My Free-loading Roommate Had A Past

Roxanne Hale

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I met Becca my first couple of months selling cars on a used car lot in Texas. She showed up in a taxicab straight from the airport. Since I was the only woman working on the lot, she spotted me immediately. Becca walked right over and handed me a check for ten thousand dollars and asked me to find her something sporty.

She looked like she was maybe twenty years old – just a few years younger than I was. We could have been twins, but she was taller. We hit it off immediately, and I found her a 2-door Honda Civic- silver with low miles.

While we waited for her car to get cleaned up in the detail shop, Becca told me her story. She’d been a dancer in nightclubs since the year before when she had fallen in love with one of her patrons – a rich older doctor. He’d promised her he’d take care of her if she moved away with him. And, of course, she could quit dancing professionally. She took him up on his offer and packed her bags. The relationship lasted less than a year before he found a new love and brought her home too. This new arrangement didn’t work for Becca, and the doctor gave her a check for ten thousand dollars and a plane ticket back home.

She told me she didn’t want to go back to dancing but didn’t know what else to do for an income. Her family had disowned her when she moved away. She had some college credits but wasn’t sure she was cut out to return to college life.

My roommate had just moved out so, I offered my extra room free of charge to Becca until she found a job. We both agreed the free rent would be temporary until she landed a job. She promised to start looking immediately for work. I gave her a couple of leads on some jobs that I knew about, too.

She booked some interviews immediately. Becca even claimed to have applied to a community college.

The job interviews did not work out for various reasons. With no job and no money, she was getting more desperate. Becca asked to borrow money all the time or had me pick up food for her when I was out. And if we dined out, when the tab arrived, she always disappeared. It became obvious to me that she was treating me more like a boyfriend than her roommate.

I wanted to help her, but I wasn’t exactly a rich doctor. I was struggling financially, too.

She never did find a day job and ended up going back to work at her old nightclub, dancing again. Even though we had different schedules and didn’t see each other much, Becca made herself at home rent-free in my place.

She slept all day and usually got up around two in the afternoon to get ready for work. Even though she never bought groceries, she’d help herself to whatever I had on hand to eat. Then she left all dishes and open containers out on the counter.

Becca never once cleaned up a single thing.

She made huge messes getting ready for work in the bathroom. She’d hang shiny outfits and costumes from the shower rod and leave crazy-looking metallic stilettos lying around. When I needed to use the bathroom, I’d have to scoop all her stuff up and take it back to her room so that I had space to move around.

The whole apartment smelled liked musky vanilla.

When she got home from dancing in the early morning hours, she would start shedding clothes at the front door all the way to her bedroom – shoes, socks, pants, and hoodies made a trail to her bedroom door.

Thankfully, Becca never brought anyone home with her, but she would disappear for days on end, and then she’d turn up again with no explanation. Often, drunk.

Now that I knew she had money, I got frustrated that she didn’t at least offer to help with rent or buy some groceries, but she never did. Just when I decided to sit her down and ask her to start contributing if we were going to continue to be roommates, Becca left a note on my kitchen table with a check for fifty dollars.

She had fallen in love with someone new, and they decided to move in together. She thanked me for everything and promised to keep in touch. I was happy for this experience to come to an end, and I promptly deposited the check in my account.

A week later, I collected the mail from my box. She had written me a nice letter and included a picture of herself with her new puppy. Wherever she was, she seemed happy. Also, in the stack of mail was a note from my bank. Becca’s check had bounced, and they had charged me twenty-five dollars for it.

I didn’t keep up with Becca, but I hope she’s out there living her best life. I think she had a lot of growing up to do. Do I regret helping her out? Not really (although I’m still a little burned by the banking fee).

A few of my friends told me she took advantage of me, but that’s not the way I see it. I try to live by a simple code when I agree to help someone out. If I don’t want to do it – then I don’t, and I’m really straightforward about it. I only offer to do the things I want to do, and then I do them without reservation or expectation of a payback.

Did I learn anything from this experience? Yeah. Choose your roommates wisely.

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Roxanne Hale, owner, and broker of Arthouse has spent over 20 years in the real estate business. Here you'll find a collection of stories about buying and selling real estate & home building advice, housing history, and architecture & design tips. Oh, and some fun personal stories every now and then!

Homewood, AL
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