birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

3 Men and Spare Room

Jon was the first one to rent our extra room. He was kind, and funny in a offhanded way. He wore ties to the office and sent his shirts out rather than monopolizing our laundry closet. Sometimes, we'd cook together or share a weeknight meal, but mostly he stayed at his girlfriend's house. When his lease was up, he moved in with her. Drama free from start to finish.

Judge came next. He was quiet and scrupulously polite in the few moments a day we saw him. He worked long hours at a video game design firm, where he composed background music and created concepts for specific character sounds. In his small room, there was barely enough room for a bed once he got all his instruments and equipment set up. He asked nervously if he could make a few changes to his room, assuring us he'd reverse them when he moved out. We agreed and he turned the walk-in closet into a temporary recording studio. Mostly, he was shut up in there with his headphones on and his tiny orchestra plugged into his laptop.

Every so often, usually as a release date got dangerously close, he needed a female voice as a place holder. I stood in the closet and pretended to be the giant spider in Lord of the Rings, stabbed by Frodo, or a forgettable neighbor chattering away at a "Desperate Housewives" cocktail party. Those were the only times I ever stepped in his room. There was something delicate about him, something that compelled me to give him as much time and space as he needed. When his office moved across town, he tried to commute, but came home more and more rattled every day. Finally, he asked if he could end his lease early to move closer to work. The drive was destroying his creative energy.

Of course we said yes.

And that's when we got Landon. Tall, handsome, goofy, Landon. He was friendly in a puppyish way, and was by far the most talkative of the three. We heard all about his love life, his workout routine, his high-protein diet, his all-night World of Warcraft raids, his classes at California Lutheran University. And boy, was he quotable.

On his meat-centric diet:
"I'm a man, so I only need animal proteins. You need vegetables so you can make babies. They're not good for me."

On pupil dilation as a sign of arousal:
"You know how when a cat gets scared, their eyes get all big? Same thing with women, only the opposite. Because we're not cats."

On wedding gifts:
"What's a registry? I always just give the dude a nice knife."

On reading "Ode to a Grecian Urn" in class;
"This is supposed to be about love or some shit. But I'm going to say it's about a dog waiting for it's dead owner."

On our musical choices while cleaning the house:
"Is this classical music? It doesn't have words or anything, so it has to be, right?"

But for all of that, his heart was huge. He sobbed when his girlfriend left him. He called his mom every Sunday. And one night, when I came home late from a work reception I crept quietly into our room and got undressed in the dark trying not to wake my husband. Just as tried to slip into bed, he shot up with a roar. I screamed. Loudly. A few seconds later, the door opened and I could see Landon's wide eyed face. "You ok?? What's going on?"

We don't have a renter any more, but every once in awhile I have to remind my husband that vegetables aren't good for him, or that sometimes women send mixed signals because after all, we're not cats.

Intersecting Orbits