By Greg Kim
(I read this last weekend at Lip Service West)
Towards the end of my anarchy/vegan/warehouse days, when people had fallen into drug use, drinking and, God forbid, college rock, I invited my high school friend Eileen to live with us. Joseph, or King Anarchy as we called him because he was the most responsible of the group and the most dogmatic, had moved out in a huff due to our lack of commitment to the cause and a problem with a phone bill. Somehow it’s always an unpaid bill that breaks up friendships. We had only four months left on our lease before we were legally evicted, so it didn’t really matter that Eileen 1) had a penchant for dried flowers and Stevie Nicks; and 2) was only a vegetarian. We compromised our pristine values and invited her into Joseph’s old, windowless room.
One week after she moved in, I left to go on tour. My roommates, Amir and Frank, knew Eileen and were happy to have a female presence in the house. Despite our feminist stance (“I know how you feel”), we were all closer to being adolescent dicks-for-brains than men in our 30s, so a pretty, blond hair California girl was a welcome presence. Even if she did eat dairy.
Before I left, I warned them to pay all the bills and to answer the record label mail. We hadn’t paid rent in 30 months, but we still managed to keep the lights and phone on by paying the bills. With Joseph’s departure, I became the defacto leader, or the most responsible one of the bunch.
When the tour ended, I came home—dirty, tired and hungry. They were happy see to me and within a day or so things were back to normal: late night fried potatoes, breaking windows and spray painting. We were back in the anarchy groove.
Late one Friday night, while Amir and I were responding to the backlog of label mail at the dining room table, we heard the front door open. It was around 3am—not an unusual time for us to be up working—and we assumed it was Eileen. Unlike us, Eileen went out with friends, got drunk and stayed out late.
The trap door to the kitchen creaked open and slammed shut. We heard the natural rustling of cupboard doors opening and closing, looking for a late night snack. We figured she was making a sandwich or heating up some bland veggie pasta.
She hadn’t come in and said hello, which was odd. Eileen was very outgoing and friendly. Amir and I went back to answering the label mail from like-minded peace punks across the world, ending most correspondence with the inspiring “Keep Fighting,” the sophisticated “In Revolution” or the embarrassing “Uhuru!”
Then I heard something that sounded like water, falling water. I jumped up, startling Amir, and found Eileen with her pants down, ass in the refrigerator with the crisper drawer pulled out, peeing. Standing in the doorway, more concerned than appalled, I said, “Are you alright, Eileen?” The blank look on her face scared me. “Eileen, are you alright!” I said with more force.
Like suddenly being woken up in the middle of the night by a fire alarm, she jumped up, looked around and wondered why her bare ass was halfway in the refrigerator. She quickly pulled up her wet pants and ran past me, down the stairs and out the door.
Amir joined me in the kitchen. “Brotha? Is she OK?” Amir was one of the nicest guys you’d ever meet, although this didn’t stop him from breaking windows, spray painting and burning things. He just did it in a nice way and was always laughing. He came to America from Iran in 1979, had problems with plurals (“Brothers, I got new pair of shoe!”) and hated police, specifically BART police, the transit police who patrolled the rail system in the Bay Area. His family was very conservative, living in a high-rise condo in the next town. They disapproved of his behavior and his friends. Then again, pretty much all of our families frowned on our choices.
“Brother, did she pee in the fridge?” Amir asked incredulously.
“Sure looks like it,” I said. I was still a bit stunned and not sure what happened. I was almost sure that she had drunk too much, drove home and blacked out somewhere in between. The anarchist side of me, the sensitive side, in tune with women’s issues, thought that maybe she might have been assaulted and this was a result of the assault. Of course, I was completely wrong, but it made me feel important to show empathy for the oppressed, even if it was my white roommate from Pleasanton.
Amir and I did our best to clean it up. Lacking any real cleaning supplies, we used an old T-shirt as a rag. Luckily the majority of her urine formed a rather large puddle in the bottom of the crisper. There was an old head of lettuce bathing in the diluted, pale yellow urine—a tell-tale color of a night’s drinking. The rest of the pee splashed on the front of crisper, forming a trail to where the trap door and concrete floor met, falling about six feet to the bottom of the stairs and then to the hallway. She had a lot of pee in her.
We dumped the pee in the crisper in the toilet and wiped up the floors, fridge and stairs with the T-shirt, rinsing it with water in the sink every so often. It wasn’t spotless, but neither were we so it didn’t really matter.
The next day I called Eileen’s mom’s house. I figured she was hiding out there until the pee incident blew over. But she knew that I lived for moments like this and it would never be over; although, she knew that I really didn’t care either. It would just be another story that I would bring up years from now.
The phone rang multiple times and eventually went to voicemail. I left a message: “Eileen, this Greg. It’s no big deal, we all pee in the fridge every once in a while. Come on back, nobody cares.”
Eileen returned late Sunday evening with a grocery bag full of food and made a point of divulging that she watched "The Simpsons" with her mother. TV was unacceptable in our household, it was considered brainwashing and she knew it, so it was odd that she mentioned it. She almost appeared defiant, like she was testing us.
She shrugged and apologized for peeing in the fridge: “Watcha gonna do?” There really was no right answer to explain peeing in a fridge. It was new, untested ground.
That night Eileen cooked Mexican food for us: corn tortillas, lardless beans, veggie rice, avocadoes and sour cream. Both Frank and Amir looked at me when Eileen got up from the table and mouthed sour cream. None of us touched it, even though the thought of having a large dollop was enticing. Sour cream of course contained dairy and dairy came from cows and that was a big no-no. Our warehouse was completely void of animal products of any kind. She was testing us.
Since she had just peed in the fridge, we gave her a break by not saying anything. We cleaned up and she nonchalantly put the leftovers in the fridge. She never asked if the fridge was clean.
A thick wall of 18 inches divided the kitchen and bathroom. I had posted a sign on the wall that said “Fridge Left, Bathroom Right.” Closing the fridge, she noticed it. She looked at me, shaking her head and said, “Fuck off.” We all laughed.
Later that week, Frank and Amir approached me and said they were really upset about the sour cream in the fridge. They mentioned nothing of peeing in the fridge. We came to an agreement that I would ask Eileen to leave for bringing dairy into the house.
The next day I pulled Eileen aside and told her we were upset about the dairy and that she needed to find a new place by the end of the month. She took it well and moved out without making a fuss. Eileen and I remain good friends and she doesn't hold a grudge for her eviction, but I still make a point of reminding her which one is the bathroom and which one is the fridge whenever I get a chance.