My room-mate Patty was a knockout. Back in 1965, she had big blue eyes, milky white skin and long flaming hair that could be seen for miles. With a figure to match Marilyn Monroe's, she often lounged in a body stocking, long before body stockings became the rage. In my nastier moments, I might have added that the hair was dyed and she was near-sighted, but that made no difference. Patty picked men up and dropped them in the same casual way she picked up and dropped a magazine. Sometimes she played her men off like a chess game, but there was one that got away, and this is what my story is about.
Patty answered an ad I had placed in the newspapers for a room-mate. She showed up one day, with two or three suitcases and several cardboard boxes full of magazines. In no time at all men were beating down our door. Young, old, handsome, plain—everybody from the paper boy, to the building superintendent, to the telephone repair man came to gawk and talk with Patty. Some of the more daring asked her out and usually she went.
In the meantime, I worked at a day job and an evening job and, on my nights off, cleaned the apartment which somehow Patty never seemed to have time to do. Same with shopping and laundry. One night while Patty was lounging around in her body stocking, reading one of her fashion magazines, the man from apartment 910 whom I'd been smiling at for about two years came down and offered to help me shift a book-case. Within ten minutes he and Patty were back upstairs drinking coffee (she said) while I finished the job myself. Ah well, I consoled myself, if he's the kind of man who chases after a girl like Patty, there's no point in my pining.
A month or so later Patty returned from work one day with the news that there was a new man in apartment 608. Had I seen him, she wanted to know. He was just the most handsome thing in the City of Toronto. She just had to meet him.
Up until this point, Patty only used to spend about an hour in the bathroom in the mornings, bathing, brushing the burnished hair, applying false eyelashes and contact lenses, make-up, etc. etc. (If I didn't race into the bathroom before six in the morning, I was relegated to splashing in the kitchen sink if I wanted to get to work on time.) After the advent of the new man in 608, Patty spent an hour and a half in the bathroom, sometimes two.
Still, the new man in 608 remained impervious to Patty’s charm. Once or twice she got on the elevator with him. She batted her baby-blues and leaned across him to press the elevator button, all to no avail.
Soon the man in 608 was all she could talk about. She just had to meet him. She would die if she didn't, she said, and then she came up with a plan. From the University, Patty acquired a multi-page questionnaire form and a clipboard. After supper one night, she donned glasses, tied her long hair into a pony-tail which only served to make her even more attractive, and made her way to his apartment.
What she hadn't counted on was the fact that another man lived in the apartment as well. He answered her knock and ushered her inside. Once there she had no choice but to continue the ruse. For the next half hour while answering her questions, he pawed her and chased her around the sofa. Not only was he a pill but he had halitosis besides. Finally she asked him about the chap living with him. "Oh I live alone," he said. "Uncle Jack was staying here for a couple of weeks while he attended a seminar at the University. But he's back with the wife and kids in Thunder Bay. So we are all alone, sweets."
In a state of disarray, Patty returned to our apartment. I'll have to say this for her, she took failure in her stride. Through gales of laughter she told the story on herself. Then late that same evening my boss dropped by with some paperwork for me. Within minutes Patty had her coat on and asked if he could give her a lift to the subway. Where he dropped her I never found out, but I didn't see either of them for the next two days.
By and by living with Patty began to get on my nerves. Little things, like never being able to get in the bathroom, like always having to pick up after her, or the fact that she never paid the rent on time, or helped with the shopping, the laundry or the cleaning. (Okay, and I seethed with jealous righteousness.) One day I asked Patty to find another apartment, and in a week she was gone, along with the men and the magazines.
I was just congratulating myself that I had made good riddance to bad rubbish when, a week before Christmas, I received a telephone bill for more than I earned in a month from my two jobs. It seems that Patty had a boyfriend in Mississippi as well. Needless to say, she left no forwarding address.