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Zach was a roommate of mine this past year and was an insufferable drama queen; the kind that plays up every minor event for maximum melodrama and does their best to create chaos wherever they go. He'd slouch in through the door with his too-large boots, thumping and scuffing the floor as he shuffled across the room. You know the boots, the big black leather monsters with the zippers up the sides and the steel toe. He always wore them even though they were several sizes too big: he thought they made him look tough. He'd walk over to his desk and drop his overfull backpack to the ground to emphasize its weight and then heavily sigh his way into a chair. This was the signal that you were supposed to ask him what was wrong, to inflate his ego just a little bit more, to validate his conceit. It was all a carefully orchestrated habit meant to make him seem like a hardened man's man. A popular and Byronic hero in his own personal epic.
What a phony.
His girlfriend Rachel was a moron too. Friendly, sure, but in that vapid-headed way a puppy is friendly—it just doesn't know how to be anything else. She would bounce around, completely oblivious to everything around her, including their relationship. He treated her like a princess, obeying her every whim while simultaneously seeing himself as her knight in shining armor. In reality his only true success was at being a complete tool. Rachel volunteered at a hospital half an hour away from campus and managed to secure transportation to the hospital but chronically neglected to arrange for the return trip. One night in February I was woken by Zach bursting into our room, breathless after running up the four flights of stairs:
"I need your car!" He practically yelled, his voice getting that warbling tone that it does right before it cracks.
"Why?" I sat up in my bunk and rubbed the grogginess out of my face with both hands, noticing him eyeing the keys sitting on my desk. He began to fidget in place, crossing and uncrossing his arms, putting his hands into his pockets then pulling them out only to put them back again.
"Rachel's volunteering at the hospital today and she just called me and she says she didn't get a ride back. She called her friend but no one answered. I need your car."
I was already wary of this situation. Just two weeks earlier Rachel had asked if she could borrow my car for when she needed to drive to and from the hospital. I (wisely) told her no and as it turned out she borrowed a car from one of her friends—then promptly got pulled over for going 85. Her excuse? "I was only going 5 over the speed limit!" I challenged her to find me a single spot in Michigan where the speed limit was above 70. Her only response was to pout.
"I'll drive you there; you'll have to give me directions." Though I didn't like either of them, it wasn't right to leave someone stranded where they couldn't get back. And I sure as hell wasn't going to trust either of them with my car.
We got in the car and made our way to the highway. Wisps of snow skittered across the concrete in the 15 degree wind. Zach called Rachel, "We're on our way, babe" and staunchly refused to accept any of her apologies, absolving her of all guilt. As I pulled up to the curb, Zach bounded out and opened a door for her almost before the car had stopped. If Rachel were smart enough to have known what manipulation was, Zach would've been a boy toy. As it was he was just an emotional slut; willing to do anything for approval. The whole ride there he had been saying how dumb she had been not to arrange for a pick up, how she should have been more responsible. What was the first thing he said to her? "Did you have fun volunteering today babe?" I drove the two of them back to campus, Zach not even once drawing near to making good on his intentions to 'set her straight' and I not once receiving any thanks from either of them.
Rachel wasn't even conscious of the fact that she was in a relationship. Zach would do all the work, trying to do the things that couples do while she would blow him off for friends or even completely forget a date. If he weren't such an unapologetic asshole I might've felt sorry for him. As things went on, he became completely devoted to her, completely dependent on defining himself through the relationship. And when inevitably the whole thing broke down he degenerated into an violent and predatory leech with absolutely no filter between his brain and his mouth. He constantly assailed me by going into the details of his (lack of) sex life and by descriptions of human beings similar to how one would describe various cuts of meat.
He tried to turn his post-breakup 'depression' into an advantage, painting himself as a tragically wounded hero needing a good woman to heal him. He'd spend weeks telling his story to one girl and then another, looking for the validation he required, looking for sympathy, looking for someone who would buy into his lies as much as he did. Of course, no one wants to be around the person who constantly complains and never does anything about it and his welcome would quickly become worn out. So he would simply move on to the next person willing to listen to his laments, blaming his failed friendships not on his actions but always on others and never taking any kind of personal responsibility.
Zach started talking to our roommate's girlfriend, chatting with her for hours online, calling her on the phone. She gave him the validation he craved, she told him that everything he did was right and that it never was his fault. The Bro Code is a nebulous set of guidelines for getting along in male company and while there is debate over some rules, you never, ever do anything that might sabotage a friend's relationship. There is a line you simply do not cross unless someone is in physical danger and Zach took one look at that line and then promptly pissed all over it. He started telling her that she wasn't being treated right (leaving the open implication that Zach's brand of obsession was the right form of treatment). He undermined their relationship insidiously over the course of months, and eventually she loved Zach more than she loved her boyfriend.
In the end Zach went too far and was committed to a mental hospital. He'd been failing his discrete class and decided that rather than taking the failing grade, he'd withdraw from to course for an incomplete using his 'depression' as an excuse. After seeing a counselor to verify that, he was taken away and ended up transferring to another school. None of us were sad to see him go.