Friday, January 09, 2009

Hot Soup Coming Through!

Hot Soup was six foot three inches and two-hundred-seventy pounds of crazy.

He was also my roommate.

We were living in a small flat in Southern Maryland. I know saying flat is pretentious if you’re not a limey, but the building really was flat. It had a nickname, “the flats” so I stand by my original proclamation. It was a little two bedroom dump nestled behind a cocaine biker bar. Soup had always been an eccentric, but he picked our time as roommates to completely fucking lose it. At various points he thought he was Jesus Christ, Luke Skywalker and Apook the Destroyer who could blow up cars with his mind.

Soup had lost about a hundred pounds in six months. They say when you lose a lot of weight it squeezes the residual LSD out of your fat cells. He was also taking 24 credits as a neuroscience major, volunteering at the hospital and giving up booze, drugs and caffeine, so it’s really tough to put your finger on what exactly drove him round the bend, but whatever did it was driving like Luke Perry in a stolen Ferrari.

It started out kind of cute. He became obsessed with Zeno’s Paradox. You know, Achilles can travel a mile, but first he has to travel half a mile, and before that a quarter, before that an eighth and so on and so on. The gist is, space is infinitely divisible and movement should be an impossibility. Now a sane person will think to themselves, “Huh, that Zeno was a clever sum bitch, but I am currently watching my dog cross the room, so clearly he was full of shit,” and move on with their life. An eccentric might puzzle for a bit, maybe lose a night of sleep. Soup? He filled note books, stayed up all night making calls to other continents, he was Matlock on a mystery.

From there, things took a turn. William S. Burroughs was just about dead. Soup had a plan to kidnap him and record his final words. I think Soup identified with Burroughs. Burroughs was able to throw himself into writing because he was living off his grandfather’s fortune. Burroughs the double-elder had invented a mechanical adding machine and Soup was a collector. From there he started collecting old type writers.

Sometimes I give Ol’ Soup Chain the benefit of the doubt. People say our little flat was haunted. The dude who lived in Soups windowless hole the year before had gone mad. The guy who lived there the next year squirreled himself away and covered every surface of the apartment in nails, pointy side up, until he was in the windowless room farthest corner from the exit. There was a weird little nook in the apartment, a strange rectangular divot where my husky dog Mojo would stare and growl viciously. The wolf mix that lived there next would do the same thing.

That corner is where Soup built his alter. I don’t remember what all was in the alter, but it was topped off with a typewriter.

Things were getting weird in the apartment. I woke up to find soup hiding in the corner of my room. Naked. I don’t know if I can paint this picture using words. I think I would need oils, canvas and access to the darkest recess of your mind. My room was about ten by twelve. Three feet from the foot of the bed is a nude two-hundred-seventy pound man wedged in the corner peering coily over his shoulder. When I saw him, the giggling began.

A few days later at the bar Lara, the editor of the literary magazine, asked if I was really ok with the poems Soup had been writing. “What poems?” was my response. He’d assured her I knew, and for some reason she believed him. The first poem was about killing my dog and burying him in the back yard next to me. This was just one of many that established a theme.

Now, we’ve all had roommates that have done something to irk us. Perhaps I was noisyand certainly I was messy. It’s tough and I know I’ve uttered the phrase, “I’m gonna kill him,” but I’ve never taken the time to set it to meter.

This next bit requires some background. A year prior, Curt Cobain had shot himself. I told everyone that I was bummed because I was going to kill myself with a shotgun. Now everyone would think it a tribute to Curt Cobain when really it was Hemmingway. My suicide note was to read simply (and in fitting tribute, if I do say so myself) “Hemmingway not Cobain.”

I got home from the bar and nothing had changed save one minor detail. The typewriter in the altar had been fed with a sheet of paper and marked with a single line of text, “Hemmingway not Cobain.”

I called everyone I knew to tell them I was not suicidal.

Most people at this point would have gotten the fuck out of dodge, but I was twenty-two and dumb as a box of rocks. I confronted Soup. He explained it was an allegory, a tribute to some bull shit and I shouldn’t worry. Since the conversation was rolling now, I figured it’s time to get it all out on the table. You see, Soup had stopped flushing the toilet. I don’t mean when it’s yellow let it mellow. When it was brown he was not flushing it down. Our tiny flat was stinking. I had put notes on every surface so no matter where he turned in the head it read, “Flush the toilet.”

Post-it notes were powerless against his madness, so I asked him about the toilet. He answered with an imperious flourish of his hand, “I’ll never flush the toilet and I’ll never use toothpaste again!” Not the response I expected, but I wasn’t going to fall for the red toothpaste herring. There was much back and forth and no headway on my part. Even the, “Can you close the door? Can you put the seat down?” compromises were failures. Finally I pointed out that my dog drinks from that toilet and I didn’t know if he has sense enough to lay off when it was filled with Hot Soupian filth. I’ve got to defend Mojo here, I don’t think he was drinking out of the toilet anymore, but I didn’t want to take a chance.

Soup had a plan. He could get this chemical from the science lab, it would be harmless but would make the water taste terrible and keep Mo from drinking. Now I didn’t see how this was any easier or how it made half a lick of sense, but I was tired, the smell was getting to me and I retreated to my room to be confused another day.

Later that week I was at a party. Without giving any background I asked Andrea, who was a biology/chemistry major about this chemical. What would happen if you were to consume it? Well, turns out it would cause severe brain damage. I walked out front, tears streaming down my face, to the little gaggle of people surrounding Soup. I threw him to the ground and kicked him in the ribs. “If you hurt my dog, I swear to God I’ll kill you!” He tried to answer but I kicked him again, “I swear to fucking GOD I will kill you,” gave him another kick and walked away.

Things were getting tense in our little flat and exams were fast approaching. After the last day of class, I came home with a lot of work to do. I pulled into the parking lot we shared with the bar. The whole neighborhood was filled with the sound of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. This was another of Soup’s obsessions. They’d become hard to keep up with. Somehow he was working on his own incomplete masterpiece or he was to finish Beethoven’s, I don’t recall and it’s inconsequential at this point. The point is that it was earsplitting even outside. The only sound that rose above was Mojo howling.

If you haven’t caught on by now, he had crossed the crazy Rubicon. He’d been working on a paper and calling all of our neighbors, “I am at work. Please refrain from using any extraneous electricity. Thank you.” The rest of the flat was sitting in the dark whispering to each other telephone requests to breath less and other absurdities, but they did it. They turned off their lights.

I climbed our single stair and opened the door to be hit with a wall of sound and heat. It was sweltering in our little flat, the oversized gas heater probably pulled off a battleship was cranked to Mojave. Mojo didn’t miss a beat. He sprinted past me, leapt into the open window of my car and shot me a look that said, “There is nothing for you in there. It is time for us to depart.” “Sorry Mo, I’ve got a lot of work to do,” and turned only to be met by Soup, stark, raving mad Soup glistening with sweat and wearing only a bed sheet tied cape-like about his neck.

Words were exchanged, voices raised and I realized I had two choices, leave or battle naked crazy Soup. Either way I wasn’t getting any work done, so I split.

From here, my part is largely complete. I called his folks to come get him, his brother showed up that night and took him away. He left saying “I am not going to live in that room anymore, you should find a new roommate.” I was OK with that.

His mom showed up the next day, I told her he was gone. I made an appointment with the school councilor who was clearly a bit annoyed. I told him I’d been having roommate issues. He asked me who my roomy was, when I told him, he got me incompletes in every class. Turns out Soup is the reason St. Mary’s put a psychiatrist on staff.

You know the word Crestfallen, right? I’d arranged for a new roommate, split for a few weeks, and when I got back, Soup had redecorated. He’d gone home to DC where he believed the Jesuits and the Free Masons were battling for his soul (Apparently my Loyola High School background marked me as an agent of the Jesuits). He ran up some big bills at fancy French restaurants, called his family and pled crazy, they’d pay, he’d split. Finally he hit up a psychiatrist who gave him a choice, “You can be schizophrenic or this can all be residual post traumatic stress disorder from a bad trip at a dead show.”

He chose PTSD, got a bunch of drugs and was stamped “Sane.” He moved back to St. Mary’s and redecorated our apartment. That’s when I learned the true meaning of crestfallen. See, now he’s sane and we had to live together. Oh sure, there were flair ups. Once there was a party where people were wrestling for hats. I drew Hot Soup and whenever I’d pin him I’d begin to punch him vigorously about the back of the head. I told him we should stop or I might sort of kill him. He acquiesced and I got the hat (A very nice wide brimmed straw number. Had it for years. There’s a silver lining to every grey cloud.).

About eight months later Mojo disappeared. I still wonder if Soup was involved. He claimed Mojo saved his sanity. When he was at the depths, Mo would stare at him, when he started slipping Mo would bark. He was a great dog. Soup said he loved him and would never hurt him. I still wonder though. He was such a good dog.

Tomorrow I’m watching the Ravens game on the TV Soup gave me when he moved to Poland.


At 1:23 PM, January 12, 2009, Blogger Teapot said...

Oh my GOD this is wack! You're lucky to be alive. (Love "Hemmingway not Cobain" - great stuff in here.)

At 2:45 PM, January 13, 2009, Blogger Elias Infinity said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 2:45 PM, January 13, 2009, Blogger Elias Infinity said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 2:47 PM, January 13, 2009, Blogger Elias Infinity said...

I remember you tellin me this story before. It needed to be recorded. You know, I ate Sushi for the first time in Bmore with you and Soup. And that was after all this madness. So thats a testament to your paitence love or foolishness. I lean toward the two former as opposed to the latter.
Just keep tellin your stories.

At 8:20 PM, January 26, 2009, Blogger smoo said...

Geez the things you don't know.


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