Henry David Thoreau Gets a Roommate

May 20, 2011

I find it wholesome to be alone the greater part of the time. To be in company, even with the best, is soon wearisome and dissipating. I love to be alone. I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude. We are for the most part more lonely when we go abroad among men than when we stay in our chambers. A man thinking or working is always alone, let him be where he will.

I have survived and thrived without the company of my fellow man and have found it to be most peaceful.  However a gentleman caller named Dupree interrupted this peace not a fortnight ago.

Dupree knocked on my cabin door on a misty night in the crux of Spring.  The Vernal stars seemed to align and foretell that a visitor would be arriving.  Like Balthazar and the other Wise Men, Dupree must have followed these stars to my small wooden shanty, although no Savior awaited him.

I received him openly as it was the Christian tradition.  He asked to lodge for a night so that he may rest his weary feet.  He had come from Boston and as such he was accustomed to a strong volume of voice that rattled the panes of glass in my humble abode.  He was making his way West.  For what reason, he did not share; nor did I inquire.  He said he was a poet, but I think he’s just unemployed.

I fed Dupree that night.  His face twisted slightly when I described the forthcoming cuisine.  We would be eating a modest meal of porridge and a crisp apple I had found earlier that day.  After dinner, I asked if he wouldn’t mind cleaning the dishes afterwards.  He replied and said that he wasn’t sure how to go about it.  I explained that there was really nothing too it, to which he said that he didn’t want to “mess up my system.”  I explained that I had no “system” to speak of, however he seemed uncomfortable with the request, so despite the fact that I prepared dinner, I also tidied up afterwards.

He slept on the floor of the cabin, only twice complaining about the cramped nature of the living quarters.  I reminded him that this was a “one-person” apartment and that he was a guest.  He asked if I had any extra pillows, because he liked to hug one while he slept.

Dupree’s presence in the cabin was not comforting to me.  I had been accustomed to the silence of the forest, uninterrupted save for a chirping cricket or the rustle of wind through the budding oak trees.  That night the only sound I heard was Dupree breathing.  He had smoked a pipe for most of his life and his lungs strained mightily against the fresh air.  It wasn’t a “snore” per se, but rather a loud, wet, irregular breathing which caused me a fitful sleep.  It was like he was trying to blow out birthday candles in his lucid dreams.

The next day I went out to fishing for the evening’s supper.  I departed early in the morning and Dupree, still trying to sleep, demanded that I shut the curtains on my way out.  It was 11:30 in the morning and even the least industrious of men would have blushed at this laziness.  I asked him to please collect firewood so that we may cook the fish on my successful return.  He said he’d “definitely get around to it.”

A lake is the landscape’s most beautiful and expressive feature. It is earth’s eye; looking into which the beholder measures the depth of his own nature.  I caught three fish from the lake and trekked back to the cabin, expecting to see curling wisps of smoke lifting from the chimney.  Alas, I did not.  When I opened the door, I found Dupree in the same prone position on the floor, asleep and breathing heavily.

“Oh, come on!” I exclaimed setting the fish down on the stone hearth.  He shook with surprise.  He gave several platitudes to me expressing his apologies such as “My bad dude” and “It’s cool.”

The third day of his “one night stay,” was the breaking point for me.

I caught him using my toothbrush.

“Where is your toothbrush?” I inquired, my voice trembling from holding back a suppressed rage.  He explained that he didn’t have one and had been using mine for the last few days.  “What’s the big deal?  Are you a germaphobe or something?” he asked.  I expressed that I would like him to leave the next morning, which he abided by.

Now that Dupree is gone I’ve realized that I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude.

Also, I think he stole like six bucks from me.


This section of Thoreau’s Walden was later adapted into the hit film You, Me and Dupree.

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