We sit in the courtyard outside the classroom.
“I am looking for a roommate, if you’re interested. You’re not an axe murderer, are you?”
The girl (a young woman, but a girl compared to me) laughs. It is incongruous, this pale girl dressed in black, laughing. A smile looks surprising on her face for the instant it is there. I have become accustomed to the guarded expression she wears in History of 20th-Century Art.
“I’m not an axe murderer, but yeah, I’d love a place to stay. What are you asking for rent?”
“How much can you afford?”
“Dunno,” she mumbles. “I’m paying 850 now, and it’s hard.”
She looks at her lap and picks at a piece of lint on her tights. I consider her sitting across from me.
“Tell me more about yourself. If we might be living together, I need to know.”
Cedar (her name) tells me where she’s from, her family background, her current employer, and her other classes. She tells me all of things she should tell me to reassure me that she is boring and will pay her rent on time and won’t cause any problems.
“Do you have any animals? That would include boyfriends or girlfriends?”
She laughs. Again, a brief flash of a smile spiders across her face and then scuttles away.
“I have a boyfriend and a cat.”
“What is the cat’s name? Important questions first.”
“Picasso. And my boyfriend’s Drake. Can I ask you something?”
“Why do you want a roommate? You don’t seem like you--need a roommate.”
“You mean because of my age? And Picasso is a great name for a cat.”
“Thanks. I mean, kind of.”
“There is no problem if you mention my age--,” I begin, not sure where my words will take me. “I’m 44. I need a roommate because I am no longer married. My husband wanted a divorce, and I’m glad he did. We were both trapped. Now we’re not--at least, not by each other. I have a mortgage because I still live in the condominium we shared. It has two bedrooms and two bathrooms. I don’t need two bedrooms and two bathrooms because I am one person, but I do need help with the mortgage because my life is changing. I need it to change, and the best way to make that happen is to change it. And you seem like a nice girl who needs a place to live.”
“Do you have any animals? Sounds like you need one.”
Another smile scurries across her pale face but waits there in the awkward creases this time.
“750 a month, and not a penny more. Utilities included. And did I mention, Picasso is a great name for a cat?”