Moving out: leftovers, goodbyes and compromise

(Illustration by Keryn Brenzel)

Living with people is like cleaning out your fridge. It’s all about compromise.

In our house, the ceremonious purging of our refrigerator is an affair, a debacle of debates of expiration dates and “does this smell edible?” It is also an inconsistent monthly — bi-monthly if we are feeling particularly adventurous — event. On these holidays, heard in the hobbit kitchen are: sounds of disgust, laughter and a serious discourse on maximizing space, a consensus that the Brita Filter can, indeed, go unrefrigerated … in order to make room for more beer. I mean, replacing water with alcohol has been done before, so in a way, we are practically replicating something holy. We are a religious house, indeed.

The first week we lived in our house, the fridge was full of rotting food. Yes, in a way, it was an omen. Things in the beginning — as you may remember from my previous articles — were a little rough with food wars, sleeping (or lack of sleeping) rituals, critters and oh, that pesky, this-house-is-falling-apart-around-us thing. In the first semester, we discovered rotting vegetables in the drawers, which we each, in turn, threw out without disclosing. We raged silently about the dwindling level of Parmesan cheese that mysteriously disappeared after only a handful of our own uses but retaliated by snagging a smackerel of someone’s something else. Created a warped sense of justice. Left passive-aggressive notes. Rearranged with reckless abandon to make room for our own items.

As time passed, we learned to work with what we had. We waged a marginally successful war against mice, labeled our food, worked out sleeping situations and for the most part, discovered a sense of each other’s space. Even in the fridge. The too-tiny-for-necessities-and-cheap-alcohol fridge in which we each, unofficially, eventually claimed a space that was our own. A hobbit fridge for our hobbit house. We’ve managed to make it work. When the fridge is overflowing, unmanageable, unlivable, eventually something has to be done.

Ok, so we aren’t exactly the most organized bunch as a house of self-proclaimed arteeeests. It may take us longer to address issues head-on. We may leave bean sprouts at the back of the fridge for ages, whisper about the rotting bean sprouts’ presence behind the bean sprouts’ back, until finally blurting out that “The bean sprouts are a problem!” Then, it turns out, the apologetic owner of the bean sprouts wasn’t aware. And then the bean sprouts are no big deal, really. Easily discarded. Easily replaced. Then we parley over salvable leftovers versus the beginnings of a new civilization of green fuzzy creatures. We’ve tried our best to compromise and converse, even if it is a slimy, uncomfortable business.

As I approach my final weeks as a college student and final months as a tenant, the fridge is looking pretty good. Considerably more contained, organized, still primitive but relatively fresh, no odorous remnants of the previous tenants’ “present.” But soon someone else’s stuff will occupy my spot in the fridge. After all, I’m the jerk that is graduating early. Though I will not miss the cave crickets and the broken … everything, I will miss my space in the hobbit house and most especially the lovely, (crazy), kindhearted friends I shared it with.