"Catch you later, Doug."

My flatmate Dean eats a lot of ice cream. Seriously, a lot. We share a fridge, and his half of the freezer is crammed with six to eight half-gallon containers of ice cream, always the same brand but in different flavors. He eats half a half-gallon every evening, and he's one of those super-skinny guys who's genetically incapable of getting fat.

But that's not one of the many things I hate about Dean. It's that he's messy with his ice cream.

Maybe he eats directly from the container, and he's sloppy and gets ice cream on the the side of the box. Maybe he takes too long eating it, so it's liquid by the time he puts it back in the freezer. Hell, maybe he microwaves his ice cream and eats it like soup. Whatever the cause, Dean's ice cream on the upper shelf melts, and drips through the wire shelf onto whatever's in my lower half of the freezer.

Pulling out a box of corndogs that's sticky is aggravating. And it's more aggravating, the twentieth time, the fiftieth time. Out of instinct I lick my fingers when they're sticky, so I could tell you what flavor ice cream Dean enjoyed the night before.

In the first few months after I'd moved in, twice I talked to Dean about this, but he told me he doesn't believe his ice cream drips. I must be imagining it.

I suggested we switch freezer space — my stuff on the top shelf, his on the lower shelf. Ah, but Dean is The Kitchen God, and needs his shelves exactly the way they are. "I've had the upper shelf in the freezer since three flatmates before you." 

That's why, on my lower shelf of the freezer, atop my corndogs and fish sticks and loaves of frozen bread, there are two paper bags folded flat. Once a month or so I replace the paper bags, and they're always sticky with ice cream drips, but my food isn't.

The paper bags gave me away this morning, though. I'd gone shopping, and returned with a canvas sack and a backpack full of groceries. I began putting my stuff away — very quietly, of course.

See, Dean's bedroom door opens directly into the kitchen, and he always wants to talk and talk. Make the slightest noise in the kitchen, and if he's home he'll come out to tell you what he cooked at the restaurant the day before, and what he'll be cooking tomorrow, and explain all the mysteries of unsalted butter.

So as softly as a summer breeze, I slid but did not clank cans into the cupboard. In the freezer, the geometry was wrong for a big box of cheap chicken, so I switched the frozen sausage to a better position. The sausage box snagged a paper bag's handles, the fold at the bottom of the bag toppled an open box of chimichangas, and loose chimichangas fell to the floor.

Dean, of course, heard the clatter, and sprang from his bed to say things that don't matter.

As I picked up the chimichangas, there he was, talking at me about what he cooked at the restaurant yesterday, and what he'll be cooking tomorrow.

I sighed then, and sighed again now, but in a shared house, it's no fun having arguments every time you step out of your room, so I try to get along with my flatmates. 

I don't want him dropping rat poison in my almond milk, so when he starts talking at me I rarely say, "Shut the hell up." Usually I reply with, "Hello, Dean," and sometimes even squeeze out a second or third empty phrase before retreating to my room. 

Usually I go along, hoping to get along. I am Neville Chamberlain, appeasing for peace.

As I shoved the chimichangas back into the freezer, Dean started by saying, "Oh, you went shopping. Did you get anything interesting?"

"Yup," I said, and didn't say anything more. Didn't say that it's none of his business, because I've said that perhaps twenty times over the years, and still he offers his opinions about my food and how I prep it.

As I put away the last items from my canvas shopping bag, Dean said, "I see you buy the 64 ounce mayonnaise. You must use a lot of mayonnaise."

Internally I shouted: Don't say shut up! Don't say shut up! Saying something angry only makes him ask why I'm angry, which I've explained over and over, and he's never understood. So I shrewdly said nothing more, and decided not to drop the mayonnaise on his toes. At least, not today.

"I love cooking," he told me, as he's told me many, many times, "so I'm always curious to know what food my flatmates have."

Yes, Dean, I didn't say. You're always curious. 

Yesterday he stood and watched while I made peanut butter & jelly sandwiches, and told me that he prefers chunky over my creamy. One day last week he watched me peel plastic off pre-sliced cheese to melt it on ham in the microwave, and his commentary was: "Pre-sliced cheese is convenient." Tomorrow he'll watch me pour almond milk over my raisin bran, and he'll have something stupid to say about either the milk or the cereal.

I've yelled at him about it, and I've talked to him about it, but it's like talking to someone after their body's been snatched by the space aliens. So this morning I didn't say anything but that one "Yup," and I regret even that. Like rabbits, words only breed more words with Dean.

As I finished putting my groceries away, he told me what he'll do with a pork shoulder at the restaurant tomorrow. I walked into my room, closed the door, sat down, and started typing this, while Dean finished telling me his pork shoulder plans, right through the closed door.

Then he was mercifully silent for a moment. "Catch you later, Doug," he shouted through the door, and he will, of course. He will catch me later, relentlessly, endlessly, whenever I make a noise in the kitchen.

He will catch me forever, until one of us moves out. But neither of us is moving out, so he will catch me in the kitchen, until one of us is dead.

There is some rat poison under the sink...



  1. There are worst flatmates in this world, so count your blessings if you can. BTW what DID he cook at the restaurant he works at, yesterday? Just kidding.

    - Zeke Krahlin

    1. "Worse" not "worst," I can't go back and edit, dammit.

    2. There are definitely worse flatmates, probably me. Dean just wants to be pals, and if I was anyone else we'd be pals by now. He's pals with Robert and 'L'. Heck, he's pals with the four people who live downstairs, and I don't even know their names or faces.

      Funny you should ask what he cooked yesterday at the restaurant. Prawns. At this very moment he's in the kitchen telling Robert about the excellent prawns he made yesterday.

      I never worry about other people's typos, but my own drive me nuts if I don't catch and correct them.


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