I was walking in front of two very young, southern-accented women the other day. They were talking about horrible summer roommates - how messy they were, and how glad they were to go home for a couple weeks. And then they started talking about the impending fall semester.
Fall semester is years and years past for me. But thinking about it still gives me a bad stomach feeling.
I've not written much about my college experience, but those were difficult years. Culture shock and not knowing where I was or who I was or what I was doing. In North Carolina, in the US, in life...
I have so many not-proud moments from college. If I could take it all back, and do it all over, I'd make just about every decision differently.
We moved to the US a month before I started at Chapel Hill. I had two roommates in a tiny dorm room. The next year those same rooms were doubles, and even so, they were small. With no AC.
My one roommate, Leah, showed up wearing a tie-dye T-shirt with dancing bears and Birkenstocks. She was from North Carolina, but had spent the summer working and traveling in California. The last time I saw her, she was living in Germany. We're still friends.
The other, Laura, was a cheerleader from Goldsboro. She looked Leah up and down and wrinkled her nose. Rejected her outright. I, on the other hand, looked normalish. She turned her attention to me.
"So, where are you from?" she asked, with a hair flip and a strong North Carolina accent.
"Well, I went to high school in India."
"India? Now, where is that?"
So I diligently pulled out my world map, and pointed out India.
Clearly not normal enough. Which turned out to be a pretty common reaction, I discovered. India? Oh.
Leah and I hit it off; Laura had nothing to say to either of us. It got awkward fast.
Now, I spent a great deal of time that year crying and eating chocolate, and just generally being lost and miserable. Thanks to those activities, I packed on 30 pounds that year. Which only made me more miserable.
You couldn't truthfully say that I was the perkiest of roommates.
And Leah, well, she very kindly spent a good deal of the time she didn't spend experimenting with drugs and boys babysitting me, if I look back fairly and honestly. And the babysitting often took the form of drinking beer or Purple Jesus (if any of you remember Everclear punch) at frat parties and such. It's not that their weren't fun moments. But they always involved too much alcohol.
So maybe we weren't the easiest pair for a cheerleader from Goldsboro.
She was a control freak, which is hard when there are things beyond your control. She'd fold her laundry damp if it was taking more than the allotted time to dry. I'm not kidding. And who do you know who can buy a packet of M&Ms - one of the small packets - and eat three or four, and leave the rest on her desk?
Laura spent much of the couple months she lived with us sitting in the hall on our phone, fighting with her boyfriend, who was a sophomore at Carolina. She didn't talk to much of anyone, so when people later asked who our roommate had been, we'd say the brunette with the flippy hair who spent all her time on the phone in the hall. The one who had gotten so mad at her boyfriend on the phone that she'd punched the wall that one time. And then they knew.
At some point she stopped speaking to us entirely, and moved out one weekend. We knew she was moving out only because we'd taken to reading her journal. We made sure to be gone all day that day.
She knew we'd been reading her journal, because - and I am not proud of this - we would drop little things she'd written into conversation. Conversation between the two of us, of course. Because she did her best to act like we weren't there, and if she was asked anything directly, she'd respond as tersely as possible.
So we did our best to torture her, in small ways. Like eating the M&Ms she'd leave on the desk. Or moving things, ever so slightly. She never said anything about it.
After she moved out, I'd duck if I saw her on campus. It was a big campus, and so we rarely ran into each other. I was kind of scared of her, honestly.
I ran into her a couple years later. We were waiting in line for the bathroom at a frat party together. She'd had a great deal to drink, and she apologized. I apologized back. We hugged, and that was that.
I wanted to ask why she hated us so much (pre-torture campaign), and if she was still with the boyfriend, and where she'd moved to, but didn't. And truthfully, I was curious in the moment, but didn't actually care in the bigger scheme of things.
It's long enough in the past that I rarely think about it, except when triggered, or when someone pushes a conversation about college, which at this age, doesn't happen that often. About which I am thankful.