Stories from Seattle: An Ode to the Perfect Roommate
Keep your dogs and cats—quarantine life is best with a hamster.
By Ellen Meny
April 20, 2020
This is part of a series of personal essays we’re calling Stories from Seattle, contributed by our community and designed to show how the coronavirus pandemic is impacting the lives of Seattleites. Want to share your story, coping mechanisms, wildest ideas? We’d love to hear. Please email: [email protected].
I’d like to take a moment to brag about my roommate.
I imagine that, given the current situation, living with someone can either be a blessing or a curse. On one hand, having company means someone to rely on. Someone to share this strange, surreal time with. On the other hand, every time I’ve called someone with kids, I just hear screaming for thirty seconds, and then the sound of the phone being chucked against a wall.
Thankfully, though, my roommate is incredible. I know, I know—it’s a fairly lofty claim. But believe me when I say that she’s done so much for me, I owe her all of my love, thanks, and leafy green vegetables.
Let me paint a picture for you. She has brown and gray hair. Beautiful, shining dark eyes. A tiny, adorable nose. Giant teeth that could puncture a hole in your hand in seconds flat. And cheek pouches called displostomes that extend all the way to her hips in order to store food.
My roommate’s name is Peachy Keen, and she is a hamster.
When I adopted Peachy Keen—also known as Peachy, PK, Tater Tot and Major Chonker—back in January 2019, I anticipated a small furry friend who I could feed carrots to and practicing my singing on. I didn’t expect her to become my one saving grace in the midst of chaos.
By human standards, Peachy Keen is a horrible roommate. She stays up all night, noisily eating food and drinking water like a bro just back from a 3 am rager. She exercises obsessively. She chews on cardboard and poops literally wherever she wants in her home.
Even by pet standards, hamsters don’t inspire the same devotion as dogs and cats do—and while I don’t agree with the sentiment, I understand it. Peachy does not harbor the obsessive loyalty of a dog, nor the quiet grace of a cat. She does not come when called, or purr when I tell her what a beautiful amazing shining star she is. Yet, when I kiss her on her tiny furry head, the world feels a little better. Peachy Keen has done more for me than she will ever know.
When all of the Zoom calls are over and I’ve exhausted my options for digital happy hours, Peachy Keen is there for me—a small, warm, soft friend I can cup in my hands, a living reminder that everything just might be okay in the end. And even if I don’t really know what’s going to happen in the future, Peachy remains a constant. It’s comforting to know my 6-inch long roommate is right there with me, peppering my life with little moments of joy. When the walls feel like they’re closing in, even if she doesn’t quite understand it, she’s there for me.
And through it all, Peachy Keen is my faithful audience, as well. The longer I’m holed up in my apartment, the more I delight her with my various ramblings about the state of the world. Does my hamster understand the concept of a pandemic? No. Does she know what the coronavirus is? No. Will she sit on my shoulder, chewing sunflower seeds, as I endlessly wax poetic about my anxieties? Yes. In fact, she’s probably better than a human in this way. Peachy Keen will never tell me to shut up and quit worrying, because she does not have the capacity for it.
She does, however, have the capacity for love. Peachy Keen occupies approximately three feet of my apartment, but she takes up so much more space in my heart. I only wish she knew how much joy and love she brings to my life. Although I’ll never be able to verbally communicate my gratitude—shockingly, my hamster does not speak English—I’ll show my appreciation in carrots, kale, and tiny smidgens of peanut butter on a teaspoon. When human contact fails, it is our animal friends who show us grace and comfort in hard times. So, I raise a glass to our pets—but, most importantly, I raise a glass to the best roommate ever, Peachy Keen.