I got a letter from my roommate a few weeks before the start of my freshman year at Boston University in the fall of 1999. My biggest fear, after having no idea how to pronounce her name, was thatshe mentioned she didn't smoke but said nothing about drinking. As aMormonI have always followed a health code called the Word of Wisdom. Itexpressly forbids the consumption of many things, including alcohol. InHigh School I was fortunate enough to have friends who didn'tdrink either, but I was worried about finding such friends in college.My fear of entering the alcoholic den of lions was confirmed on the day my roommate moved in. Her picture album(which I hope her parents never saw) contained shot after shot of herholding a beer, a margarita, and other alcoholic mixes I couldn't even beginto identify in long, skinny glasses. I decided some kind of understandinghad to be reached. So we made a deal. No alcohol in the room. Ever.Consumed or stored. This was the only stipulation. And, I thought, a fairone at that, considering it was also against university rules. Havingalcohol in our room could get us both kicked out of school, besides making me horribly uncomfortable and drivingthe Holy Spirit away. The scriptures say the Spirit of the Lord cannotdwell with any unclean thing. I truly believed that having alcohol in ourroom would certainly make it unclean and would get in the way of feeling theSpirit, something I strive to do every day. My roommate, Lisa*, still often came home late at night, stumbling into bed murmuring drunkenly in her sleep until a splittingheadache woke her up.
But that wasn't my problem, until September. One Saturday night late in the month, Lisa and I were preparing to go outwith the current loves of our lives. Hers came first. We chatted for awhile. As they headed out the door to go to dinner, mine showed up. Wechatted some more. As they turned to leave I called, "Hey Mike*! Youforgot your backpack. Do you want to take it with you?" "Naw," he said."It just has a sweatshirt in it. Is it cool if I leave it here?" Having noobjections to sweatshirts I said certainly, and off they went.As soon as they were out the door Eric, my boyfriend, one suspicious step ahead of me,picked up the bag and shook it a little. "This is a little heavy to justhave a sweatshirt in it," he observed as he set the bag down. "And mysweatshirts have never made that kind of noise," he added as a distinctsloshing emanated from the abandoned bag. Fear gripped me. We had a deal.She knew. She should have told him. I was furious. But it could just bewater. It was still hard for me to believe that someone my age (read: under21) could go to a store, buy alcohol, put it in their bag and bring it intomy room. I sat down with the bag in my lap and slowly unzipped it.There was a sweatshirt indeed, with a hat and a camera resting innocently ontop. But there was something else. Slowly I removed the sweatshirt andunwrapped it to reveal a brown paper bag. A tell-tale sign. Out of the bagI pulled a big, glass bottle of rum. Bacardi to be exact. Eleven dollarsworth.
Right as I was about to cry there was a knock at the door. In thefive seconds before Eric opened it I had myself convinced the residentassistant had heard the rustling of the cursed brown paper, knew there wasalcohol in my room and had come to kick me out of school. I shovedeverything back in the bag.We were greeted not by a rule enforcing RA, but by all the other people who were going out with us that night. Eric gave them a quick synopsis as Ipulled the alcohol out again with trembling hands. We conferred.The vote was split a couple ways. Some said to put it back and tell herlater I had found it and didn't appreciate it. Some said just put it backand never tell her. I had, after all, gone through the poor kid's bag. Myvote fell with the radicals in favor of a ceremonial rum dumping. But Istill needed support. None of these people had to live with, or even nearLisa. So I called my next door neighbor, Maggie. Although Maggie is notMormon, she is very religious and has similar standards. She alsoabstains from alcohol and had shared with me the unpleasant task of nursing drunken roommates into the wee hours of the morning.We sat next to the toilet with that awful bottle for what seemed like hours. We went back and forth, from "we have no other choice" to "she'llnever talk to us again." Back and forth. Back and forth. Finally, Igrabbed the bottle. I opened it and didn't hesitate before pouring it downthe toilet. The people in my room heard the whole thing. "I can't believeshe actually did it," some said while others cheered.
I shouted at Maggieto get the air freshener. Rum stinks.Once the deed was done, we were left with an empty Bacardi bottle and a mixed conscience. But the bottle was more important right then. Mikewould know as soon as he picked up his bag something was amiss. So I filledthe bottle with water, restored it to the brown paper bag wrapped in thesweatshirt, replaced the camera and hat and went on my way, somewhat proudof my acheivement.When I returned that night Lisa was gushing about her wonderful date. She said nothing about the watery rum. Maggie pulled me into the hallbefore we went to bed. "We're safe," she said and gave me a high five. ButI did not feel so safe. While Maggie slept soundly having committed theperfect crime, and Lisa slept soundly not knowing a thing about it, I tossedand turned and had a nightmares of a bottle chasing me and trying to flushme down the toilet.The next day I sat Lisa down and told her the truth. To say she was notpleased would be an understatement of criminal proportions. I stayed out ofour room for four hours and we went to bed in silence. I think we both hadnightmares that night.The silence lasted until Thursday. I can safely say it was the worst four day stretch of my life. Even when I tried to initiate friendly banterI was met with a cold front. Our mutual friends took sides. My team waspretty sparse. To her eternal credit, Maggie stuck by me the whole time.We both went to bed crying more nights than not. I rarely even slept in myroom anymore and stayed out of it as much as I could during the day.
Nothing but contention dwelled in that room. It knocked you flat when youwalked in the door and you thought it was suffocate you before you made itout.On Thursday night I finally worked up the courage to ask if we could talkabout it. She agreed. We talked. She said I had invaded her privacy andbetrayed her trust. She had wanted to move out. I said I was sorry, Ididn't think about the consequences. I was just trying to protect what Ibelieved in and what was important to me. We cried. We hugged. We gotdressed and went to a hockey game. We even managed to have some really goodtimes throughout the rest of the semester. But I'm sure she and her friendstalked about me behind my back and I was always suspicious that she wouldtake some kind of revenge. She never did and at the end of the semester we both moved out on friendly terms.I have thought a lot about that night and what motivated me to do what Idid. Part of it was fear that someone would find the alcohol and I wouldget in trouble. Part of it was to prove a point; we had made a deal and Ihave never let people walk all over me. I think a small part of me wantedto impress Eric. He held me in a new light after that night. And it suremade for a great story. My relatives affectionately dubbed me the "rumdumper" and the incident became a legend in my student Mormon ward. I don't think I made the wrong choice, but if I had it to do again I don't think I would. I thought having that alcohol in my room woulddrive the Spirit of the Lord away.
But by going behind my roommate's back Iinvited the Spirit of Contention and the devil into our lives. WhileChrist did say we would be mocked and rejected for His name's sake, he alsotold us to love our neighbors and live as He would. As good as it felt tosee that rum hit the toilet water and hear it flush, I am more convinced asI try to live a Christ-like life and grow closer to Him, that Christ is nota rum-dumper.