"We need to discuss something"
I had just come home. Chubby was in his room and had grunted back a vague 'hello' when I greeted him. I saw him emerge from his room and come to me, and immediately had the weird inkling has he was to tell me something serious.
"I'm going to move out soon. My parents want to buy me a flat"
"Okay", I replied.
Chubby stopped. He was obviously surprised by my minimal response. Could it be so simple? Things had been icy between us. Not because we were mad at each other. Icy because there was no life.
Our flatsharing experience had started well. Chubby was not the most cheerful person I knew, to put it mildly, but he was somebody I thought I could count on. I liked his quietness. He was well read, could speak English and a bit of French, liked the arts and worked at the Moca (Museum of Contemporary Art in Taipei). "An ideal flatmate", I thought when we began to scout for a flat together. He didn't care much about investing in the house, so I did it. Most of the money I made went to it: buying chairs, tables, lights, lamps, cutlery, plates and bowls, buying the stereo, decorate the house... Creating a personal and comfortable living space was vital to me, especially since I was now living in a foreign country, far from family and friends, a blank page to write on. Chubby's part was to take care of the bills and deal with the landlord. Not much more. He was working most of the time at the gallery, so I had the place to myself during the day and could work on my music without disturbing anyone. My frequent trips abroad also allowed him good chunks of time for himself. Though opposite, our two temperaments completed each other. However things started to shift since the end of last year when I returned from Paris. His taciturn and defensive attitude was something I had come to make do with. He could be dry and funny at best, or annoying and stubborn at worst. However I grew quite alarmed to see how his life was going: he developed serious acne on his face with the stress he accumulated from his strenuous work, his eye-sight was dangerously diminishing on the left eye (or the right eye?), he hadn't been dating anyone in ages (I guess it takes some time and patience for him to open to someone), and getting drunk wasn't something alien to him (I saw him gulping down a couple of bottles without much of a flinch or a flush). His inability to communicate created a big wall between us, in spite of my efforts to include him at dinners or gatherings, to write to him and bring back presents from my trips. Then I started to feel resentment grow in me. I was aware that my way wasn't his way, but it seemed that remaining on his solitary island kept him safe. I went through serious financial problems and asked him to even out our rent (I accepted to pay more than he, because he said he had a limited budget for the rent and couldn't afford to spend more). He claimed that he had to help his parents and also badly needed money. But I saw a new Dolce & Gabanna leather jacket hanging on the balcony one evening, then pairs of fashionable jeans. "Seeing how hard he works, he deserve to treat himself with something expensive sometime", I said to myself.
Yet I had the unpleasant sentiment that something wasn't quite fair. He had been taking full advantage of all the things I had provided in the house without contributing much (well, yes an occasional quarterly meal, which is maybe a lot already if one stands from his side), he broke a precious handmade white plate that Jo and Sawako had sent me from Japan without any word of apology. It was less about the plate than his refusal to muter a simple 'sorry'. Acknowledge. I would try to accept all that as part of his personality: a moody, solitary (stingy) and taciturn young man. The atmosphere in the house was usually dead silent and stagnant whenever he was around (except when he had n a merry good mood with the help of a few drinks)
"He may be young, but he's behaving like a middle aged man!" Jay remarked.
So when I heard the news, I was confused. His parents have no money, and yet they can afford to buy him a flat?
"When would that be?" I asked him some time later, when the piece of news sank deeper in me.
"Later... In one month? Two? At the end of the year?" I asked
"We haven't found anything yet. My parents said I could live at my uncle's in Banciao, until they find and buy the flat" Chubby replied.
"But if you move out, you have to give me time to figure out what to do!"
"I know. That's why I told my parents I won't be moving out now. I said I had to discuss about it to my housemate." Discuss what? I thought. The decision is already taken. I only have to accept it and find a solution.
"That's kind of you", I replied dryly.
"Are you really? Why should you be? You're going to have a new flat. It's all good for you. Why would you care?"
"If I didn't care, I would leave right now." "That's the least you could when you put someone in such a situation. Something called courtesy, especially when you have been sharing a flat with someone." I replied in my head.
I didn't answer anything to the last comment. In my head, thoughts were spinning rapidly. What was I to do? I couldn't possibly move out as well. With what money? How can I open a bank account in Taipei? I wasn't even a resident permit in Taipei. Finding a new flatmate? Who? How to make more money?
I had been talking with Jay earlier and ranting about Chubby. Jay's advice was that I had to move out.
"Not now!" I exclaimed. "It's not really the best time! Maybe later this year. We will see"
It was ironic that it was Chubby who would move out first eventually.
"So what do YOU want then? Stay here longer? Leave now?" I went on.
"I will stay at my uncle's."
"But it will take some time before the house is ready. I suppose you'll have to do some renovation. It's unlikely that the flat will be spotless and immaculate when you buy it."
"That's why my parents told me to stay at my uncle's." Chubby answered.
"So when do you want to do that?"
"As soon as possible."
"Which means that 'when you say later' means , it means 'very soon'." I felt a silent anger rise in me. "Do you think I can stay here, even if you move out? The lease it under your name..."
"I will ask the landlord. I think it should be fine."
I guess the situation isn't easy for Chubby either. I have the feeling that he didn't receive much affection in his life and it's terribly difficult for him to connect to his feeling. I only wish we could have discussed more, these past months. But what to do when the door is closed?
Sharing a flat is a curious experience. I shared my intimacy with someone I didn't know, not friend, a lover nor a relative. I had called him Chubby because he was so thin. But Porcupine would have been a better name. I should stop to find reasons and explanations. I will move on, find a solution and go with the flow.
"I'm moving out on May 20th" Chubby said as he was about to go out. "The landlord says it's okay for you to stay in the flat, but you have to find a new flatmate. If not, you have to move out at the same time as me."