Mike likes origami. He has the patience for it. He’s one of those people who can take the time to see how something works, every fold connects in his mind, revealing the final product before he even starts. Not everyone is gifted with that. The others envy him. I enjoy the crane’s the most.
The folded animals and flowers never last very long. Ben throws them away, complains about the space they take up which is ironic because he keeps buying unique or ornate chess boards to display around the apartment. Mike is always sad when he realizes what happened.
Gabby cooks all the time, as often as she can. The kitchen shelves are crammed with cookbooks. There’s a sourdough bread starter on the counter in a jar that they all watch bubble and grow, stinks up the whole room when the lid is cracked. There’s a food processor on top of the fridge, a bamboo dumpling steamer in the cupboard, an Instant Pot and a crock pot, both retrieved from trash cans around the neighborhood -- mint condition. Ben says they do the same thing. Gabby disagrees while dishing out homemade stew. Everything is always delicious.
I think of the peanut butter sandwiches I use to live on in college, the endless ramen noodles, and cold cans of soup. College is when you finally notice the things you had at your parents house that seemed so small, like Ziploc bags and fabric softener, or a can opener when you’re staring at a can of soup in the student lounge and there’s no extra time to run back to the store, and the vending machine only accepts cash.
Chase works out. He’s the strongest. He runs a lot, does weird yoga on a ball in the living room that ends up being pushed around by the others just trying to get to the couch. There are different-sized weights lined under the coffee table, a mini-trampoline and heavy bag in the garage, and he keeps talking about buying a rowing machine. On the flip side he has a problem with alcohol, the recycling is always heavy with empty whiskey bottles and the differences in his personality are night and day. I’ve never understood the desire to get blackout drunk three or four times a week then eat nothing but brown rice and tofu during the day. He’s hot-headed, like it’s not going to kill his body. Like the kale will cancel out the heart attack.
Travis likes to paint. Half-empty canvases are rigged up wherever he can find the room, but the space is dwindling. The paint is messy, stains the carpets and the plastic cups that hold his brushes. Leaves his nails colored, palms dry and cracking with galaxies. He’s the softest, seemingly abrasive but so sensitive. He tries to counter-balance it with crazy, dangerous childhood stories so people will look at him funny but if they asked him for a favor, he would bend over backwards to make it happen.
I try to keep them all happy, content. It’s hard when there’s so many things to look for during a simple Target run. And if one of them wants to come to the forefront while I’m shopping, there’s another hundred dollars dropped on something I have no control over. Chase is the worse – well it’s a toss-up between him and Gabby. Kitchenware is expensive.
I stopped inviting people over a long time ago. When Gabby showed up, I realized there was only enough room in the apartment for me. And me. And me. And so on.
I try to keep Travis supplied with BLICK paint pens and every time I see a chess game set up in the living room, I always go over and move a pawn for Ben to rebuff the next time he shows up.
Gabby’s pesto pasta from last week is starting to stink up the fridge. It’d be nice if one of them liked to clean.
I’m the neat one. The only one that tries to keep every interest in its corner, but the spillover is always present. I find packets of origami paper over by my computer, step on the plastic end of jump ropes, find paint smudges on walls and in between my bed sheets.
I do my best but it’s hard because I keep eyeing at-home Zen gardens. I’m so tired. But the tired is buried beneath the adrenaline of interest. Who are you? I wonder as I compare prices on the shelves. There’s no room for it, not by a long shot. Chase won’t get his rowing machine, that’s for sure. He’ll be mad. I’ll have to think on that. He could kick my ass, take the spotlight for longer than usual.
I think of the ones I managed to subdue. There’s a brand-new sewing machine stuffed in the closet that I refuse to take out. I rush by bolts of fabric at the craft store, make a beeline for paint for Travis even though, like an addiction, my heart races, and my fingertips tingle whenever I see a wall of brightly colored thread.
I’ve signed up and cancelled karate lessons more than five times, which is a shame because it’s something I want to do, but there’s the underlying thought, what if it’s not for me? I stopped swimming ages ago because I could feel her clawing her way out, and I’d found myself in the woman’s changing room more than once. Patty, she was called. I ignore Patty. Gabby is enough, I’m lucky she only comes out at home when I’m cooking.
I spend the time I get watching Netflix. My shows are my hobby. I have to monitor the shows I watch, be aware of triggers. I got sucked into The Queens Gambit and Ben was in the spotlight for nearly a week straight. Kids shows bring Mike out, I’m guessing it has to do with the bright colors. Forget watching any sort of cook-off. Gabby’s sweet, but I’m gaining weight quicker than Chase can lose it.
I am never truly at peace. They have their hobbies whereas I find solace in distraction. I’ve tried painting, jogging, cooking – it’s always messy. Nothing is ever as clean, as delicious, as fulfilling. I’m merely the landlord to this body, the one that keeps the apartment orderly, the bills paid, the plants watered, but I rarely get through a day without one of them taking over. The vessel changes, adapts whenever there’s a shift.
One morning I find a crane that Mike has made, and I take it quickly, place it inside the nightstand beside my bed where a handful of others reside. I smile to myself, admiring the collection I’ve managed to obtain. Who are you?
Author’s Note: I have no professional experience with DID. Nothing in this story is meant to offend and is purely a work of fiction.