Three ham sandwiches

In the kitchen, I put two paper towels on the countertop, and pulled a loaf of bread from atop the fridge, as the Bee Gees blasted into my head.

My only thoughts were, three ham sandwiches in a hurry, and how much I hate my flatmate Dean. He wasn't in the kitchen, which was splendid, but he was home, playing 1970s disco with the volume cranked to 11.

He's nearly deaf, and can't hear the music if it's not way too loud, but headphones are awkward and earbuds are uncomfortable, he says, so there I was in the kitchen, getting mayo from the fridge and mustard from the shelf, as the Bee Gees blasted into my head.

Unscrewing the mayo lid, my mind flashed back to shortly after I'd moved in, when I wasn't yet particularly avoiding Dean. One of my first afternoons here, I was in the kitchen cooking, and Dean was in the kitchen but not cooking, only hanging around and talking.

So naïve I was, that I assumed he wanted to get to know the new flatmate — me — but now, of course, I understand that he was talking to me because Dean loves to talk.

The music that afternoon was of the Tony Bennett / Frank Sinatra era, and not unpleasant, except that it was too loud. I'd already checked, and it couldn't be heard in my bedroom, so it didn't bother me (still doesn't).

I told him I kinda like the old-style lounge singers, and his response was, "Oh, you'll like me, then. 1940s and '50s music is all I ever play."

But you know what? He's almost never played that style of music since. There's music from Dean's room virtually any day he's home, and it's usually 1960s and '70s rock'n'roll, sometimes the soundtrack from Star Wars, and sometimes Jesus music, but lounge sounds? Nope. Only once or twice, since that day in the kitchen.

Still I don't mind the music, even the Bee Gees, no matter how loud and late he plays it, but standing there spreading mayonnaise, I wondered why he'd told me that he only listens to pre-rock music? Why would anyone lie about the music they listen to?

Only to annoy me, I reckon, like everything else about Dean. It's pointless trying to figure him out. He's unfigurable.

♦ ♦ ♦ Our house has bugs and rats and flies, so my habit is to wash dishes immediately. With a soapy sponge in one hand, and my mayonnaisy knife in the other, I clumsily turned the faucet for hot water, and the knife slipped out of my hand, clattering loudly against the porcelain.

Immediately, my thought was, cripes, I hope Dean didn't hear that, but it was a joking thought. Dude's almost deaf, and "Staying Alive" was at its peak Aaa, aaa, aaa, aaa, so I'm sure he— 

And at that moment, the song abruptly went silent. In the next moment, Dean's door creaked open, and the man stood before me and began to babble. He started with, "Hey, Doug," and ended some time after I'd finished making my sandwiches and gone into my room and closed the door.

From more than a year's experience, see, it doesn't matter what I say. If I respond to anything Dean says or does, even with anger, it only adds to the length of his monologue. Better to say nothing at all, so instead I came in here, sat in my recliner, and ate three ham sandwiches while writing this.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

With only a few bites left, another early-era conversation with Dean comes to mind. He was telling me about the man who'd lived in this room before I moved in, and Dean said that he'd liked that man, they'd gotten along well — at first.

It was the strangest thing, though, or so Dean said to me. After that man had been here for a year, he started saying less and less to Dean, and for his last few months in the house he hardly said anything to Dean at all.

When Dean told me that, a year or so ago, it might've been one of the first conversations where he began to seriously annoy me. What do I care about the man who lived in my room before I moved in?

In retrospect, of all the hours Dean has spent talking to me, that was the only conversation we've had where he said something worth hearing. It took me a year to know it.


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