London living is fraught with the interminable quest for the perfect flatmate. Or just a bearable one. But how can you tell, after a half-hour interview, whether the stranger you’re about invite into your life, isn’t an axe murderer?
In over a decade of flatsharing, I was lucky enough only ever to end up with three nutters. I’ve covered one of them already in a previous post, and you’re about to meet number two. I shall call her ‘Loopy’.
During said interview, conducted by my landlady and me, Loopy, a French woman in her late twenties, told us a little bit about her family background: Her parents divorced when she was in her early teens. Her mother’s new partner hated her, and so she had left home quite early, aged sixteen, to live with her older sister. The reason she was looking for a place right now was that her current domestic arrangement involved sharing with five other people. There was considerable boyfriend/girlfriend traffic, much commotion at all hours, queueing for the bathroom in the mornings and a lack of kitchen space. She was desperate to find somewhere a bit more quiet.
It all sounded perfectly reasonable. Tranquility I could certainly offer her, seeing that I’m not exactly a party animal, and that I was going to be her only flatmate. (At this point, my landlady, who I used to share the flat with, had moved into another house with her new husband.)
Loopy moved in a week later. She was nice to me, and during the first few weeks I was considering whether I might strike up a friendship with her. But there was something… not quite right…. I just couldn’t put my finger on it.
She seemed to be miserable a lot of the time, and would talk to me at length. From her monologues, a distinct pattern emerged: The whole world had it in for her. Her family, her work colleagues, everybody. Her boss, she told me, employed a number of strategies specifically designed to make her look incompetent in front of her co-workers.
Meanwhile, my landlady was having a tough time with her brand new tenant. Loopy showered her with complaints about the flat and her room that nobody had ever previously found fault with, and every effort she undertook to make the girl more comfortable, like buying her an electric blanket, was rejected without a word of thanks.
With hindsight, I would say that Loopy’s Goth-like exterior was probably a reflection of the turbid emotional waters beneath. A natural red head with maggot-white skin, she had died her hair jet black. The contrast was quite striking. She also dressed mostly in black, but refrained from wearing the heavy make-up associated with members of the Goth tribe. But as the weather got warmer and winter garb gave way to skimpy tops and skirts, the tattoos started to emerge. One of them was the shape of a huge spiderweb spanning both her legs. I couldn’t help thinking how classy that would look in about twenty five years’ time. But each to their own 😉
A few weeks went by, we didn’t interact all that much, but when we bumped into each other around the house, I would always smile and nod sympathetically to her persecution stories. I felt a bit sorry for her.
Then, one evening, I noticed that she had removed all her toiletries from the bathroom. The following morning, I she had left a letter for me in the kitchen. It started with the words “I think we should talk about your behaviour…” and ended with “if you want me out of here, tell me up-front.”
Oh my, where had all this come from? It was true that I felt that she wasn’t friendship material for me, but she was quiet and clean and I certainly didn’t dislike her.
Having read this bewildering letter, I sent her a placatory text message, and that evening, when she got home from work, I talked to her, assuring her that I did not want her to move out. The conversation went fine. A bit too fine, in fact. Her responses were completely incongruous with the aggressive tone of the letter. The word “overreacted” cropped up, and, apparently, she “had been worried about me” spending too much time alone in my part of the house. I did not want to make a big issue out of it. What was abundantly clear form the letter, though, was that she had a tendency to construe stories in her head about the attitudes of other people towards her – and they were all negative.
Things plodded along pretty much as before, i.e. seemingly calm, until a few weeks later one evening, she confronted me about having left the bathroom tap running the night before – ON PURPOSE! – to disturb her sleep.
I had gone to the toilet in the middle of the night, and, after washing my hands, I had failed to turn the tap off properly. The trickling of the water had woken her. I apologised, but to her mind, it had been no accident.
And this wasn’t the only thing I had done to rile her, as I was about to find out.
I had also deliberately spoiled her food in the fridge. This conclusion was based on me having accidentally knocked the temperature dial, causing the fridge to warm up, which turned her salad into mush. (To stop this from happening again, I had already fixed the dial into place with a piece of sticky tape.)
On top of that, I was hiding her mail. She had not received some of the correspondence that should have been forwarded to her from her previous address, and me stealing it was the only feasible explanation.
Oh my God, she really was totally nuts…!
After she was done hissing at me in the hallway (I had been far too stunned to reply to any of this) and slamming the door in my face, I called our landlady, who was, it has to be said, rather delighted by me asking her to send Loopy packing. Within the hour, she’d been served her notice, and she moved out shortly after that without further incident. Phew!