They’re leaving and they don’t give a cat’s arse. ‘It’s not you, it’s me,’ they say. ‘You’ll find someone better.’ And that’s it: they’re moving on. Not your boyfriend or girlfriend, this is much worse: it’s your housemate. This person, with whom you had endless battles over buying toilet paper, who always took all the hot water and who sniffed their clothes before wearing them, has never seemed so attractive as they now do walking out of the door.
You’re desperate for them not to go, but it’s too late. They want to find themselves in the Andes, or they’ve been scraping together their pennies in secret and now have enough to buy their own home (which is technically half yours, what with all the bailing out and pints you bought them). Well, good for them. But what about you? You know the highs and lows of sharing. The highs are few, the lows are many: the late-night sound of grunting through the walls, the mysterious food disappearances, the sticky patch of someone else’s wee on the bathroom floor – but if you want to keep a roof over your head, you need to get back out there and find someone new. Sharpish.
Which is why this evening there is a strange man sitting in your living room, drinking tea and looking at the furniture, at your housemates and at you, which is making you nervous. You feel like you’re on a first date, only it’s not a very good one as he’s just asked you about recycling and doesn’t seem too impressed with the response: ‘Errm. We have a plastic bag for wine bottles.’ But this is not a date, this is your house!
The dating comparison is inevitable. I mean, you can go online and put together a house ‘profile’, saying things like ‘professional’, ‘tidy’, or ‘we enjoy the odd glass of wine’, to tempt the unsuspecting into living with you; when actually you’re a group of regressing semi-adults, expect everyone to chip in for a cleaner and drink WKD for breakfast. You can even sign up for speed flatmating. But whatever way you do it, this moment will come, when a stranger enters your home, there’s a bit of stilted conversation, the look at all your things and leave, never to call you again. Sound familiar?
Back in the living room, things are very awkward. It’s like when you bump into that ex in the supermarket and try to act nonchalant, but make a total plank of yourself. It’s so uncomfortable, you decide to go and get a nice cool glass of water while this amateur ‘Question Time’ continues with the potential housemate man. ‘Be normal, be normal,’ you think, as you sit back down and laugh nervously at a joke he makes that you don’t understand. It turns out it isn’t a joke. It’s what he does for a living.
Now you can’t stop laughing, so you take a big gulp of water to try and stifle it. It goes down the wrong way and you cough it violently all over your lap. The potential housemate man stares at you as if you’d just wet yourself. One of your housemates suggests perhaps you should clean yourself up instead of dripping on the sofa. So you go into the kitchen.
In your absence, you can hear that things are now going much better. The potential housemate man is chatting away happily. He makes a real joke and everyone starts laughing. Not wanting to be left out, you dash back into the living room, but lose control on the wet laminate floor and spin towards the potential housemate man and his steaming cup of tea.
The cup of tea flies into his face, while your face ends up in his crotch. This is the end of the interview. You have simultaneously scalded and inappropriately touched a stranger, and there’s nothing else to say. On his way out you hear him mutter ‘Good luck’ to your housemates.
To be honest, you don’t really give a cat’s arse. You’re the one who’s leaving.
Hannah Pemberton, 28, is a fundraiser. She lives in Clapham Junction, and when not in the pub, can be found in her co-ordination class.