Monday, September 15, 2014

What do you think about this?

This is a tale I've told before, but I'm approaching it differently.

October 1987

I’ve now spent just over a month at Carolina, and I am struggling. I will not learn for a couple more weeks, when I catch a ride home and see my mom, that my dad attempted suicide in September. He's in an institution in another state. He'll be home in a month. I'll certainly see him at Thanksgiving.

Oddly enough, it doesn't seem to affect me that much.

I know now it is because I am already in a depression and hurtling toward the bottom of a pit, so focused on my own pain. Let's be honest, however; the news is not helpful.

When not attending classes, I can chiefly be found drinking before or at frat parties or sitting on the floor of my dorm room eating chocolate covered peanuts and crying. My friend Ann, who lives down the hall and also has one good and one insane roommate, works at Student Stores and introduces me to bulk candy. To this day I've never had better chocolate covered peanuts. Never. A friend of hers rings them up for me cheaply. I buy pounds and pounds at a time and eat them all.

By mid-October I am well into the 40 pounds I will gain before spring. None of my clothes fit anymore. I cannot stop crying, and I cannot stop eating. I once eat an entire jar of my roommate's peanut butter with a spoon in one afternoon.

Somehow, despite this, my roommate Lesley (of the peanut butter) and I form a friendship that  endures to this day. We live in a ridiculously tiny triple room with no air conditioning and two closets. Lesley is an interesting, French-speaking, well-traveled deadhead from Charlotte. When we meet and she learns I went to high school in India, she thinks it is cool. She doesn't ask me if I meant Indiana, or if I lived in a mud hut. She turns out to be unusual in this regard.

Eventually, I will get so tired of being sincere about India, about how we lived, about how modern it is, that I begin saying "yes" to every question. Yes, we rode elephants to school. Yes, we had tigers as pets. Yes, we lived in a mud hut. Yes, yes and more yes.

This was before the Internet. I imagine it's different now.

Our other roommate is Laura, a cheerleader from Goldsboro, who hates Lesley on sight because of her tie-dyed T-shirt and Birkenstocks. She does not know where India is, and feigns interest when I show her on a map.

She mistakes me for normal, that first day, and so it takes her a good week or two to begin hating me as well.

We are both afraid of her, although we outnumber her. Laura, she has a look. Plus, she can eat three M&Ms and then leave the bag. Who does this? She claims an entire closet for herself, leaving us to share the other, and we do not contest it. She is small but she is mean; she punches the wall really hard after a fight with her boyfriend.

Because she doesn't talk to either of us, we only suspect how much she hates us until we begin reading the journal she is required to keep for an English class. Lesley opens it one day, and all is confirmed; she loathes us utterly and completely in poorly written, unimaginative prose. Fortunately, for the six to eight weeks she lives with us before moving out without notice, Lori spends the bulk of her time out in the hall with our shared phone talking to her serious boyfriend. When she's around, however, we drop crumbs of things she's written into our conversation. She knows and she purses her lips tighter.

Laura begins hiding her journal under her bed. With the good snacks. Does she think she can treat us that badly and still expect us to respect her privacy? Or snacks?

We know the precise date she is moving out because we read it in her journal. We count down gleefully. We make sure to spend the entire day elsewhere, and when we return to our pantry of a room, it is entirely, gloriously ours.


  1. It's written very well - in your style which I love - and there's humor and emotion and wit. I want to punch your mean roomie in the face (and I'm not violent) and really sympathize with you in 1987 because bad roommates make the formula for adjusting to college very difficult to balance. And I've had chocolate covered peanuts in NC and they really are the best.

    1. Thank you, Heather. In retrospect, we let her have that power, and I don't know why. She must've been miserable and insecure. I know this now.

      Why are they so good? I have had a LOT of chocolate covered peanuts in my life, and those were the best best best.

  2. Tell us more about the chocolate covered peanuts. Were they salted?

  3. Lisa, this is great and I want more! I love your style -- your way with words. You know the best way to use all the most interesting, most perfect words. And the story! I want more of this story. I know we've heard a lot of it here but I want it again.

    I have to admit to being a little bit bummed that the cheerleader has the same name as me (or does she? Laura or Lori?) but then I console myself with the fact that my last name is almost just like the good guy's name.

    Any case, love it.

    1. Thank you thank you, Laura! I value your opinion and I so appreciate you saying this!

      And her name was actually Lori or Lauri, or maybe even Laurie, but I don't think it had an e at the end. Honesty can't remember which. I could call her something else. Like Lucifer.

    2. Hahaha, Lucifer! Lucy for short. Although I do know some lovely Lucys.

  4. "she loathes us utterly and completely in poorly written, unimaginative prose."

    hee hee hee hee hee hee.

  5. I love your life stories - so rich with so many details, I can't wait to read more. Just a quick note - my apologies for having done too many writing workshops, and feel free to ignore - the changing tenses jolted me out of the story. I had to reread several paragraphs to get the timing right - it might just be me and my feeble brain, so please don't take offense. I sincerely love everything you write :)

    1. Absolutely not offended - I REALLY appreciate this! I'm finding tenses a struggle, and clearly that's obvious, as it isn't smooth if you had to reread several paragraphs. That's so useful to me. Thank you!


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