Late last year, I entered a blogging contest for Cosmopolitan.com. The prompt was about the most important relationship you had in college, and what you learned from it. I hated to give a guy that title, yet I probably would have won the contest if I had, because, you know…Cosmo. Either way, now it’s here for the world to see.
She answered the dorm door wearing plaid boxers, a men’s t-shirt, and an Obagi facial mask.
“Hey,” I said. “I’m your new roommate!”
My entire life was packed in bags and piled behind me in the hall. She opened the door a little wider.
It was the start of my second semester, freshman year. I’d moved 15 hours south of my hometown to a place I knew no one. My first roommate and I were too different, so I moved out. Now, I was moving in with a girl who was used to living solo.
It was awkward and quiet as I unpacked my things, until she caught a glimpse of my extensive DVD collection.
“You like Sex and The City?” she asked.
“Oh yeah, I’ve got all the seasons,” I said.
Her eyes widened, and in attempts to offer an olive branch, I told her she could watch them whenever she wanted.
I came to know my new roomie, Michelle, over the next week, and things were going as well as they could. That is, until I came home late after a night of studying to find a hand-written note from Michelle taped to our door:
“I took a nap this afternoon and woke up covered in termites. I am staying with a friend. They sprayed the room, but you should probably stay somewhere, too.”
As I opened the door, I could smell the stale bug spray. Dead termites covered the coral rug I’d placed a week before. The bug-eaten wall beside Michelle’s bed looked as if it’d been hit with a sledgehammer.
I crashed with a friend in another dorm that night, and met Michelle and residential life the next day. I asked Michelle what happened.
“I was asleep, but I kept feeling something on me,” she said. “I woke up and just saw them on me and flying around.”
I shuddered. Ew.
Residential life had trouble finding an open room for us; even sending us into a few rooms that were already occupied. It was getting late and Michelle and I had nowhere to stay. So I did what most college students do in a time of need—I called my dad.
He, of course, was mad that Michelle and I had paid for dorms and were essentially homeless. He told us to go to the nearest hotel and he would take care of it.
Michelle didn’t have a car, so both of our belongings were stuffed into the backseat of my tiny Daewoo. We hopped in the front and I drove off-campus to a Hampton Inn. When we walked in the lobby, it was obvious we’d made a name for ourselves.
“You didn’t bring any termites with you, right?” asked the guy at the front desk.
We shook our heads, got our room keys, and headed upstairs. Compared to our dorm room, the hotel felt luxurious.
As we got ready for bed, we just had to laugh at the situation. After just knowing each other for a week, we’d had something crazy happen to us, and we were now living in a hotel together.
By the weekend, the university had found us a dorm room in an entirely different building. Just as new roommates do, we claimed our sides of the room and unpacked our things, hoping the past wasn’t a sign of our future.
Part of me felt guilty. While I didn’t trigger the termites, I felt like I barged in on Michelle’s peaceful life, settled in her dorm room alone, relaxing in her clay facial mask.
But Michelle didn’t see it that way at all.
Michelle became more than my roommate, she was my friend. During the remainder of the semester, we watched plenty of Sex and The City, went out for sushi dinners, and even made martinis in our dorm (which resulted in Michelle puking in the communal bathroom sink).
Late one night, Michelle told me about her family. She said they weren’t fully supportive of her studying English and theatre. They wanted her to study something more “serious.”
In that moment, we grew even closer. Without realizing it, Michelle made me appreciate my situation, my parents, and their support.
When the semester came to a close, I was sad to say goodbye to Michelle. Although we got new roommates, we still met up for movies or sushi on occasion.
I have only seen Michelle a few times since I graduated six years ago, but we still keep in touch. Looking back, Michelle was one of the best roommates I had, but she was also a great friend.
It’s a friendship that proves first impressions aren’t everything, and that bad situations can evolve into something really, really good.