Two back-to-back experiences with subletters have left with me a clear assessment: subletters are deranged.
If your roommate leaves for a month or two, suck it up and split the rent among the remaining roommates. Do not post an ad on Craig’s List asking for a show of hands from the dregs of society who need housing for a limited period of time.
A couple of years ago I was sharing an apartment with three other girls in Brookline, MA. One of them, a graduate student studying piano accompaniment, was leaving for a two month summer music program. She suggested getting a subletter, and we all agreed.
On subletter turned into two (well, four, technically) and left me so traumatized that I actually spontaneously hugged my returning roommate the night she came home, and as my friends will tell you, I am not a hugger by nature. Only a very wounded animal displays that much gentleness.
The height of the subletter horror came one night when I was kept awake by a screaming argument in the subletter’s room. It was in a foreign language, so I couldn’t tell what was being said, but the tone was a full 10 on the pissed-off scale.
This subletter, whose name I never did learn, was supposedly taking summer classes at Harvard Medical School. But she was such a mystery, sharing almost no details about herself that I didn’t know what to believe.
I went over to my roommate Kim’s door and knocked. “Hang on,” she said, and after a moment she opened the door. Kim was sitting in front of her computer in her underwear and a t-shirt. Behind her on her nightstand was her vibrator.
To be clear, I don’t think she was using it before I knocked, but still. I think that if you have a grace period before you open your door you should use it to put away personal items that your roommates don’t need to see (like your vibrator) and put some pants on. Kim had a habit of not wearing pants. This is why I called her Pantsless Kim whenever I talked to others about her.
Anyway, Pantsless Kim and I had a problem to solve. What were we going to do about the death metal decibel level argument going on next door? It was a work night and I needed my sleep.
At this point I was alternately scared of the screaming girl who might be a psychopath and worried that she was homeless and if we kicked her out, she’d have to sleep on the streets. Most of the time, her door was closed shut and the curtains were always drawn. Occasionally I would see her scuttling from the kitchen to her room, always wearing the same outfit and only responding with a quick “hi,” if I tried speaking to her.
Pantsless Kim and I stared talking more about the arguing. These fights, in a foreign language that sounded vaguely Indian, took place several times a week, although this one was the most intense. At first I thought she was yelling at people over Skype because I assumed she was alone in the room. But one day I saw an older woman come out of the subletter’s room when I was quietly reading in the living room. She smiled at me, and without speaking, grabbed something from the kitchen and returned to the bedroom. She must have thought she was alone in the apartment. This was the same woman who introduced herself as the subletter’s mother when we were first showing the room.
I wasn’t the only one who had seen this mystery woman. Pantsless Kim had also seen her in the apartment, but not very often. This is when I began to form my conspiracy theory that we did not give our keys to a single, normal Harvard Medical student, but to a homeless mother and daughter duo who were secretly living and cooking in one of the rooms.
As I was growing more horrified by the minute and letting my imagination run away with me, Kim was getting seriously pissed at the fighting, which was still going strong.
We went over to the other room to do something about it. When we knocked, the yelling stopped, and the subletter opened the door a crack to stick her head out. The lights were off behind her and we couldn’t see anything in the room. Pantsless Kim and I politely asked if she could be quite because we were trying to sleep. In response, she turned on her good girl politeness, too, and with a smile said, of course, sorry about that.
The door was shut, and the noise level dropped.
“What the fuck just happened?” I asked Pantsless Kim. Why was the subletter’s face acting normal when everything else about the situation was abnormal. And who was hiding in the dark?
None of my major questions ever got answered, but my homeless conspiracy theory strengthened.
On the night my regular roommate returned, at about 11pm, the subletter was still there. My real roommate had to sit and wait in the living room until the subletter and her mother finally vacated the room a little after midnight. Who moves out that late? The homeless, that’s who.
And, since when do you have to specifically state in a Craig’s List ad that you’re looking for one subletter for one room. Isn’t that implied? And if you do want two people living in one room, don’t you think that’s something to discuss before move in?
The allegedly homeless/psychopathic subletter situation was actually the second double subletter situation my roommates and I faced that summer. Previously we had the duo of Eva and Raf. She was also billed as a single subletter, an undergrad who was taking premed classes at Harvard. Young, but seemingly responsible enough to live with.
Slowly, the situation began to unravel.
When Eva, the subletter moved in, her boyfriend Raf helped carry boxes. He spent the night. Nothing out of the ordinary about that. A few days later, she asked us where she could get keys copied in the neighborhood. Because her and Raf’s schedule didn’t always line up, it would be better if he had his own pair.
Over the next few days we realized that Raf wasn’t just visiting, he was living in the room with her. Also, he was unemployed, so he spent all day hanging around the apartment in his boxers and—this was really the worst part for me—would leave the mouth guard that he slept in soaking in a cup on the edge of our bathroom sink.
At this point it was five people sharing one bathroom. There are a few things I feel strongly about in life. 1) I like a clean bathroom. 2) I have zero patience for adolescent boys or males of any age who act immature (growing up with an asshole younger brother has scarred me for life).
Two young college students had moved into an apartment of girls in their late twenties, and were taking over the place. For the most part, we were too busy with our own lives to put up a real fight.
My annoyance multiplied when Eva and Raf were together. It was the first time they had ever lived with anyone as a couple, and apparently the first time either of them had lived without the assistance of a parent or dorm monitor.
They would get into fights about what to cook for dinner, and then ask each other idiotic questions about how to boil water for pasta. They would leave the apartment for the day with their window open, and we lived on the first floor in an old building with four foot wide windows, no screens.
Barely a month had past before Eva started to have long screaming matches with her parents over the phone. From what I heard through the thin walls it was clear that her parents just didn’t understand her, and she was flunking her summer session.
She wrote an email to the roommates saying that “due to unfortunate events” she needed to move out and would help find another subletter.
I thought it was pretty amazing that she would phrase her email so delicately, considering she would sit it the kitchen screaming about her life situation for a good hour on the phone. Did she really not understand we could all hear her?
It didn’t take us too long to find a new subletter, the next crazy pants snatched up the room right away.
Desperate, deranged and doubled-up, that was the summer I learned to avoid the subletters.