Charlene Kwamboka Chronicles: The Herculean Task of Finding a Roommate in Anaheim, California

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One thing my stupid porridge head did think of asking but didn’t care enough to worry about, was just how expensive life can be at Anaheim. It is one of those high end places I have never lived my whole life but in my urge to escape Nairobi – the city in which I had proven myself unemployable – I had walked right into a place where I couldn’t afford to pay rent and eat and clear other bills and send some money home. But then considering I would have taken a khat hauling job in Mogadishu had it been offered to me, I think I landed on my feet.

READ Part 2: A Strange Welcome to Life in Anaheim, California

READ Part 1: The journey to a new home, career in California

Which is why I started looking for a roommate. Remember how I also said I could use an American friend to show me the ropes? Well, I was hoping that my roommate could also double up as this friend of mine. That way I wouldn’t walk right up to someone and say, “Wow. You are really fat. What have you been eating?” Because apparently, that is wrong. I read it was wrong in Chimamanda’s Americanah and I figured she was kidding but guess what, she wasn’t! People are really touchy about these things.

And you can’t even say it on a light note. If you have a friend who is well fed, you are not supposed to point that out around these parts. You can’t even say something as kiss ass as “You have become very vertically blessed nowadays.” So I need a friend who could advise me for example that the best way to address the weight subject is to completely ignore it. And to walk around pretending like everyone is weightless. Which is good advice coming to think of it, because other people’s weights are really none of my business.

I am doing that digressing thing again, aren’t I?

So I pin a notice at the Institute’s notice board that has my name on it and my phone number. And a simple message that reads, “Looking for a female roommate age 23 – 27”. Then twenty four hours later, I find someone has added a sentence to my notice reading, “To marry and dyke around with.”

I am not offended. Not many things offend me anymore. I think I was born with one of those hearts that can handle a lot of crap before finally coming apart at the seams. I think I have just lied to everyone. Many things offend me. And I am always exploding over one thing or another. Last time I lost it was about six months ago when my grandmother asked me to never show up at home with Davis (my boyfriend) again because he had a stud in one ear. And she had said, “If you bring that woman around these parts again, I will sniff my tobacco and sneeze in her face.”

That was a few weeks before he called me a couch potato. And cut my emotional attachment to him by 51.142%. I know because I calculated. Ladies, if you want me to share with you the algorithm I use to calculate the amount of emotional attachment I have towards a man; you will have to talk to me nicely. It’s a real algorithm by the way. And it totally works. Ask Davis.

Who now won’t stop calling me by the way. On WhatsApp, via Skype… Dude’s always calling. Asking me how I am. Telling me how much he misses my lips and my fingertips. Yeah. Davis is corny. He will drag himself through all forms of embarrassments just to come up with a rhyme. I miss him but I won’t tell him that because he really hurt my feelings with that line. The couch potato line. Just because I couldn’t hold a job didn’t make me a lazy person. It just meant I had a low proclivity for horseshit. Period.

I really need to stop digressing! Alright, where was I? Ah yes. My pursuit for a roommate.

So after somebody insinuated that I was looking for a roommate with whom to commence a female to female relationship and live happily ever after with them, I pulled that one down and wrote another one. This one read;

“Hello everyone,

This is Charlene Kwamboka again looking for a female roommate. I won’t leave my number here because it appears nobody is mature enough to deserve it yet. The said roommate should be between 23 and 27 years old, drinks a little, knows how to have fun and is acquainted with the State of California. Serious applicants only. I am normally found at The Rockefeller Hall on 6th Floor from 16:00h.

Just a reminder; bull-shitters please stay away.”

Next morning I find someone has written “Are you only looking for Americans? You racist!” on my notice and my jaw drops all the way to my stomach. What in my request is racist? I mean, there are all sorts of races here. You name it, and it will be found in America. And they are all Americans! No matter the color of their skin! Damn, I feel so preachy right now. The ridiculousness that that accusation comes clothed in is simply stupefying.

This time I don’t pull down my notice. Instead, I add, “if you deduce from my request that I am racist, then you must be the dumbest donkey to ever walk these streets. It must be hard for your parents to bear a child as thick as you.” At the bottom, I add, “smart and serious applicants only”.

So now my notice reads,

“Hello everyone,

This is Charlene Kwamboka again looking for a female roommate. I won’t leave my number here because it appears nobody is mature enough to deserve it yet. The said roommate should be between 23 and 27 years old, drinks a little, knows how to have fun and is acquainted with the State of California. Serious applicants only. I am normally found at The Rockefeller Hall on 6th Floor from 16:00h.

Just a reminder; bull-shitters please stay away.”

Smart and serious applicants only.

Are you only looking for Americans? You racist!

“If you deduce from my request that I am racist, then you must be the dumbest donkey to ever walk these streets. It must be hard for your parents to bear a child as thick as you.”

Next morning, I find the person who accused me of being racist and who I in turn called thick has asked, “Did you just call me fat?”

So I reply on the now quite untidy notice, “Wow! Seriously, wow! Yes. Yes you dumb fuck. I just called you fat. Why don’t you follow the instructions on where to find me and we’ll have a chat about it?

I am sure everyone has noticed by now that I have quite the short fuse. No. Not a short fuse. Just a fuse that comes loose every time I have to deal with silliness. I am, in that way, allergic to stupidity in any shape, fashion or form.

At 16:06h just after the last student has left my class, a lady walks in. She is a few inches taller than I am, has long dark hair that almost reaches her waist and huge dark eyes. When a girl is taller than I am, that means she is one tall lady. And this one is in a hooded jacket and baggy jeans and boots. It is hard to tell her age. But she could be 23 or 28.

First thing she says in her deep Hispanic accent the moment she walks in through the door is;

Her: I am looking for Charlene. I can’t say her second name because it sounds dumb.

She is standing at the doorway and I am seated at my desk in front of the classroom. There are about six meters between us. She is holding what I make out to be the untidy notice in her hands.

Me: Kwamboka. The second name is Kwamboka. And just because you can’t say it doesn’t mean it is dumb. It just means that you are.

That doesn’t appear to elicit any form of reaction from her. Instead, she walks further into the room, places the notice on my table and looks squarely at me.

Her: “You dumb fuck. I just called you fat. Why don’t you follow the instructions on where to find me and we’ll have a chat about it?”

Me: (Standing up) So that was you, huh? You who can’t tell that “thick” means “stupid”.

Her: Yeah well, where I come from, if something is thick, then it is fat.

Me: Honey, if I want to call you fat, I will use the word fat. I won’t say thick, or wide, or vertically endowed or whatever. I will say fat.

Her: You are a bitch, aren’t you? (She has a smile on her face. A very nice smile in fact.)

Me: (With a cloud of uncertainty) I have been called that by two people yes. Or three. Or thirty. Guess that means it’s true.

Her: (As she extends her hand to me for shaking. She is still smiling) I am Isabella Rodriguez. If we become friends, I will allow you to call me Bella. For now, just call me Miss Rodriguez.

Me: Are you serious? What are we doing right now?

Her: Right now, I have just introduced myself to you and I want you to shake my hand. Will you do that for me or not?

Me: (As we shake hands) Charlene Kwamboka. Should I say ‘nice to meet you’ or can we first ride this awkward moment out?

Her: (She picks one student’s chair and sits as close to my desk as possible) What awkward moment? Let’s have that chat you wanted.

Me: (As I sit down) OK. What do you want to talk about?

Her: Am I fat to you?

Me: (Rolling my eyes) Are we still there?

Her: (Smiling) I am just kidding. You are a bitch. That in my loco head means you don’t like bullshit. I like that about you. I want to be your roommate.

Me: What? But I don’t even like you.

Her: Well, like I said, I want to be your roommate. Not your friend.

Me: But I want a roommate who I can be friends with.

Her: (Toying with me) Aww. Are you lonely? Don’t you have any friends yet?

Me: (Assertively) No. No I don’t have friends. I don’t make them easy. And since it appears you have a million friends already, why don’t you find yourself another roommate?

Her: I had a roommate.

Me: And what? She couldn’t stand you anymore?

Her: You can say that. Why don’t we start off as roommates? See how it goes from there.

Me: You realize that we will spend a lot of time fighting, right? Because you seem like a very terrible person.

Her: That’s OK. You seem like a horrible human being too. I have a feeling I will spend all my time hating you and pulling your hair. Speaking of your hair, I know a salon three blocks south where you could visit.

Me: Why? What’s wrong with my hair? (Everything is wrong with my hair. I have been looking for a salon for a while now.)

Her: It looks like dried up elephant shit. (As she gets off her chair) Get up. We’re going to the salon right now.

Me: Seen a lot of dried up elephant shit, have you?

I don’t like Bella, er Ms. Rodriguez very much. As we walk slowly towards the salon three blocks south, I think to myself that we will have an interestingly turbulent relationship that won’t last three months. (This is where I wanted to end this article, but my noisy head just keeps telling me to keep writing.)

And who says “Three blocks south?” Where the hell is south? Or North? Or North North East for that matter? I really hate my Geography teachers for wasting my life on that crap.

“Jesus Christ Charlene! How do you manage to digress at the end of your article? Just put a full stop and go have tequila shots. Like two. Or five. Or ten for good measure.” I reprimand myself then put three full stops at the end of the article. Which in my head represents overemphasis on not writing the article anymore for the day. Even though grammatically, it means something else is coming up…

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