I uncovered the bowl, not wanting to see it, knowing deep in the pit of my stomach it would be there anyway. “Pinto beans,” I gasped. She‘s here.

You never quite get over the trauma of cohabitating with someone. My oldest is off to college in a year, and lately, we’d gotten onto the subject of roommates — or I’d gotten onto the subject in one of my numerous (“Please shut up, mom!” <eyeroll>) pep talks containing every little piece of information I could possibly think to cram into her brain before she sets sail for the great sea of quads and hackysacks. (Are those even still things?) Oh Captain, my Captain, there is not enough time (or Dramamine).

“Pinto Beans” wasn’t my roommate though, not in the collegiate sense and she wasn’t “here.” Believe me, I checked … under the bed, inside my closet … all the usual suspect spots one might expect an ex-roomie to lurk but either she was really good at hiding or …

“You’re paranoid,” Jon said, tossing the beans into a pan with some oil and garlic.

But I still felt like that scene in Sleeping with the Enemy where Julia Roberts’ character goes into the bathroom and the towel is folded in hospital corners except there was no towel (they seem to have gone by way of the hairbrushes) and I wasn’t fleeing an abusive ex-lover. One cruise on that love boat was enough for me.

We’ve had a lot of people come to stay with us over the years … people we knew, people we didn’t know, both with beans and beanless. Some have been welcome, most of them could not have packed their shit up and taken the next train to Clarksville fast enough. I don’t like living with strangers. My husband would like to be living in a kibbutz undoubtedly with an excess of couches and convertible furniture and lots and lots of (you thought I was going to say women) legumes. The day another female comes between us is a day I’ll happily don orange for the rest of my life. Sorry. That took a dark turn.

Pinto Beans lived with us for a few months of my life I will never get back when Jon and I were newly married, still in the early stages of couch consumption and desperately in need of the $300 and change she was forking over a month to squat in our basement. It’s not that I didn’t like her or her boyfriend (who shortly followed suit). I just couldn’t take the beans.

They were everywhere. All over the kitchen, tucked in nooks and stacked on top of books. It felt like a f***ing Dr. Seuss special, finding nuboards in my cupboards, eating cereal out of wine glasses because every bowl in the house seemed to be soaking something or sprouting something or preparing to soak or sprout. Things…things were growing out of my grandmother’s good China, leafy stalky things that belonged in a lab or perhaps a cautionary tale about swapping livestock for legumes.

I hid the bowls. I wanted her to leave, to go, to get swallowed up by that giant in the sky and never return. There was only so long one could go without bowls or listen to the deafening sound of an aspiring (believe me when I say, no amount of lessons were ever going to help her) cellist, or continue to smell Patchouli (I’m a fan, just in moderation).

One fine day I got my bowls back and a note, saying she’d broken up with the boyfriend (a true couch enthusiast), was taking the next train (not to Clarksville, I actually can’t remember where), and oh, that she was short on rent but hoped the $30, mostly in quarters, helped. “By the way,” she wrote, “…it really bothered me that you” — meaning me — “ate Cheerios out of our wine glasses.” No words.

My older daughter rolled her eyes. She’s seasoned at this. Seriously, she could franchise it.

“So basically you’re telling me I should expect that my roommate is going to be messy, noisy, smelly, and that, what’s the point of this anyway … always keep extra bowls on hand?”

I pulled the milk from the fridge, thinking how much I never wanted to have another roommate but “possibly a cow.”


“Nothing. Nevermind,” I finally answered. “Just don’t trade your quarters for magic beans, ok?”

“Seriously, Mom. Who carries quarters?”

Columnist Lesley Kirschner grew up quiet, in the woods, and devoid of siblings so her hobbies quickly became reading, writing, and talking to inanimate objects. She also spent a considerable amount of time doing voice-overs for her dolls and watching too much daytime television–channel 3, sometimes channel 8, if the weather was good and the antenna wasn’t acting up. She was in attendance at school, graduated from a very much not notable college not worth mentioning, and was transplanted to Wilton with her husband, Ambler Farm‘s Farmer Jonathan and their (baby makes) three children almost a decade ago. Although she never quite found her calling in life, other than perhaps the doll voice-overs, which in hindsight were eerily convincing, she’s happy to try her hand at writing and is thankful for the support and community she found on Facebook’s Buy Nothing Wilton. Lesley realizes while this is all very exciting, she’s not winning a Pulitzer so she’ll wrap it up and be quiet. She’s had a lot of practice.