Stories from the past: My racist roommate


Before I was a mother of 2, I had a life different. I do not long to return to that pale past, but the stories are amusing to me to remember.

The futon arrived at the house before I had unpacked anything else. I was in Paris at the time that the bed came, so the roommates were left with a quandary of what to do with it. Leave it out in the rain? Hork the giant queen-sized thing in? They were what seemed to be good people. They brought the bed in.

And they wondered about me. Who is this roommate that has furniture delivered while she is gallivanting off in Europe?

At this time of life, I was less than a year home from living two years in Russia and wanting little more than some direction and a stable place to live. I had been living in a house with a bunch of young lawyers, but they all broke ranks when one of them bought a house of their own, and I was on the street looking for another abode. W and A seemed amply cool. A was a tall swing dancing English teacher with a little boyfriend and W was a former USMC attending university.

We did stuff together sometimes, yardwork, dinners and the like. Mostly W and A kept to their own, and I did too.

I announced the desire to have a party for the spring. I was very into salsa dancing and A was into swing dancing, so we were gonna roll back the carpet and have a big spring dancing party. We made many preparations, mostly music, refreshments, charging a little to recoup costs and of course a bulk of small flyers we gave to people we wanted to invite.

The night came and things couldn’t have gone together better. We somehow got a disco ball, a 100 disc changer and an amp system. We moved all the furniture out of the living room and rolled back that rug. People started knocking, the lights went down and the dancing began. Our living room held probably about 25 people dancing, and was packed the whole time.

W had invited his USMC buddies mid afternoon to set up a sort of bbq, which they seemed to do extensive preparations for. They also got a pony keg. All to themselves.

At about 5, W and his friends finished preparations (they moved stuff around, made a little patio area, did bbq and got a sort of shade extension off the detached garage). So at that point the devoted themselves wholly to drinking beer.

The dancers in the house were a huge mix of my Russian friends and friends I had made salsa dancing. Many of them were mere acquaintances, sharing just the love of dancing. The place was packed, people were dancing, the disco ball was spinning with the cumbia, salsa and chachacha. I was in a sort of heaven.

Then there were rumblings from out back. W had managed to work himself to a point of severe drunkenness and his friends were giving him a hard time about his house being filled with (insert racial slur against Russian and Spanish speakers here). W always believed to be a young man of character. But having his Marine buddies harangue him like this in a state of drunkenness was probably hitting him in his soft spot.

W came inside the hoppin’ party with a saw, a hammer and some nails (apparently, I didn’t see him, I was dancing) nailed his door shut in some rather random show of protest. He then used the saw to cut a hole in his screen (?) and yelled out to his friends that he was a hostage in his own home.

This was all entirely too random for me to digest.

He then crawled out of his window, went back to the living room, turned off the music and put on some hip hop. Only then did anyone become aware of what was happening. The music was gone. The lights on , the dancing stopped. The party on hold. I tried to resume the music, but W was dancing to his rap music, saying it was his turn. I figgered, uh, ok. It’s your turn.

A pulled me out to the front yard in high drama.

“What’s up with W? Go talk to him!” I asked

“No, you have to turn off your music and get your friends out,”

“WHAT?? Are you crazy? There is anywhere from 50 to 75 people here to dance…”

“W is upset, you need to make the party stop”

This was all too entirely surreal. How could she agree with this lunatic? Especially after all the trouble we had gone through and the quantity of people who were having fun.

A friend approached me.

“Your roommate is racist,”


“He’s telling all the “spics” and Russians to get lost, beat it, get out of his house,”



I looked at the door and people were filing out.

Within a month I moved out, and thus continued the story of how I moved every six months for about 3 years.

edit:  I wasn’t really happy with how I ended this story.  I never spoke to any of these folks again.  I moved to a house nearby filled with guys.  I lived there for 6 or so months and then got my own apartment.  I saw A, the tall swing dancing English teacher once with her little boyfriend (I say he was little because he was quite literally half her stature) at a coffee shop across from my apartment after  had returned to Portland from Corvallis years later.  The only time I had spoken to her after that night was when she was showing me some nudes of herself that she was going to hang in her dining area.  I tried not to think about how they would definitely make me lose my appetite.  I chalked the whole group up to the “Interesting people I have met and will likely never talk to again” contingent in my life.  And that is exactly how it has been.

I might mention though that through this experience I also made friends with Leslie, who is to this day a good friend of mine, (even though she has been out of state for something like 7 years).

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