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
she mentioned she didn't smoke but said nothing about drinking. As a
I have always followed a health code called the Word of Wisdom. It
expressly forbids the consumption of many things, including alcohol.
High School I was fortunate enough to have friends who
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
(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
to identify in long, skinny glasses. I decided some kind of
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
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
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
room would certainly make it unclean and would get in the way of
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
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
with the current loves of our lives. Hers came first. We chatted for
while. As they headed out the door to go to dinner, mine showed up.
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
"It just has a sweatshirt in it. Is it cool if I leave it here?"
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
picked up the bag and shook it a little. "This is a little heavy to
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
She knew. She should have told him. I was furious. But it could just
water. It was still hard for me to believe that someone my age (read:
21) could go to a store, buy alcohol, put it in their bag and bring it
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
top. But there was something else. Slowly I removed the sweatshirt
unwrapped it to reveal a brown paper bag. A tell-tale sign. Out of
I pulled a big, glass bottle of rum. Bacardi to be exact. Eleven
worth. Right as I was about to cry there was a knock at the door. In
five seconds before Eric opened it I had myself convinced the resident
assistant had heard the rustling of the cursed brown paper, knew there
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
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
later I had found it and didn't appreciate it. Some said just put it
and never tell her. I had, after all, gone through the poor kid's bag.
vote fell with the radicals in favor of a ceremonial rum dumping. But
still needed support. None of these people had to live with, or even
Lisa. So I called my next door neighbor, Maggie. Although Maggie is
Mormon, she is very religious and has similar standards. She
abstains from alcohol and had shared with me the unpleasant task of
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
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
the toilet. The people in my room heard the whole thing. "I can't
she actually did it," some said while others cheered. I shouted at
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.
would know as soon as he picked up his bag something was amiss. So I
the bottle with water, restored it to the brown paper bag wrapped in
sweatshirt, replaced the camera and hat and went on my way, somewhat
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.
I did not feel so safe. While Maggie slept soundly having committed
perfect crime, and Lisa slept soundly not knowing a thing about it, I
and turned and had a nightmares of a bottle chasing me and trying to
me down the toilet.
The next day I sat Lisa down and told her the truth. To say she was
pleased would be an understatement of criminal proportions. I stayed
our room for four hours and we went to bed in silence. I think we both
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
I was met with a cold front. Our mutual friends took sides. My team
pretty sparse. To her eternal credit, Maggie stuck by me the whole
We both went to bed crying more nights than not. I rarely even slept
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
walked in the door and you thought it was suffocate you before you made
On Thursday night I finally worked up the courage to ask if we could
about it. She agreed. We talked. She said I had invaded her privacy
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
believed in and what was important to me. We cried. We hugged. We
dressed and went to a hockey game. We even managed to have some really
times throughout the rest of the semester. But I'm sure she and her
talked about me behind my back and I was always suspicious that she
take some kind of revenge. She never did and at the end of the
both moved out on friendly terms.
I have thought a lot about that night and what motivated me to do what
did. Part of it was fear that someone would find the alcohol and I
get in trouble. Part of it was to prove a point; we had made a deal
have never let people walk all over me. I think a small part of me
to impress Eric. He held me in a new light after that night. And it
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
drive the Spirit of the Lord away. But by going behind my roommate's
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
told us to love our neighbors and live as He would. As good as it felt
see that rum hit the toilet water and hear it flush, I am more
I try to live a Christ-like life and grow closer to Him, that Christ is