This is the story of a roomance. Not a romance, not a bromance, but the story of two friends who lived together remarkably well.
One was a recovering grad student just entering the working world (that's Kat), and the other a recovering writer/editor re-entering academia (that's me). We met during Frosh Week at the University of King's College in Halifax and, over the course of four years, managed to live with everyone else in our circle of mutual friends - in different combinations and permutations - with the exception of each other. We liked one another just fine, but the opportunity to cohabit never arose.
Until two winters ago. I was living in uptown Toronto in a dank, dark one-bedroom basement apartment and Kat was living around the corner from me with her doting parents. I was sleeping next to take-out cartons and Christmas cards I knew I'd never get around to sending, and she was - well, she was living with her doting parents.
Practically neighbours, we started seeing each other more often. Usually, we'd wind up somewhere noisy with wobbly tables and chipped pint glasses and we'd talk. Living alone, I craved conversation. So we talked about everything and nothing: We talked about Kat's master's thesis; we talked about missing Halifax; we talked about when and how I was going to tell my boss I'd been accepted into grad school and was leaving my job.
And so our platonic courtship began. We shared secrets with each other, we got drunk at our local dive bar and we decided that living in the same house, together, might be something to consider. A few months later, a friend of a friend was moving out of her top-floor flat and we arranged to take over her lease.
For 16 months, we lived in roomantic bliss. We had friends over for potluck dinner parties and blasted Prince on our cherished cassette player (we had somehow mangled the unit's CD drive in the move). She didn't mind when I left my unmentionables to dry on the banister for days, and I happily turned a blind eye to her sometimes epic kitchen messes (was that roasted eggplant with chèvre on my new textbook?). We each had the odd roomsnark - who doesn't? - but that never changed the fact that we were happy.
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Then I did a terrible thing: I let romance get in the way of roomance. I remember, with uncharacteristic clarity, the morning it all changed.
"The weirdest thing happened to me last night," I said to Kat, whose face was eerily illuminated by the MacBook humming on her lap.
"Weird, eh? How so?" she asked, as I took a seat on the fold-up chair next to her.
"Well, I went to this thing, and there was this guy, and he and his friends were all wearing cut-off short shorts …"
"… as an homage to Tobias from Arrested Development ."
"And they're in this musical-comedy show and he's really nice, and his legs were …"
"And I think I'll probably see him again."
"Again" turned into practically every day for the next several months. I was in love, and the roomance began to fade. At first it was just a toothbrush. And then a change of clothes, and then it was a backpack full of books and shoes, and before I fully realized what I was doing, I had moved myself out of my own home. With every departing pair of open-toe flats, I was slowly but surely spoiling the roomance.
Kat and I still texted and e-mailed each other impulsively, but we both kept avoiding the inevitable conversation. I couldn't bring myself to say, "I'm moving out," and Kat was too polite to bring it up. In theory, I liked the idea of remaining roomantic partners. I'd finish up my degree, Kat would start a new job and write her LSAT and we'd both put off becoming real adults for a little bit longer.
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But it was too late. I'd done that awful head-over-heels thing. And I realized I wasn't going to feel any different any time soon. I'd found a kindred spirit, a romantic kindred spirit, in a guy who once wore short shorts (with nylons!) to a nightclub, and I wanted the rest of my belongings (mostly more shoes and books) to belong next to his.
Kat and I broke up over e-mail. It sounds more roomantic to say the note was hastily written, scribbled on an old grocery list and slipped under her door, but that's not true. I'd already drafted it several times in my head, and I'd spent nearly three hours writing and rewriting an e-mail that was only, finally, one paragraph long. The underlying sentiment was that I was sorry. Happy, yes. In love, definitely. But sorry, too.
Kat, being Kat, responded graciously and practically: Who would phone the landlord? How would we divvy up our shared belongings? And when, exactly, would this parting of ways take place? "Nov. 1?" I asked. And Kat said, with no apparent subtext, "All right, okay."
And it was okay. We separated our lives into cardboard boxes and garbage bags with masking-tape labels. And the roomance gave way to a friendship that would, in time, be "All right, okay."
Karen Aagaard lives in Toronto.
Illustration by Kate Beaton.