I was sitting in the coffee shop, drinking my latte, when I noticed one of the coffee clerks outside with her boyfriend. This wasn’t Starbucks where are there nine clerks screaming out your double decaf mocha mist frappes. Personally, I like the neighborhood hole-in-the-walls where the staff is a little more bohemian. This place is one of my favorites.
Jammin’ Java is in Vienna, VA. It’s the jack-of-all-trade coffee places. It sells coffee obviously, but it also is a 100-person concert venue, serves lunch and gives music lessons.
Anyway, back to the lady with the boyfriend. To say they were kissing would be an understatement. His tongue was so far down her throat, he could have tied her shoelaces. She had this bottled blonde, shoulder-length hair that reaffirmed the need for professional hair care. But then again, she had a tongue in her throat and I had a latte, so who’s to criticize.
As she turned and walked back into the store, I did a double take. She looked exactly like one of my old roommates, Pam.
When I first moved to DC, I lived in a group house with six other people. My friend Chrissy had convinced me to give up my lucrative career at the Olive Garden and move to DC without a job. For two months, four of us packed into a two bedroom/den apartment in Alexandria until we could find better accommodations.
We found an amazing house in Arlington, but we needed a fifth roommate. “I know,” Chrissy said, “let’s ask my friend Pam.”
Now the four of us knew each other from college. We all got along, except Mark, who would borrow our soap and steal the house’s toilet paper. (Yeah, we couldn’t figure out what he needed it for either.) Pam came over for a happy hour and we knew we should bring her aboard as a roommate.
Once we moved in, the weirdness began.
Pam had a full time boyfriend named Tim. She’d met Tim at her last job, but we discovered she’d been engaged to another from that job and broke it off to date Tim. I loved a good scandal and could really offer nothing shocking myself aside from the secret exhilaration of watching Cop Rock.
One day, the phone rang and Pam quickly answered it and hung up. This happened four more times until we finally inquired.
“There’s this guy I met who thinks we are dating.” Pam explained.
Chrissy asked, “Why would he think that?”
“Well, it seems if you get drunk and totally do the business with someone and they are all needy and boyfriend-like.”
But it didn't stop there.
On Valentine’s Day, we had a motor coach pull up to our house to deliver a dozen roses. A bus driver got out and handed them to Mark. “Tell Pam I stopped by.”
(Secretly we prayed that relationship wouldn’t last since we lost all our parking spaces when he arrived.)
Upon returning from a trip to Boston, Pam collapsed in exhaustion on the couch. We knew she’d been visiting her friend Brian, who lived in the South End. I said, “Pam, why are you tired? We thought Brian was gay.”
She sighed, “Well, he’s decided that he might be bi so he wants me to be his practice girlfriend.” (If you’re wondering, even Pam couldn’t overcome nature versus nurture.)
Instead of using our white board for messages, we kept a list of boyfriends and Pam would write out that day’s excuse in case they called. The cover-up was tiresome, but you do this for roommates.
In every situation, there eventually comes time for intervention. Ours came in the form of Mr. Su.
Pam worked at the Korean Embassy. There was a diplomat who became quite fond of her. All we knew was that he was a little weird. One day, Pam was on the phone and we overheard this conversation; “I’m not going to sleep with you again, Jennifer. It was fun, but I have to stay focused on my life.”
We all stood up. Chrissy looked back and forth and finally blurted out the words we’d been dying to ask. “Pam, have you become a lesbian?”
She pulled her hand through her long blond locks and sighed, “No. Mr. Su likes me to call him 'Jennifer' when we’re together.”
Pilfering Mark just looked up and said, “Can you go back to seeing the bus driver?”