To shamelessly rip off Forrest Gump, roommates are like a box of chocolates. You never know which ones are nuts.
I was unbearably excited to start college, to be on my own a whopping 27 miles from my hometown in a town known primarily for the three thriving cattle farms surrounding the school. Buoyed by the stories I grew up hearing from my mother's college friends, I was ready to jump headlong into the world of the academic elite, with the traditional detours into political activism and sexual experimentation.
I was also looking forward to meeting my roommate. We'd all had to fill out forms that looked like a cross between an application for a dating service and a psychological evaluation, so I was feeling pretty positive. I was expecting someone bookish, a little on the hippie side, a non-smoker. I was expecting a best friend; no, a surrogate, less annoying sister.
Instead, I got Nina. A chain-smoking, death metal fan. And a militant atheist.
Gamely, I offered not to burn incense in the room if she didn't smoke. She gave me a slow once over and said, "What are you? Some kind of witch?"
I floundered for a moment. "No, actually, I'm kind of a Catholic hippie." I rolled my eyes and tried to chuckle a little. "My family even switched parishes so they can drag me to Mass every Sunday. So dumb, huh?"
"You actually believe in God?" She said it like I'd admitted that I still believed in the Tooth Fairy. I nodded mutely. She grabbed her package of Marlboro Reds off the desk. "I'm going out for a smoke."
As she sailed off, slamming the door behind her, I was haunted by the words of our resident advisor at the house meeting that morning.
No room assignment changes for the first six weeks.
Clearly, I was going to have to suck it up and make the best of it. I loved the room too much: a corner room, bright and sunny, with a view of the duck pond. I could hear the chapel bells during the day and the lonely rumble of the trains that passed by every night. We'd get used to each other. Besides, I was in college to learn new things, right?
And, oh, did I learn. I learned that there are no headphones sophisticated enough to block out the melodious strains of bands like Carcass. I learned that the no-smoking rule was pointless when Nina left her clothes in piles on the floor. I learned that World War 3 can be waged when one person wants the doors and windows opened (the better to disperse at least some of the distinctly dive bar odor our room was rapidly acquiring) and one wants them closed and the shades drawn at all times.
And I learned that talking out loud to God is not considered normal.
I grew up in a family of women who talk about the saints like they just had them over yesterday for coffee and cinammon rolls, so my relationship with the Divine has always been casual. And occasionally, well, conversational.
Wrestling to put a new ribbon in my fancy new electric typewriter (and silently cursing myself for being talked out of taking my trusty Oliver the Olivetti with me to college), I said "Okay, Lord. I've got a deadline and this thing is not cooperating. Little help here?"
"Do you honestly think that's going to work?" I didn't have to look up to hear the sneer.
"Not really. But it makes me feel better and...oh, yeah! Hallelujah! Let the typing commence!"
"I'm going out for a smoke. And close the damn windows."
Nina was gone for hours, and I breathed in the crisp fall air flowing through the windows. The sunset on the duckpond mirrored the colors of trees. The chapel bells chimed 5 o'clock.
If I requested a transfer, I would be giving all this up to be shuffled who knows where. Clearly, I knew what I had to do. And I had God (and Mary, and the saints) on my side.
In the next few weeks, I prayed more than I had since I was in third grade and was convinced I was on the fast track to sainthood. Everything was fair game: pop quizzes, the weather, auditions, for our illegal toaster oven to not burn my bagel...again.
Every time, without fail, Nina would huff out with her cigarettes and I would breathe a sigh of relief.
Her attempts to paint me in a bad light were stunningly unsuccessful. While my being Catholic was considered a bit of an anomaly on a Methodist campus, complaining that your roommate is a religious whackjob while wearing a Slayer tshirt isn't going to win over many people. If anything, said roommate starts getting a lot of sympathy.
The residence advisor knocked on my door on the first day of room reassignments. Nina's parents were renting her an apartment off campus because I was "clearly mentally unstable." I filled out the forms, signing that I would pay extra to have the room as a single.
As she left, the advisor paused. "You're not fooling me for a second, you know."
"Did my halo slip?"
"No, your horns are holding it up quite nicely." She moved to shut the door.
"Leave it open, please. Think I'm just gonna chill out for a while."
I lit a stick of nag champa and leaned back in my desk chair. Only when I could no longer hear her footsteps did I allow myself a low, evil chuckle.
This is my intersection with maneless. Y'all can check out her entry here: http://maneless.livejournal.com/1025.html </i>