Learning How to Be Roommates

Learning How to Be Roommates

From Chicken Soup for the College Soul

Learning How to Be Roommates

I was never very neat. Later in life I learned to attribute this flaw to my creative genius, saying that my bouts of disorganization were simply the flip side of my unique gifts and talents. Yet, when I arrived at college, I hadn’t come up with any impressive reasons for my big messes. They just were—and my roommate didn’t seem to appreciate their contribution to my bright future.

I’m not sure why they stuck us together. I don’t think they could have possibly picked two more different people to room together. Kim was extremely organized. She labeled everything and each item she owned had its place. She even had one of those cute little pencil holders— and used it! Mine had become a collection spot for bits and pieces of paper, odds and ends. I think one pen may have found its way into the pencil holder but I certainly didn’t put it there.

Kim and I fed off each other. She got neater and I got messier. She would complain about my dirty clothes, I would complain about Lysol headaches. She would nudge my clothing over to one side and I would lay one of my books on her uncluttered desk.

It came to a head one fateful October evening. Kim came into the room and had some kind of fit because one of my shoes had found its way (inexplicably) beneath her bed. I don’t know what was so significant about that shoe but it infuriated her! She picked it up, tossed it toward my side of the room and managed to knock my lamp onto the floor. The lightbulb shattered, covering the layer of clothes I had been planning to fold that very night. I leapt off the bed in horror and immediately started yelling about her insensitivity and rudeness. She yelled back similar frustrations and we each ended up pushing toward the door to be the first to slam our way out of the room.

I’m sure we wouldn’t have lasted a day or two longer in that room. Probably not even a night, if it hadn’t been for the phone call she received. I was sitting on my bed, fuming. She was sitting on hers, fuming. It was later in the evening and the room was so thick with unspoken expletives that I don’t even know why we had both returned to each other’s company.

When the phone rang she picked it up and I could tell right away it wasn’t good news. I knew Kim had a boyfriend back home and I could tell from her end of the conversation that he was breaking up with her. Though I didn’t mean for it to happen, I could feel the warm feelings of empathy rising up in my heart. Losing a boyfriend was something no girl should go through alone.

I sat up in my bed. Kim wouldn’t look at me and when she hung up the phone she quickly crawled under her covers and I could hear her quiet sobbing. What to do? I didn’t want to just walk over (I was still a little miffed) but I didn’t want to leave her either. I smiled as I got the idea.

Slowly, I began to clear up my side of the room. I took back the book I had set on her desk and I cleaned up the socks and the shirts. I put some pencils in my pencil holder and made my bed. I straightened the dresser top (but not the drawers—I had my limits!) and swept the floor, even on her side. I got so into my work that I didn’t even notice that Kim had come out from under the covers. She was watching my every move, her tears dried and her expression one of disbelief. When I was finally done I went and sat at the end of her bed. Not really saying anything but just sitting. I guess I didn’t know what to say. Her hand was warm. I thought it would be cold, probably because I always thought the organized were pretty heartless. But no. Her hand was warm as it reached over to grasp mine. I looked up into Kim’s eyes and she smiled at me. “Thanks.”

Kim and I stayed roommates for the rest of that year. We didn’t always see eye to eye, but we learned the key to living together. Giving in, cleaning up and holding on.

Elsa Lynch

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