What Are Housemates For?


Anna stepped into her bathroom, rubbing the sleep out of her eyes. The hairs on her arms stood up a little as the shiver of ice-cold tiles shot through her body. She was ready to be warm again, ready for the soft dribble of her shower to defrost her bones.

She flicked a switch, and the room swelled with light. As she blinked into focus, she was confronted with an enemy she wished had disappeared overnight—the dirty shower. Its glass walls wore streaks of grime like stretch marks on a thick woman’s thighs. The chalky mess seemed like an ever-present spirit looming over Anna’s life. It had been months since the shower had properly been cleaned—five months to be exact.

It was her housemate Dave’s turn, according to the roster that hung on their fridge. It had, in fact, been his turn for—if you can guess it—five months. They had agreed to share the housework when they moved in together, though the follow-through left much to be desired.

Anna opened the shower door, greeted not only by the set-in brown stains that covered the once white shower base but by a mid-sized cockroach as it scuttled down the drain. She would have jumped back scared but this wasn’t out of the ordinary anymore. On top of the dirt grew an odd red substance curling its way around the edge of the shower base. The stuff was easy enough to wipe away but held a highly disconcerting jelly-like texture which caused Anna to dance around it while washing.

And the loose hair, it was a jungle; a jungle full of monkeys in their mid-thirties who had never known their fathers with a full head of anything, and were now coming to understand why; or the throat of a cat after a thorough clean; or the floor of a barber shop after hibernation. In short, it was abundant and disgusting.

As Anna began washing herself, she couldn’t help but try to scrub a little something off the walls with her loofa. It just didn’t seem right to her that the area where she cleaned herself was so dirty. In fact, it barely made sense that a place made purely for cleaning could get so dirty in the first place.

Even though being in the shower absolutely repulsed Anna, she couldn’t bring herself to actually clean it. She knew that giving in would give Dave licence to never contribute ever again. And while it seemed unlikely that he was going to anyway, Anna really didn’t want to lose this one.

Due to his complete obliviousness, Anna made sure to remind Dave of his responsibility regularly. She often took a subtle approach, sprinkling in comments like ‘shower’s still a bit dirty,’ or ‘what a nice day for cleaning,’ or ‘why can’t you hurry up and get off your lazy ass and clean the damn shower already!’ into conversation. This morning she simply chose to glare at him with thorough disappointment in her eyes, a towel still draped around her shoulders. His Instagram feed must have been riveting because it took him a solid seven minutes to look up from his phone and see her.

‘What’s up your ass this morning?’ he opened snidely.

Anna didn’t reply. She dabbed the towel against her wet hair, hoping he would notice her freshly cleaned state. This had no impact. He simply shrugged before returning to his phone and the half-soggy bowl of cereal in front of him. Maybe he wasn’t smart enough to pick up on her hints. Anna strutted forward and plonked herself down on a chair, ‘We need to talk.’

‘Do we now?’ he let slide under his breath, not breaking eye contact with the bikini babe on his Instagram feed.

‘Yes! Do you see that?’ She pushed his head around so that the roster on the fridge was directly in his eye-line.

‘Oh wow, a fridge.’

‘No, the roster, idiot. This is a shared house, and we have shared responsibilities!’

‘Oh, okay, calm down.’ He pushed her hand away and gestured to the kitchen sink. ‘I cleaned the dishes last night, get off my back.’ Anna actually hadn’t noticed the empty sink, maybe he’s changing. She felt a little bad for making a big fuss now, but only a little bad though.

‘What about the freaking shower, it’s filthy as!’

‘And this is my problem?’

‘SHARED HOUSE!’ Anna yelled.

‘Yeah, but it’s not a shared shower, so it’s not my responsibility.’

Anna went quiet for a moment. She leaned back in her chair, a little bit confused and a little bit disgusted. ‘Do you … not wash yourself?’

‘Of course I do, I’m not an animal. But I always use the shower at the gym. I got no responsibility there.’

‘Oh.’ Anna didn’t really know what to say next, this changed things. Dave took her silence as a victory and finished off his now entirely soggy breakfast.

All this time, it wasn’t really Dave she should have been angry at, it was herself. She was the one who created all the mess and she was the one who should have been cleaning it. All this time, she’d wasted being angry and surrounded by filth, all for nothing. Five months. Five months of filth and it was all irrelevant. All that scum and mould and hair … wait.

‘If you only use the gym shower, then how come ours is always covered in your little black hairs?!’

‘Well, would you look at the time …’ Dave glanced at his empty wrist then quickly shot up and headed to his room. ‘I’m sorry, Anna, this conversation is great and all but I gotta get to work. See ya.’ And like that, he was gone.

Elisabeth’s work appears in the Power, Forward, Colour, and Ethereal editions of WORDLY Magazine.

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