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The Boy Who Lived (With Me)

Postcard from New York City, New York

By Lena Chen

My roommate's father thinks I'm a lesbian.

It is the only way he'd allow me to live with his son who, unbeknownst to him, is actually the one who's gay. But obtaining parental permission was just the initial hurdle of my New York rooming adventures with Kameron. In eight weeks, the two of us have gone through three apartments, multiple viewings and interviews, one roommate, two long-term guests, and many overnight visitors. We also work together. It seems a bit much, even for freshman year pals, but somehow, we've made it through the better part of the summer with our friendship intact.

There's no doubt that Kameron's sexual preference is what makes our relationship work. As much as I'd like to deny it, the cliché, heteronormative assertion that Harry made to Sally in the 1989 movie is true: Men and women can't be just friends. Unless, of course, they both dig boys. Tumbling into bed with Kam after sharing one too many drinks is never a concern. Around him, I walk around in my underwear more comfortably than I did in my all-girl suite. The only tension that ever manifests between us is the periodic disagreement about whose turn it is to take out the trash.

Most importantly, there's no underlying competition between us over men, which is something that creeps up slowly but surely in my all-female living arrangements. Kam christens our apartment the first week we are in town; I don’t hook up with anyone for weeks. For that first month, I joke about him getting more action than I do without passive-aggressively harboring hidden resentment.

Of course, negotiating privacy for hookups is an entire issue in itself. Kam is stealthy about it. I have never met one of his male visitors whereas he has encountered every one of mine. Luckily, he is less intimidating than my girlfriends. When I introduce guys to Kam, I detect a faint sense of relief from my paramours who must be thankful that they are not before a female pal ready to grill them on the cut of my anticipated engagement ring.

Still, despite the lack of attraction between Kam and me, it is hard to not fall into patterns of domesticity. During our first month in the city, we live in a West Village apartment ten minutes from work. Every morning, I cook breakfast for us and rouse him from his slumber. I remind him over the course of the day about grocery errands, bills, and dinner plans. On the way home in the evening, I call him to ask after his whereabouts. We are roommates and coworkers, but also, partners.

After we move east for a three-week stint at 13th Street and Avenue A, the longer commute to work allows no time for shared meals. Our social calendars fill up with individual engagements as we meet new acquaintances and adjust to city life. In the apartment, we only see each other in passing or during the early morning hours. Not long after our second move, my co-worker asks me, “Are you and Kameron okay?”

“Yeah, why?”

“It seems like he’s never home anymore.”

At that moment, I suddenly know how a neglected housewife feels.

In overdramatic fashion, I am a paranoid wreck for the rest of the day before I tentatively broach the subject with Kam.

“Are you getting sick of me?” I ask.

“No…” he says, looking at me with a quizzical expression.

“You never talk to me anymore.”

“What's there to talk about?”

“I don't know. Do you find me annoying?”

“No. If you annoyed me, I'd tell you.”

I suddenly feel very silly. After all, Kameron and I get along much better than most roommates. In fact, the horror stories of best friends turning into worst enemies after sharing a roof never manifest. It hardly feels like we are living on top of each other.

Now we live in a “cozy” one-bedroom overlooking Tompkins Square Park. The four-room railroad apartment would be considered roomy for a couple, but we are not a couple (despite what we told the landlady) so we swap sleeping accommodations night to night, even though the bed is big enough for two. Before we move in, Kam picks up the keys. During his short visit, the landlady spreads herself over her couch in a provocative position and bends over in front of him while retrieving her cat. My roommate's years of practice in passing for straight before family members have clearly paid off. When he recounts the tale to me later, I am actually outraged that another woman had the gall to try seducing my pseudo-boyfriend.

But even though I know there was no temptation, I am really proud he resisted.



Lena Chen ’09, a Crimson Fifteen Minutes editor, is a sociology concentrator in Currier House. She is actually not fond of The Boy Who Lived, but Kam is.

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