After I crashed my car, taking down a highway streetlight into a muddy patch of weeds, I shacked up with Melissa to save up for a new vehicle. Sometimes I wish the accident had been worse. I imagine myself sick in the hospital bed surrounded with flowers and cards. Maybe it would’ve instilled some humility, as one friend put it, and I wouldn’t have turned down my aunt’s rickety old Ford. And maybe I would still like Regina Spektor.

Melissa responded to my Craigslist ad within minutes after I posted it, 25 y old female massage therapist seeks female roommate for two-bedroom apt. She was a struggling artiste. Sounds cliché but she was as struggling as they come with three jobs across Denver: a copy editor by day for a book publishing company, a waitress downtown at night, and an occasional weekend barista for a family-owned café in Cherry Creek. Occasional because the owners, a hippie couple from Tennessee, were open whenever they felt like it. Any free time left over was spent alone in her room, creating wild canvases that made me dizzy whenever I looked at them. She walked around the apartment with a glass of red wine, old jeans and a dirty sweatshirt.

Three months later, she brought home a childhood friend, David, who needed a place to stay. “Amy, he’s even more responsible than me,” Melissa said.

I scanned him up and down. He had long red hair pulled back into a ponytail down his back, wearing dirty tennis shoes. He never looked me in the eye once. After we shook hands and I told him I’d think about it, Melissa gave me the rundown on his story. He was a lovesick puppy who tracked his girlfriend all the way from Baltimore to Colorado after college. Soon after they moved in together, she asked for an open relationship and he went along with it to stay with her, or so he thought. Weeks later, she dumped him and moved back to Baltimore.

“He has nowhere to go,” Melissa said.

I wanted to say, he can take his ass back home. I signed up for one roommate, not two. Then I got to thinking. Splitting the rent three ways would help me buy a new car a lot sooner.

We didn’t put David on the lease because he didn’t have any credit and hadn’t told his parents what happened yet. Melissa said his dad had been real hard on him for chasing after a woman he barely knew. We turned the den into a makeshift bedroom and draped a brown curtain across the opening.

I rarely saw David but he left his mark around my apartment, eating my food, leaving empty cartons of milk in the fridge, forgetting to take his wet clothes out of the washing machine at night, and shedding strands of red hair all over the couch. I didn’t know what the purpose of the den was for, because he spent most of his time in Melissa’s bedroom.

I asked her if something was going on between her and David and she responded, “He’s just my little leprechaun.”

Not long after, Melissa quit the café and picked up the weekend shift at the restaurant. That was when David began falling asleep on the couch, after drinking a magnum of wine and getting high off acid, while listening to Regina Spektor on repeat through the DVD player.

I’d come home from the club to a dark, musty living room with the TV light glaring and Regina Spektor singing, “And it breaks my heart….”

This went on for weeks. I didn’t know how to approach Melissa about it. She constantly spoiled David, making excuses for him if he was late on the rent and accused me of making him feel unwelcome by nagging him about his cleaning habits.

“He’s a boy,” she once said, rolling her eyes when I yelled about the dirty dishes loud enough for David to hear me down the hall.

One Sunday evening, I came home and tried to pass quickly to my bedroom, ignoring David, whose legs were splayed on the couch arm rests while listening to that Spektor woman. A half-empty wine bottle sat next to the couch.

“That better not get on the carpet,” I said, rushing by.

“Amy, stop.”

I jumped back, lost my balance and fell. “God David, what?”

“Your hair. It’s moving. It’s like Medusa.”

“Good night David.” I got up and ran to my room, waiting for him to fall asleep. He began talking to himself, yelling obscenities and then hammering something against the wall. Should I call 911? No, that would attract attention and the neighbors would report us to the property manager, who’d kick me out for having snuck him in. The neighbors. Oh God, he’ll wake the neighbors. I wanted to go out there to stop him, but who knew how many hits he took or what he’d do to me.

I called Melissa, but her phone was off. I must’ve dialed her phone ten times, even though I knew she wouldn’t turn it on until after eleven when the restaurant closed. David was freaking me out. Now he was howling. The stupid fucker. It was eleven ten. I dialed Melissa again.


“Melissa, you need to get here right now. David is acting crazy.”

“Amy, calm down. I’m sure it’s not that bad.”

I gripped the phone tighter, wanting to throw something. “Just get here.” I hung up and sat in my bed hugging my knees to my chest. I waited for him to come down from the high. Waited for Melissa to get home. Waited to wake up from this crazy nightmare.

I didn’t leave my room when I heard Melissa come home. I was too angry and didn’t know what I’d say to her. By then David had settled down. Later I heard him vomit in the bathroom and then a lazy cry followed by a loud thump on the ground, and then it was quiet.

That night I dreamt that I came home and saw my property manager moving out my furniture with Melissa trying to block the door and David waiting outside in handcuffs. My heart was pounding as I ran upstairs.

My property manager pointed at me and shouted, “You know the rules! No illegal occupants!”

I woke up shivering in a sweat, trying to catch my breath. I got up to shower and poked my head into the living room. David wasn’t on the couch or in the den. When I came out of the bathroom, Melissa was wearing a blue skirt with buttons down the side and a white top with a scarf, making a lunch in the kitchen.

“Where is he?” I asked.


I looked past her down the other side of the hall and saw him sleeping on his back in her bed, wearing yesterday’s clothes.

“He leaves today. I don’t care where he goes.”

“It won’t happen again.”

“He’s an addict, Melissa.”

“He’s not an addict. He’s lonely.”

I breathed out a long sigh. I had no time to argue and needed to get to work.

I couldn’t concentrate most of the morning and one of my massage clients ended our session early, claiming I was manhandling him. My boss asked me to take the rest of the day off and I felt humiliated as I walked around the park to calm my nerves. I sat on a bench facing the Capital building, its gold dome shining bright in the sun. I shaded my eyes with my hand and watched a homeless man feeding pigeons under a tree. He smiled and waved. I waved back.

My phone rang and I stared at the number, unable to move. It was my property manager. I let it go to voicemail but then she called again. I answered, slowly brought the phone up to my ear and whispered in a low voice, “Hello.”



“This is Lillian. I’m calling about your illegal occupant.

“What do you mean?”

“The one living with you, going door-to-door asking for cigarettes and coffee.”


“Mmm-hmmm. I received fifteen different complaints. I’m going to give you a warning. He has until five o’clock to leave.”

I hung up the phone and ran to the bus stop to catch the number fifteen, pushing people out of my way. When the bus arrived, I sat in the back and hugged myself. I was screaming on the inside. Ashamed, embarrassed and angry, I wondered if this was how David felt everyday. Now I was being forced to kick him out, only this homeless man wouldn’t go smiling.