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How to Get Rid of an Unwanted Roommate Part 1

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It’s been a trying couple of weeks.

For the last year and change, I’ve been living in a large six-bedroom house, with six other people, mostly musicians and other creative types, which I’ve generally found to be a great situation. One roommate in particular, a 28 year-old waitress and aspiring photographer named Jess, has slowly become a problem for the house, with more roommates finding themselves avoiding the common areas of our home on her account.

This began back in February when Jess broke up with her long-time boyfriend, a touring musician who also lived with us. Many of us, including the boyfriend, assumed after their breakup that Jess would leave the house and her boyfriend would stay. Instead, Jess insisted on staying. To secure this position, she filed charges against her boyfriend – charges which I know from her own admission to be at least partly false – and secured a restraining order against him.

Around this time, Jess was briefly hospitalized for psychiatric evaluation, and placed on powerful antipsychotic drugs. She took them for about a month and decided she didn’t like the side effects. To my untrained eye, Jess appears to show clear and consistent signs of pseudologia fantastica, which renders her emotionally incapable of telling the whole truth for more than a few minutes straight. Some of this is so bizarre it seems to suggest real delusion and much deeper problems connecting with reality, as well. In the last year, we’ve watched her condition worsen, fueled in part, perhaps, by major drinking problem, as well as a burgeoning cocaine habit that she tries to hide from those around her.

We knew Jess was something of a ticking time bomb, but we didn’t think it would come to this.


A little less than two weeks ago, the power in our house was shut off, due primarily to Jess and another roommate owing close to $600 between the two of them. The rest of us could simply not cover this cost, so we were stuck without power for a time. To me, this meant an inability to complete and hand in an important assignment, and to most of the rest of us, it meant some spoiled food in the fridge, but to my roommate Charlene, it was a more pressing concern.

Charlene keeps several tanks of tropical fish, which are not only very expensive, but are very precious to their owner, who has had some of them for close to eight years. Charlene is a very sweet girl who has experienced a great deal of hardship and found the fish to be a constant in her life, and a comfort during dark times. The thought of losing her fish because they couldn’t get the oxygen they need without power was very upsetting.

As we sat around the fireplace that night, Charlene was expressing her concern for her pets, and said at one point that she felt Jess was taking the situation lightly, in an offhanded tone. Jess, who is in a permanent state of agitation, began yelling and talking over Charlene, just as she does in most conversations she has. Charlene just wasn’t in the mood to take it that night, and they got into a shouting match, which Jess seemed to process very little of. To punish us for not appreciating her greatness, she dumped water on the fire and stormed out of the house.

Charlene and Jess have been friends for about three years, so this fight was upsetting to Jess. A little while after the fight Jess sent a semi-apologetic text to Charlene about “money coming between friends” that may have missed the point, but showed concern. Charlene would have accepted this, except Jess came home shortly thereafter and began slandering Charlene to anyone that would listen, including calling her a pill-addict and other baseless untruths delivered without any appreciation for their irony. Charlene was fed up and simply avoided talking to Jess at all for the next five days.


Now, when Jess is hurt by someone she cares about, she feels compelled to find a way to frame that person as a bad guy, so that she can be “better off without them.” The need for this sort of narrative was surely an important part of the drama surrounding her breakup, and has been demonstrated countless times since. Despite the fact that Charlene has long been one of her biggest supporters, Jess needed to find an excuse to make her a villain.

I get a text from Jess one night as I’m about to head home. What follows is the full word-for-word exchange, without corrections, and with comments provided in brackets.

Jess: Wheres rudy! [Rudy is Jess’s adorable cat, whose favorite person in the world is Charlene]

Me: He was in Charlene’s room when I left. [Rudy generally goes where he wants to, and usually spends most of his day with Charlene, as he has for the last three years without incident.]

Jess: Theres gonna be some new rules about him and charleme is not gonna like them [Already, Jess is lining up to create drama between Jess and Charlene]

Me: Why? Rudy’s never been happier. [This is true, Rudy, once very shy and not so social, has done nothing but cuddle and purr like a maniac in recent months]

Jess: Rudy has been happier. And she needs to know hes not her cat. I ve had it with this crap.

Me: She knows he’s not her cat. Rudy goes in there because he likes it in there, no one tells Rudy where to go. [This is not actually true. Jess chases Rudy around the house and drags him up to her room against his will. But no one else tells Rudy where to go.]

Jess: Well nox there will be a rule where hi lives upstairs. I’ve had it. He s my act and when I want him ill have him [Jess lives in the smallest room in the house, and wanted to lock him in there so that she can “have him when she wants him” despite not actually ever asking Charlene for him at all].

Me: That’s a selfish asshole move, frankly. He’s your cat, not your toothbrush. Respect his feelings. There’s no basis to be angry.

Jess: I’m not gonna text about this. We can talk about it later.

Me: There’s a reason he likes Charlene. Because she understands he’s a living creature and wouldn’t punish him to spite someone for an unrelated fight. Grow up.

Now, my words may have been blunt, but they weren’t angry. Jess was just being stupid and needed to be told there was nothing to fight about; that nothing had actually happened. Of course, this is not how she interpreted things.

“What Do You Do When…”

Now, despite the fact that nothing really happened and Jess had not, in fact, even spoken to Charlene or knocked on her door, she made a post on her Facebook that read, “What do you do when your housemates are trying to steal your cat?” I’m not sure what part of our exchange implied catnapping. It doesn’t particularly matter. Shortly after the post she deleted both me and Charlene from her Facebook, clearly indicating she was mad at us and that it wasn’t just a good-natured joke.

But that question was one she took seriously. “What do you do?” Jess felt like she had to take action, before someone else pet her kitty and made him happy. Time was of the essence.

The following morning we come down to see this:

Charlene’s fish tank was overflowing with suds. Clearly a large quantity of dish soap, or perhaps laundry detergent, had been dumped into the tank no more than a couple hours prior. Only the catfish survived (those things can live in the Schuykill, after all). The equipment, itself worth over $1,000, is likely permanently contaminated, at least for the purpose of housing sensitive tropical types.

Immediately, everyone in the house recognized what had been done. Jess was nowhere to be found, having taken off immediately following the incident. Fearful for what kind of vandalism or even assault could follow, we quickly called the landlord to get his blessing for an expedited eviction, and changed the locks on the house. Obviously we knew she’d be back for her stuff at some point, but we didn’t want her coming in unannounced. I called Jess and told her she wasn’t welcome here. She angrily proclaimed her innocence and then hung up on me.

Continued in Part 2...
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Updated 27 Jul 2011 at 12:51 PM by Frogacuda



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