I think sometimes when I tell this story, people don’t believe me unless they knew this particular roommate. The state of her kitchen became a legend among frat boys in our area. It was a punishment to be forced to come over to her place and clean her kitchen for her. More than one frat pledge hurled and dry-heaved his way his way through her dishes, just to come across forgotten pots and pans from what looked to be Christmas dinner, 1976. There are some who cannot remember a time when her kitchen wasn’t covered in dishes. I am not one of those people, though. I can remember scrubbing our kitchen when we lived together, having an empty sink and a drawer full of squeaky clean cutlery. In my mind, the kitchen was just a minor problem that we could handle together.
Until the corn pot.
She had never been one to do dishes in the first place. For many years, she had a deal with her fiance where he would do dishes if she would do all their laundry. When he left, she stepped up from time to time, cleaning up after herself. This would usually only be after at least a week of dishes piling up in the sink, crusted food rotting on their pretty floral pattern. I bought myself a set of blue plastic dishes, trying to make sure I always had something to throw my pizza on while I watched tv. Over time, even those dishes somehow wound up in her growing sink mound.
Usually, I would get sick of the mess, throw a fit, and the two of us would clean it up together. If I wasn’t around, though, this didn’t get done. I could scrub the kitchen down completely on a Friday afternoon, go to my parents’ place for the weekend, and come home to a pile of dishes I would later have to help clean.
And that is how the corn incident started.
On a Thursday night, she decided to make herself a big enough meal to have leftovers for a day or two, while I decided to go stay with my parents’ and help them move furniture. Before leaving, I hugged her cats goodbye and watched her browning meat at the stove. I didn’t come home until Monday afternoon.
It seems that part of her dinner Thursday night was a rather large pot of frozen corn. I know this because on Monday night, it was still sitting half-full on the stove. The butter in it had hardened and the pot’s contents were now one giant yellow rock. I asked her if she would be getting rid of that soon, and she said she was just about to.
On Wednesday night, I tried to find a clean plate for my pizza. While moving dirty dishes away from the cupboards, I found the corn pot. It was still full, and starting to look a little fuzzy. I mentioned to her that her food was starting to grown life forms, and she laughed it off.
By Friday night, I was feeling a little off while trying to make dinner. My eyes were burning, my throat felt dry, and I was getting dizzy at the stove. I moved things aside to get to the window, and found the pot. The corn was starting resemble a small cat now, black and fuzzy. The mould on it was growing its own film of mould.
Oh, did I mention that I’m allergic to mould?
The roommate swore again and again that she would take care of it. Yet day after day, that mouldy sat on the stove. I began to have nightmares about what was going on in that pot. Were there tiny little organisms in there, slowly evolving? Were they building tiny little roads and houses? Would they stage an uprising and come to kill me in my sleep?
By the following weekend, I had had enough. The pot was still sitting there, less corn than fuzzy cat-like blob of fuzz. I stormed into the kitchen, grabbed the pot by the handles, and decided right then and there that I was going to get rid of whatever was living in there.
And that’s when it attacked.
A black mushroom cloud of spores exploded from the pot, enveloping my entire head. I gagged and wheezed, throwing the pot back on the stove and running for the nearest bathroom. Black fuzzy chunks flowed trough my vomit, as tears tried to wash the black from my eyes. And the roommate? She sat in the living-room, watching TV and occasionally calling out, “are you alright?”
For days after, I was a mess. My eyes both watered and were painfully dry. I wheezed after walking the 9 feet to the bathroom from my bedroom. I was cranky and tired, but couldn’t fall asleep with all the itching and coughing. And that damn pot still sat there.
To be safe, I stayed out of the kitchen. When the pot exploded, it essentially made me allergic to the entire damn room. The room where my food was, where I could eat up leftover pizza, where the glasses for my beer were. Allergic! For days, I pleaded with the roommate to clean out the pot. She had midterms, and papers, and studying, and TV, and god knows what else keeping her from that kitchen, though. Unable to even enter the room, I was forced to subside on pizza and McDonald’s; not a huge change from before, but still a huge annoyance.
Finally after close to three weeks of me asking, she cleaned it. While I was on campus, she threw away the growing fuzz-ball and scrubbed out that pot. She scrubbed down the dirty dishes that had been accumulating, wiped down the counters, and even cleaned the stove-top. For a whole 17 hours, I had a clean kitchen.
Of course, then she made food again.
It was corn.