TJ was exhausted; another day of mindless and meaningless labour for a paycheque.  Somehow it still didn’t seem worth it.

      “Bwahahaha HUUUUUUUUH!”

      “Good episode of ‘Whose Line?’ Romeo?”

      “Fuck, these guys are hilarious.  They’re walking on mouse traps, doesn’t that hurt?”

      “Attaboy, Romes.” 

      Maybe it was the three beers he’d had during work, or the heat of the rubber factory, or the general boredom that sucks you in when you sit around Shade Street Manor and do nothing for weeks on end.  Most likely it was because he had just got his paycheque.  Romeo, in contrast to TJ, was excited and motivated.  He had deposited his cheque for real this time instead of just putting an empty envelope into the ATM and laughing that he was paying himself with nothing. That money had been paid back because the bank threatened to take Romeo to court.  Now free and clear, food and rent were his only responsibilities.  Weed he had, and on this rare occasion, real food as well.  He had made the trip down to Food Basics and bought not just a family pack of tacos but also a family sized 3 pounds of ground beef (regular 35% fat, not lean) and a block of marble cheddar cheese(27% fat).  Glee!  TJ walked upstairs to the bathroom; Romeo had gotten to it first. 

      “For fuck’s sake… ROMEO!”

      “What?”

      “GET YOUR ASS UP HERE!”

      “WHY?”

      “YOU KNOW WHY! FUCK!” Stomp, stomp, stomp, stomp, grumble, grumble, stomp, stomp.

      “What now, Mike?”  Angry.

      “You see that disgusting grease ring in the tub? I’m not bathing in that shit. Clean it up.”

      “It’s a bathtub.  It gets dirty.”

      “Look at that filthy ring of grease and shit on the tub.  It’s like someone made gravy. People don’t bathe in that.  There’s cleaner and a scrub brush over there. Clean your fucking mess so I can bathe.”

      One downfall of the shade street manor was the shower situation.  There were no showers, only tubs.  There was a shower nozzle, but nobody had been motivated to install a shower curtain, so for a while everybody just showered sitting in the tub to avoid mopping up.  When the nozzle stopped working altogether, it was replaced with a four litre jug.   Bath time was kind of fun, sitting there, scrubbing like a little kid, then dunking a tub of water over your head.  Peeing in the tub was a little grosser than before.  I still did it.

      The other catch to the bathrooms was that they didn’t lock.  You had to be quick when you were getting ready to leave the tub, or someone would kick open the door and splash you with a bucket of whatever could be found.  It started with cold water, but graduated to spaghetti sauce, ketchup, mustard, BBQ sauce, Kool-Aid, and eventually A5-35 lotion.  I was the victim of that last one and didn’t think anything of it at first.    “Eh, so I’ll smell nice. At least it’s not in my eyes” I thought to myself.  I should have remembered my experience with pepper spray.  The burning!  I cursed Jer and then figured I should make him feel my agony, so I got out of the tub, chased him around his room and up the stairs completely naked.  He bailed out the front door and collapsed, laughing, on the sidewalk.

       “I just pictured you tackling me naked out on the street and couldn’t breathe,” he confided.  I didn’t want to get arrested or dirtier, so I stopped at the front door fully nude.           “Ha- Nice!” said Marco, barely looking up from his dinner.  I don’t think a day went by when we didn’t see at least one other person’s penis.  5 guys lived in the house.  Jer once said, “Bomber, I think I’ve seen your dick more than mine in the past week.” It was barely an exaggeration.  We hardly ever saw Romeo’s though because he always got home and bathed first, and we didn’t want to get him dirty because he might not bother to get clean again.  It would, after all, be our fault.  For now, Mike just wanted to bathe.

      “Fuck, Romeo, I’m tired of this shit. Every day you leave a ring on the tub and a swamp on the floor and stink up the bathroom polluting everything while getting clean.  Look at that soap, its brown!  How is that possible?  It’s white soap! Look at your toothbrush, is it alive?  FUCK!” 

      The tirade from TJ went on and on.  He later made a set of rules for the bathroom, starting with, “I will clean up my shit properly from the rim of the toilet,” and progressing from there. Other great entries included, “I will clean up after I pee on the floor”, “Shaving stubble is not decoration for the sink”, and “My dirty wet toothbrush does not belong on Mike’s shelf.”  For now, Romeo did as he was told, de-scummed the ring around the tub, and went back downstairs. 

      For Mike (TJ) the tub still required a good ten minute pre-rinse before he could sit in it without feeling contaminated.          He zoned out and smelled the clean perfume of his shampoo, conditioner, and body wash.  As he left the pristine tub, he walked out into the surprisingly fresh aroma of Romeo’s beef wafting up from the kitchen.  After he got dressed he looked at the spaghetti sauce boiling on the stove.

      “Romeo, I thought you were making tacos.”

      “I am. That’s the meat.”

      “Didn’t you drain it?”

      “Drain what?”

      “Oh god…. Hahaa, yeah Romeo!”

      The beef stewed and simmered in a pool of grease and water combined with the package of taco seasoning that Mr. El Paso had decided was the genuine ethnic thing.  Mike blasted a duo of pizza slices in the microwave and went into the living room, settling in to watch Monday Night Raw.  Jer was home.

      “Deyp” said Mike.

      “Yo.”

      “What’s the main tonight?”

      “Triple H and ‘Taker.”

      “Not Angle?”

      “No, changed. You wanna order pizza?”

      “I’m eating pizza.”

      “I can see that. What are you eating for lunch tomorrow?”

      “….” Mike responded with a shift of his eyes.

      “Yeahhhh,” Jer purred as he picked up his phone, yelling, “TWO PIES!”

      “Can you repeat the number you wish to call?” said Mrs. Hawkings.

      “TWO PIIES!”

      “Dialing” said the Robot voice.

      “YAY! Such an awesome phone!”

      “Fuck Mike, move over.”

      “Jesus…” The phone dropped to Jer’s side, eyes wide, “Romeo, what are you doing?”

      “Eating dinner” he said with a thud.

      Romeo sat down to the coffee table with 3 paper plates delicately balanced.  One was covered in cheese, one covered in heated up taco shells that were clamming shut; the third was 2 paper plates doubled up yet sagging under a mound of unstrained taco meat. 

      “Romeo, didn’t you drain the meat?” asked Jer.

      “Fuck, stop bugging me.”

      “Romeo, that’s disgusting!   You’re going to give yourself a heart attack. How do you not have one vegetable—oh hold on.  I’ll get pepperoni, sausage, and beef. And on the other one”- Jer smothered the phone against his chest, “Mike, whaddya want?”

      “Ham, Pineapple, and Chicken. Tell them not to skimp on the meat either.”

      “Ham, pineapple, chicken, don’t skimp on the pineapple”

      “NO!  FUCK YOU!”

      “K, 30 minutes? Sounds good.”

      “You son of a bitch.”

      “Don’t worry, I’ll buy.”

      Romeo began his grease-feast, glad the guys had something else to argue about.  Greasy meat went into a taco shell, on went cheese, and the taco died in his greasy mouth.  He wished he had packed over another plate to stop dripping grease on himself, but his shirt was dirty anyways.  He wiped his hands on it, on his greasy handlebar moustache, and on the corners of the couch.  A family pack has 18 tacos.  Romeo gleefully munched away as Jeremy and Mike tried not to look or hear the noises.

      “Fuck Romeo, you eating is making me sick.  Breathe through your nose.”

      “Fuck off Jer.”

      “Look at you, you’re disgusting.  You’re filthy, you’re dropping shit all over the couch and floor. It’s fuckin gross.”

      “Whatever.  Tacos rock.”

      “The Taco’s aren’t the problem.”

      Slurps, crunches, and sucking noises peppered with belches and stomps, Romeo cheered on the wrestlers on TV, laughing, almost choking at one point, and raping the tacos on his plate.  The two pies arrived, Jer paid.  He and TJ stopped eating after about 4 slices. 

      “UGHHH, I ATE THEM ALLLLL!” groaned Romeo.

      “Ha, Yeah Romeo!”  It was easy to picture the shards of taco shells, greasy meat, and stewed cheese floating around in Romeos topgut, but better not to.

      “Romeo, that was a family pack,” chastised Mike, “that’s not healthy.”

      “Jeeebus Romeo, look at that pool of grease on your plates.  Imagine how much you ate,” said Jer.

      “Fuck, I know, it was so good though. God I’m stuffed. BUUUURP! I need a beer to wash it down. Hahaha.”

      Everyone smiled and chuckled.  The main event was starting.  As Triple H and the Undertaker battled it out, Romeo continued to burp, and a few smacks and slaps echoed as the excitement built in the match.  There was an odd slurping, the sound of Romeo putting back an Old Milwaukee beer.  Even drinking a beer sounded disgusting when Romeo did it.  Let Romeo suck his fingers, Mike thought; he was used to tunin this out.  However, he couldn’t tune out Jer’s fearful and dumbstruck clawing at him.

      “Ow.  Fuck. OW! Stop hitting me.” 

Mike finally turned to Jer, “What the--- oohh Jesus! NO!”

      Mike dove over the coffee table, and with a desperate slap of his hand, a wave of juice and grease splattered all over the wall and couch.

      “Fuck Mike, WHAT! FUCK OFF!”

      “NO! BAD ROMEO! YOU DON’T DRINK TACO GREASE!  NOW CLEAN THAT MESS UP.”

      “Romeo, how are you still alive?” asked Jer, “Fuckin mongrel.”

      Romeo is still alive and thank god for that.  He made day to life interesting and I’ve never met a nicer guy.  Life was somewhat eventful and semi-fulfilling when I returned to Ontario.   Living in a house with 4 other guys, training, practicing wrestling at Jer’s school, and feeling accepted.  Joe’s school had yet to fold or be shut down,  and the promotions were still hard to convince I should  be booked.  They would ask for footage; mine was limited, so only the guys they knew got booked.  But at least we had an escape.  For one weekend, for one glorious weekend, we managed to go beyond being poor young men or failed dreamers or struggling wrestlers.  We were Barnyard cocks.