Once upon a time in undergrad, I had a roommate who was very particular about her belongings. I won't elaborate on the details other than to say that one time I chipped the lid of a pot from a 12-piece, $40 set, and I never heard the end of it.
The roommate and I decided to part ways come the end of our lease. However, we still had three months left to live together.
A cool night in late April, I took the recycling out and went to grab a new bag. We kept the bags - the paper bags from the grocery store - underneath a heavy box on the pantry shelf. I pulled a bag out and was opening it when I heard a BAM!
I turned slowly. The box had fallen - inadvisably placed, no one's fault probably - and the box's contents had clattered onto the floor, including a china bowl now in three pieces.
From the contents, it became immediately apparent that this box contained Christmas items. The bowl itself had holly leaves on it. I came to find out via frantic Googling that it was Lenox holiday-themed and available across wide swaths of the Internet.
Now normally one would just 'fess up to your roommate that the box fell and you're really sorry. But I knew my roommate. We were already on frosty grounds between the aforementioned chipped pot (from 18 months ago at this point) and the fact that we were breaking up as roommates. As my friend asked, "Do you and your roommate not have an honesty policy?" Nope, not in this case.
So what to do?
I considered my options:
a.) I put the bowl back into the box, put the box back onto the shelf, and say nothing. She wouldn't realize the bowl was broken until the next yuletide season and/or when we're moving out, but then it's the movers' fault!
b.) I put the bowl back, but I arrange it so that box will fall easily and hope the next time the box falls, it is her fault, and she assumes she shattered her own damned bowl.
c.) I throw the bowl away and never speak of it. I have her think she misplaced it. She'll only question her own sanity, and I probably won’t even be living with her when she realizes the bowl is, gasp, gone!
d.) I put the bowl back now, order a replacement online, and then switch them and never tell her.
There was never option e.) where I just do tell her and handle the blowback.
Because I am a coward and a white liar and a coward, I chose option D. Thankfully, during this entire commotion, my roommate was out of the apartment or else I would’ve been outed immediately.
“What was that sound, Cazey?” I imagined her calling down the hall.
But I had only minutes to act! Who knew when she would return and I would be caught in the act?!
In the interim, I placed the box, broken bowl included, back on the shelf. I retreated to my bedroom and began the search. I had seen bowls like this all over my grandmother’s house growing up. Surely I could find it. I searched “Christmas bowl,” “old people Christmas bowl,” and “Christmas china.” I soon identified the victim in a Google Image. Further sleuthing revealed this to be a “Lenox china holiday pattern centerpiece bowl (symphony shape) at 10.25”.”
To verify the size, I returned to the scene of the crime. I brought the box back down and attempted to reconstruct the shattered china. I sliced my thumb while holding the pieces together. I probably deserved this.
“How did you cut your finger?” an imagined conversation with my roommate haunted me as I returned the box once again to the shelf.
Just as I was about to hit purchase, I realized the pattern on this online bowl was slightly different than the dead bowl. As I mentioned, my roommate is very particular. If I had noticed this, then she would, too. But how were the patterns different? These were both 10.25” centerpiece bowls, symphony shaped!
More Googling led me to reveal there are different Lenox holiday collections! What! My roommate had the 2010 version. I was about to order the 2014 piece.
I felt my heartbeat quicken. I was trapped. I would have to surrender. Or resort to options A through C.
I clicked over to eBay. Surely this was a popular enough piece I could find the 2010 version there. Ah! There she was! An identical twin piece to the dead one! I could bid for $12 or I could purchase for $30 plus taxes! Bought! Sold to the man in sweat and blood!
The piece would be delivered Tuesday. It was Thursday. Hopefully I could go four days in APRIL without my roommate looking for her CHRISTMAS bowl.
I listened for my roommate’s return. She still wasn’t there. I paced back to the crime scene. I stared at the box. Okay, I needed to bury the body.
For the third time, I took the box down and pulled out the pieces. I collected them into a shoebox and fled to our basement. Neither of us frequented the basement so this was an ideal burial plot. I tucked the shoebox into an empty suitcase of mine and put that suitcase inside of a box.
Back upstairs, my roommate walked in the door 15 minutes later.
“How was your evening?” she asked.
A couple of days later, I browsed the Internet on our sofa while she watched TV. An email notification appeared:
SHIPPED: LENOX china HOLIDAY pattern CENTERPIECE Bowl (symphony shape) @ 10-1/4"
I instinctively closed my browser. Had she seen?! I peeked over. Her eyes were on the TV. But if she had seen… she’d know. Why else in April would I be ordering a HOLIDAY PATTERN CENTERPIECE BOWL that matched the one supposedly packed away in our pantry?
Another traumatic scenario played out in my brain: What would the package say when it arrived? Would the label read “LENOX CHINA HOLIDAY PATTERN CENTERPIECE BOWL”? Would my roommate be home at the package’s arrival? Would she read the label and the truth dawn on her? Would she walk down to the pantry, package in hand, stare at her box of Christmas items, bring it down, only to reveal the deafening absence of her own Lenox china holiday pattern centerpiece bowl (symphony shaped!!)?!
I internally screamed.
The package was due to arrive Tuesday. I would stay home all day Tuesday.
In the end, I did leave the house for a brief period, but I intercepted the package. The label did say Lenox, but thankfully omitted “China,” “holiday pattern,” and “centerpiece bowl.”
I ripped open the box to find the beautiful, living twin of a bowl. For a brief second, I considered coming clean, explaining the situation, and presenting her the new bowl. Ha! After all this trouble, would I ever!
Anxious my roommate would arrive home any moment, I slipped the new centerpiece bowl into the former occupant’s box. I returned the box to the pantry shelf. I sweated even considering if this box were to fall again…
Now what to do with the evidence? I couldn’t leave this Lenox package just hanging around the apartment. And what about the body in the basement?! I grabbed the corpse, buried in suitcase and box, and placed it in the new package. I walked three houses down to a neighbor’s recycling can. There I started a fire and burned the boxes. Just kidding. But I did leave the boxes and the glass.
I returned to my apartment, greeted my roommate upon her arrival home, and never mentioned the Lenox china holiday pattern centerpiece bowl ever again. Until now. It’s been five years.