2016-06-30
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 that she mentioned she didn't smoke but said nothing about drinking. As a Mormon I have always followed a health code called the Word of Wisdom. It expressly forbids the consumption of many things, including alcohol. In High School I was fortunate enough to have friends who didn't drink 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 her holding a beer, a margarita, and other alcoholic mixes I couldn't even begin to identify in long, skinny glasses. I decided some kind of understanding had 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 fair one at that, considering it was also against university rules. Having alcohol in our room could get us both kicked out of school, besides making me horribly uncomfortable and driving the Holy Spirit away. The scriptures say the Spirit of the Lord cannot dwell with any unclean thing. I truly believed that having alcohol in our room would certainly make it unclean and would get in the way of feeling the Spirit, 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 splitting headache 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 out with the current loves of our lives. Hers came first. We chatted for a while. As they headed out the door to go to dinner, mine showed up. We chatted some more. As they turned to leave I called, "Hey Mike*! You forgot 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 no objections 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 just have a sweatshirt in it," he observed as he set the bag down. "And my sweatshirts have never made that kind of noise," he added as a distinct sloshing 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 be water. It was still hard for me to believe that someone my age (read: under 21) could go to a store, buy alcohol, put it in their bag and bring it into my 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 on
top. But there was something else. Slowly I removed the sweatshirt and unwrapped it to reveal a brown paper bag. A tell-tale sign. Out of the bag I pulled a big, glass bottle of rum. Bacardi to be exact. Eleven dollars worth. Right as I was about to cry there was a knock at the door. In the five seconds before Eric opened it I had myself convinced the resident assistant had heard the rustling of the cursed brown paper, knew there was alcohol in my room and had come to kick me out of school. I shoved everything 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 I pulled the alcohol out again with trembling hands. We conferred. The vote was split a couple ways. Some said to put it back and tell her later I had found it and didn't appreciate it. Some said just put it back and never tell her. I had, after all, gone through the poor kid's bag. My vote fell with the radicals in favor of a ceremonial rum dumping. But I still needed support. None of these people had to live with, or even near Lisa. So I called my next door neighbor, Maggie. Although Maggie is not Mormon, she is very religious and has similar standards. She also abstains 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'll never talk to us again." Back and forth. Back and forth. Finally, I grabbed the bottle. I opened it and didn't hesitate before pouring it down the toilet. The people in my room heard the whole thing. "I can't believe she actually did it," some said while others cheered. I shouted at Maggie to 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. Mike would know as soon as he picked up his bag something was amiss. So I filled the bottle with water, restored it to the brown paper bag wrapped in the sweatshirt, replaced the camera and hat and went on my way, somewhat proud of 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 hall before we went to bed. "We're safe," she said and gave me a high five. But I did not feel so safe. While Maggie slept soundly having committed the perfect crime, and Lisa slept soundly not knowing a thing about it, I tossed and turned and had a nightmares of a bottle chasing me and trying to flush me down the toilet. The next day I sat Lisa down and told her the truth. To say she was not pleased would be an understatement of criminal proportions. I stayed out of our room for four hours and we went to bed in silence. I think we both
had nightmares 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 banter I was met with a cold front. Our mutual friends took sides. My team was pretty 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 my room 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 you walked in the door and you thought it was suffocate you before you made it out. On Thursday night I finally worked up the courage to ask if we could talk about it. She agreed. We talked. She said I had invaded her privacy and betrayed her trust. She had wanted to move out. I said I was sorry, I didn't think about the consequences. I was just trying to protect what I believed in and what was important to me. We cried. We hugged. We got dressed and went to a hockey game. We even managed to have some really good times throughout the rest of the semester. But I'm sure she and her friends talked about me behind my back and I was always suspicious that she would take 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 I did. Part of it was fear that someone would find the alcohol and I
would get in trouble. Part of it was to prove a point; we had made a deal and I have never let people walk all over me. I think a small part of me wanted to impress Eric. He held me in a new light after that night. And it sure made for a great story. My relatives affectionately dubbed me the "rum dumper" 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 would drive the Spirit of the Lord away. But by going behind my roommate's back I invited the Spirit of Contention and the devil into our lives. While Christ did say we would be mocked and rejected for His name's sake, he also told us to love our neighbors and live as He would. As good as it felt to see that rum hit the toilet water and hear it flush, I am more convinced as I try to live a Christ-like life and grow closer to Him, that Christ is not a rum-dumper.


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