying and had awful taste in movies, but at least I didn’t have to deal with all this — with terrible stench, calls from the super and blood all over the carpet.
I decided to confront Mike, tell him I didn’t care how famous he was or how funny his last movie might have been, there’s only so many bodies a guy can tolerate having in his closet before he just has to put up the octagonal sign, you know. So, late one night, as Mike desperately struggled to stuff some body parts in the small hallway closet already filled with too many, I just stepped from my room and said, “Okay, I’ve had e-freaking-nough of this.”
Although the pale mask he always wore gave him an everlasting visage of impassivity, I imagine I must have surprised Mike because he dropped all the girl’s pieces to the floor. It was then I had an epiphany. Mike just looked so pathetic standing there, overalls covered in blood as he scrambled to pick up the body parts, and you know, I couldn’t help but think that maybe I was the roommate with the problem, not Mike or Sam. Maybe if I had tried a little harder last time, Sam and I would still be on speaking terms. I mean, would it have killed me to sit through one movie?
And maybe Mike was just crying out for help. I mean, he was obviously slumming it somewhat by hanging out with a guy like me instead all those Hollywood types. Maybe he just needed someone to understand that he had a thing, or a problem, or whatever, and just wanted somebody to understand him; someone who wasn’t a tinsel town phony who wore a different kind of mask. He could have just been reaching out to someone real — to me — and instead of reaching back I just shut myself in my room like I always did, closing myself off from someone who needed a friend. I’ve always worried that maybe I’m not the person I should be; that maybe if I was a little more outgoing and not so aloof all the time that I’d be happier overall and not worry so much about the little things.
So, I sucked it up; decided it was time for a change.
“Here,” I said, “Let me give you a hand with that.” And I took my place next to my second roommate, Mike, who nodded at me appreciatively as I helped him push that girl’s body into the closet, her warm blood running down my arm before falling, drop by drop, to the off-white carpet below.