|Not my ex-roommate. |
Sorry, Debbie, no Mercedes this year. We have to set an example.
My ex-roommate's name was Negar, okay? N-E-G-A-R. Pronounced NAY-ger. And while I would never, ever criticize someone's non-American name or suggest I call her something different like "Nina" or "Associate whose name sounds like a racial slur," I often just called her, "Heeeeeey....buddy" because it made me a lot less uncomfortable.
Introducing her to people was a nightmare. I got a lot of, "I'm sorry, what?" when I attempted to just mumble it or cough mid-word. But, after a few tries, I developed a really good system for when this actually happened. I would just pretend to forget how to pronounce her name. I would say, "Everyone, this is Nay-GAR."
Of course, she would jump in quickly to correct me, but by then, my work was done, and I could just walk away in a manner that would make me look as not racist as possible.
The thing that makes this whole thing the worst, though, has nothing to do with her name. Because Negar was actually a pretty horrible roommate.
And she was a horrible person with a horrible personality.
At first, I was excited to live with a British person. People would think I was so cultural and European. I thought we would sit around and talk about the Queen whilst eating Cadbury chocolates and such and say things like, "Toodle pip!" when we left the apartment. But that was not to be.
Because, again, Negar was horrible. But it wasn't that type of horribleness that you can spot immediately.
Let me explain the difference.
Regular Horribleness 101:
Bethany: Hi, nice to meet you.
New Person: Oh. I'm sorry. Are you a person? I thought you were a piece of furniture with eyes and a stupid haircut.
Negar Horribleness 101:
Bethany: Hey, nice to meet you.
Negar: Nice to meet you too! We're going to be the best of friends.
Did you see the difference there? Negar seems not horrible at all, right? I'll go on.
Negar was really beautiful in that way that made you feel inferior to be around her. But that by itself does not make a person horrible. There are many beautiful people in the world who are beautiful on the outside and beautiful on the inside and you are delighted to know them and be their friends and bask in their beauty that glows like sunshine. But there are also people who are beautiful on the outside who let their insides fester like garbage left in the hot sun. Negar was the second kind. The worst kind.
Because she was so beautiful and British, within two days of arriving in the States, Negar had a boyfriend. And, yes, I was jealous because I was going through one of those post-breakup periods where you sit around and hate everyone who isn't unhappy. But I got the feeling that she really enjoyed my pain. Like if my pain were a pair of bloodshot, exhausted eyeballs, her enjoyment of it is like when you accidentally rub your bloodshot, exhausted eyeballs after cutting up some jalepenos. Here is an equation for the math people: Pain + More Pain = SUPER PAIN
"I know you feel bad right now," Negar said, closing the door after her boyfriend left after they'd spent the entire weekend watching romantic comedies on the couch and making out, while I sat awkwardly in my bedroom trying to read. "But don't worry. I'm going to set you up with someone!"
"Oh? Who?" I asked.
"Let's have a party! I'll invite all of the single blokes I know, and you can have your pick. You'll just have to bake something, and they will all fall in love with you."
"All right," I said. "But you don't even know my type."
She laughed. "I know exactly what you'll like."
Here is where things take a turn for Horrible Town, so strap in and keep your eyes peeled for horribleness.
The day of the party arrived.
"I'm just going to pop out and get some plates and cups. I'll be back," Negar said that morning, dashing out the door.
"Okay," I said, cheerfully. "I'll be baking! And then we just need to finish tidying up."
Seven hours later, I had finished cleaning the apartment, made a playlist, and baked all of the treats. Negar was nowhere to be found. About half an hour before the party was set to start, she showed up with some bags of chips and some Solo cups.
Negar made her boyfriend get up on a stool in the kitchen and string some lights over the window.
"There! Now, we're all set. Are you nervous? I invited SO MANY SINGLE GUYS!"
The guests arrived.
"So," Negar asked, pulling me into the bathroom to talk about boys privately. "Who do you like?"
"Chris is nice," I said. "He and I seemed to have a connection."
"I'm sorry. Chris has a girlfriend," Negar said.
"Oh, never mind then. Uh......Seth is nice," I said.
"He also has a girlfriend," she replied.
"Huh," I said. "So, who among the guys in the kitchen is actually single?"
"I guess just Dave," she said. "So......do you like him? Isn't he cute?"
"Is Dave the guy who brought the guacamole?"
"Yes! So cute, right?"
"Yeah, he's cute, uh...buddy, but he's 22."
"I'm 28. I'm a whole first-grader older than he is."
She brushed aside my concerns. "But he's so nice! I know you guys will hit it off."
"I had a 20 minute conversation with him earlier, and it was just him telling me his guacamole recipe. I think our moment for a connection has passed."
Negar pouted at this and then retreated to the kitchen and didn't speak to me about it again for the rest of the night.
The next morning, I woke up to find Negar and her boyfriend trying to sneak out of the apartment without waking me up.
"We're just going out for a bit," she said. "I'll be back later to help you clean up."
She didn't come back until the next day.
By this time, I was beginning to see the horribleness starting to show through the cracks. I mentioned doing all of the cleaning up after the party by myself and how I was a bit upset with her, and I noticed a dark shadow cross her face, like maybe Lord Voldemort was trying to push his way out of the back of her skull for the first time.
"But it looks so great in here," she said, flashing her pretty smile. "There was nothing left for me to do."
"I....but," I sputtered.
"Don't worry!" she said. "I know the setup was a bust, but I'm going to make it up to you. I'll set you up with this other guy I know who gave me free tickets to a basketball game next weekend. He's just terrific. He works for the Nets."
"I don't know," I said. "I think I'm definitely coming down with something. It might be smallpox."
"Don't be ridiculous!" Negar said.
That weekend found me on a bus, heading to a Nets game with Negar.
"So, how do you know this guy?" I asked.
She shrugged. "I just met him," she said.
"I don't remember."
The guy came and found us about halfway through the game. He was cute and my age. I thought, "Wow, Negar really has done it this time."
He smiled at me as he took us to a private box where we could watch the rest of the game, away from the crowd. I felt myself blushing when he sat down next to me and let me ask questions about crazy basketball wives.
We were putting on our coats when he made his move.
"So, can I call you sometime?" he asked...Negar.
"I have a boyfriend," Negar giggled, batting her long, dark eyelashes.
"Oh, that's too bad," he said. "Well, it was nice seeing you."
"Sorry about that," Negar said, feigning embarrassment, as we boarded the bus. "I guess I didn't realize he was into me."
That was when I decided to give up trying to be nice and allow myself to hate her. My mom always said you should never hate anyone. Not even beautiful people who are secretly mean and hateful on the inside. But it was my hate that got me through six months of living with her.