When Things Stop Being Polite...And Start Getting Real

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When I first moved into Hoboken in 1995, I moved into town with my friends Ryan* and Lucky*. I knew both of them from Villanova, they were friends and fraternity brothers. We moved into a place on 6th and Bloomfield, a converted single family brownstone that was now divided into three single units on three floors.

On the first floor & basement another two of our post-college fraternity brothers lived with three other people. As the way things work in Hoboken, people move out & around and eventually all five on the ground floor left and my brothers and I decided to take over their larger unit, with 5 "bedrooms" (technically they were two basement windowless rooms, and the pantry, dining room and family room converted into "bedrooms").

Looking back, the place was absurd. But, after college, you really don't care too much about where you sleep, and the rent was cheap. I paid the most, taking the "living room-bedroom", and paying $475 a month. Ryan and Lucky paid $350 each. We used hobokeni.com to find roommates, which was long before craigslist was popular.

Ryan, Lucky and I had at least 10 different roommates over the years. Guys and Girls. From all walks of life. Some would stay as little as a few months, others would be for much longer. It was easy to find people, since our rent was so cheap, and we had a lot of fun living there.

But, with roommates, sometimes bad things happen, too.

I think the one that stands out in my mind the most was when I was living there with two roommates Ben* and Karen*, along with two other people (In the haze of memory, I can't recall if Ryan and Lucky were living there at the time).

But what I do remember was that Ben was some random guy we met from an online ad. He was very handsome dark haired guy, and had a quiet charm about him. Karen was a blonde haired girl, with an on-and-off again boyfriend, and she liked her drink. She was a very fun roommate, who would be out at the local bars many times a week. To this day I don't know how she did it and could function at work the next day.

Ben and Karen were instant friends. He just moved into the house and the first few weeks there was a definite "spark" between the two of them, much like you watch on TV shows like the Real World, where two roommates get that instant attraction, but they are at just the "flirty fun" stage of things. They both lived on the basement floor, in seperate "bedrooms" (the bedrooms were tiny, I think people who lived there paid $275-300 for rent), but the bedrooms were connected to each other with a common door between rooms.

Things were going well, and I came home from work to find Karen there, not in her usual bubbly mood, but with a somber look on her face talking to another roommate. I asked what was up, and was told, by Karen, that Ben tried to force himself on her.

Say what?

Apparently, they had been drinking at Sullivan's, which was less than 150 feet from our apartment. I would hazard that Ben had been living with us for about 6 weeks, and everything was just going fine. This was a bit of a shock to everyone.

Karen explained further. They were drinking at the bar, having fun. They got home around 11pm. She went to bed. He went to bed. Next thing she remembers was him crawling into bed with her, and kissing her. She says she fought him off, telling him to get out and he did.

She was really freaked out by it, left the house and stayed with her on-again-off again boyfriend who lived in Hoboken, not telling him what happened.

Lots of questions cropped up, but the bottom line was that Karen felt it was rape. She did not want to call the police. She just wanted him out of the apartment.

One of the main problems with everything going on here is that Karen and Ben were, at least from my perspective, in that dance of courtship. Karen had a boyfriend, but they were so up & down, you never knew what was going on there. Ben was definitely getting signals from Karen that she was interested over the last few weeks and i'm sure the booze didn't help. Also we didn't ask Ben his side of the story.

The roommates got together the next few nights and basically agreed Ben had to leave, I don't recall if we ever asked Ben what happened. Ben was away for the next couple of days on work, and by the time he got back, we found out he had a job offer in Washington DC. He left and a week after the "incident" he was gone, in such haste that he left his guitar behind, and a few other things.

Things calmed down once he left and our next roommate was Trudy*, and Karen stayed for another year and moved to Sleepy Hollow, NY.

We never heard from Ben again.

Everyone has their nightmare roommate stories, but that was the one that I will never forget. In a way I felt bad for both Karen and Ben because I have seen alcohol make a lot of good people make bad decisions over the years. I have had some great roommates and others that betrayed my trust. My only suggestion to new roommates is something I learned after many years - if you do live with roommates, get a lock for your bedroom door. A good lock that needs a key. That may seem like overboard, but it will solve about 50% of your problems, from nosy roommates to those who had too much to drink and feel frisky.

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This page contains a single entry by Furey published on May 14, 2009 12:07 AM.

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