My housemate had a thing for crazy bitches. In all fairness, I was good friends with his first crazy bitch. I knew her before I knew him. She was the one who invited me to live with them as a way to lower my rent. In all fairness to me, I didn’t know what a crazy bitch she was until a little more than a year after I moved in there and their relationship went south. When she moved out, she stole my bed—actually stole my bed. I wasn’t exaggerating when I called her a crazy bitch.
The girl he brought in after her was crazy in a quieter way. By quieter, I mean passive aggressive. Crazy passive. Crazy aggressive. She hated me from the start. I tried with her, but, in all fairness to us both, the feeling was pretty much mutual.
She was jealous of me and my relationship with my housemate, which was dumb. There was no attraction between us at all. But then, in all fairness, I don’t like my men having good friendships with women either and there is no telling if I would have handled that good friend woman living in the house any better than she did.
I had my shower curtain hanging in the bathroom. It was pretty. It was cream and pale blue and green. The hooks were brass. One morning, not long after the second crazy bitch moved in, I came out into the kitchen to find my shower curtain neatly folded on the kitchen table, hooks placed in an orderly pile on top, untangled. She had hung her own shower curtain—a lacy, diamond patterned thing with copper hooks—and mine was old news. She never said a word to me about it.
In all fairness, I never said a word about it to her either. I just picked up my curtain and placed it back in my moving boxes that were still not entirely unpacked even though I had lived there almost two years.
I am a good cook and my housemate said so. I’m sure she resented that. She made a spaghetti sauce once that he said, in so many words, was marginal. I took him aside and told him that probably hurt her feelings. I was still sort of not hating her at that point. He said he wasn’t going to tell her it was great when it wasn’t. I remember being disappointed in him for that.
But he raved about my cooking and, in light of the spaghetti sauce incident, I can see how that might have gotten under her skin. It made her cook more so she could be the one to occupy the kitchen instead of me. It made her try harder.
Once, she spent an eternity cooking salmon. Fancy fancy. She really worked at it and I give her credit for that.
Now, I can’t stand fish. I find it vile in every possible way. I got sick once gorging on fried shrimp as a kid and haven’t been able to stand a swimmy creature anywhere near my taste buds ever since. But I feel, in this respect, I am depriving myself. I think there is a whole culinary world I am missing out on—something other people seem to enjoy so very much.
“It tastes just like the ocean,” they say, and are in fits of delight.
“It tastes just like the ocean,” they say, and I think, “Barf. Who wants to eat the ocean?”
But on this day, when this crazy bitch cooked salmon and did such a fancy job of it, I was in one of those moods where I was feeling deprived of that highbrow culinary world, so I decided to give it a try. I resolved to eat it. I resolved to like it. I resolved to be the kind of person who eats and likes salmon and I looked forward to raving about her skills and maybe making up a little ground with her there.
As soon as the salmon hit my tongue, I gagged and spat it out. I couldn’t help it. It was a reflex. My whole body spasmed as if I had just tried to feed it a fish-smelling arsenic patty. It was a visceral, “No!”
My nose ran, my eyes teared up, and, with the soggy bite of salmon in the napkin and the napkin over my flushed face, I said, “I’m so sorry. I’m so so sorry. It’s not you. It’s the fish. I’m sure it’s perfect. I just… the fish. I’m so sorry.” And I ran off into the bathroom, sick and guilty. I tried my damndest not to be offensive, but, in all fairness, if I were her, I might have been offended. I think she was, and, I also think, at that very moment, she began to calculate.
Because get this:
A month or so later, she made a big deal about making a pasta salad for the house. Oh the effort she put into it! Oh her own kudos she sang! Oh the raves she raved about this famous dish of hers!
And when she was done, it looked delicious—cavatappi in a mayonnaise based sauce with all kinds of crunchy vegetables. I loomed over the bowl, ready to dig in, when she mentioned, offhand of course, that she was so glad to have found the right kind of crab to go in it.
I told her then that I couldn’t eat it because of the fish. She said something like, “Gee, really?” She had not forgotten the salmon incident. She had not forgiven the salmon incident.
I hope her petty revenge tasted like fish.