Living with “Stranger” Things

Some of my previous roommates are some of my greatest friends. I’m super thankful to have spent a portion of my life sharing bags of popcorn, having deep discussions, or telling how my days went with them. But I’m sure you’re aware that not every roommate becomes a Hallmark Movie Channel friend. Some people have horror stories from living with roommates. I don’t exactly have one of those, but I did have one roommate who… well… maybe you can figure him out, because I’m still clueless about him.

For my senior year of college, I rented an apartment in a complex near campus with two of my friends, Max and Cody. We signed a lease to live in a four-bed, two-bath crib. As we later discovered, the apartment was trash, but that’s irrelevant.

Anyway, we needed a fourth roommate. We had one lined up; he backed out. We had one strongly considering; he also hit the road. So, it got down to move-in time and we faced the fact that we were getting a randomly-assigned roommate to take the fourth spot.

It wouldn’t be too bad, we thought. We were all excited about living together in our own place, even if we had to share it with a rando. And if the rando tried to rule the roost, it was three against one, right?

It finally occurred to us what having this random roommate—this stranger—meant.

This man signed up to live with not one, not two, but three random people. And since only upperclassmen students could rent apartments in our complex, that meant he was an upperclassman who didn’t have anyone to live with. It’s not like he was a freshman, newly gracing our college for the first time. And so, we wondered.

Is he weird?

Is he friendless?

Is he a slob?

Is he an axe murderer?

Move-in day arrived and we entered our happy home for the first time. Not only did we see that our apartment was horrendous and VASTLY trashier than the apartment we toured, but we met Colin.

***

Colin was a junior from a more-populated part of our state. He studied biology. He had a sister. He worked at a grocery store.

After living with him for a year, those details are still about the only personal things we know about him.

Our first meeting was brief. He had already moved in, and he snuck out to work as we were settling our belongings.

After returning from work, Colin went to his room and didn’t come out for the rest of the evening. We blamed it on being tired from work, but the next few days held similar encounters.

Max and I had spent the summer working for a program that made us somewhat equivalent to camp counselors. Cody is the most outgoing person to ever walk the planet. Being the personable, sometimes outrageous, people that we are, the three of us tried to get to know Colin. We would talk to him. Joke around a little. We even invited him to get ice cream from Sonic with us. But you know when you’re getting to know someone, you ask them a question, they answer, and they usually ask you the same question? And then the conversation kind of bounces from one person to the other? Example:

“So, where are you from?”

“Oh, the North Pole. It’s great for the summer, but it can be brutal in the winter months. What about you?”

“I grew up just east of Oz. Have you ever been there?”

“No, but I’ve heard it’s magical.”

“It is! Literally, it’s so nice that the roads are made of yellow bricks.”

“That’s so cool!”

And so on.

Yeah. That didn’t happen with Colin.

We would ask him something about himself. He would respond with about a single-sentence answer, and then he would not say anything else. So we finally stopped asking because we weren’t getting very far.

***

We spent the next few months, not really living together, but sort of existing in the same general area.

He finally got to know us well enough to join us in the living room if all three of us were there hanging out, or if we had friends over. There was never an instance when he came in and sat down while just one of us was there sitting on the couch watching TV or studying by ourselves.

I did have one bonding experience with Colin—and only Colin—but the experience itself was unwanted by both parties. I was taking a nap in my room one day when I heard a knock on my door.

“Come in?” I said, slightly confused because only Colin and I were there, and I knew he wouldn’t be wanting to come into my room to have a heart-to-heart or anything.

He slightly opened the door and gently poked his head in.

“Uhm, we have a leak problem,” he said.

I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter.

I found that a pipe had burst in the apartment above ours, which—thanks to the crappiness of our apartment—led to a slight rain through the various tiny holes in our ceiling.

Colin and I spent the next two hours strategically placing pots and pans under water drips, soaking up water from our carpet, and cleaning out cabinets that fell victims of the tragedy. We did all of this while only speaking when words were relevant to the cause. I tried once to ask a casual question about his day.

Three word answer. Other than that, we worked to the sound of water droplets hitting metal cookware.

***

Surprisingly, as little as Colin talked to us, he did talk to my friend, Nicky. Nicky—whom I love dearly—is a ball of energy. Actually, she is just a lot in general, but in a good way. For some reason or other, Colin would talk to her, especially when he would see her at the grocery where he worked.

So, Nicky called me one day to tell me something that has since escaped my memory. After telling me, she said, “Oh, I just saw Colin while I was getting my groceries. I love his new tattoo!”

I almost spit out the coffee I was drinking. “TATTOO?”

“You didn’t know he got a tattoo like a week ago?” she asked.

“How would I? The man doesn’t speak.”

He literally didn’t happen to mention to us that he had permanently put ink on his body. Like, you would have thought that would at least come up the day he got it. But no.

He also spoke to other ladies. He had more girls over than the three of us combined. And they weren’t just friends either; they were ladies of interest. We don’t know how he did it. But as many ladies as he brought over, he never brought any friends over. Not once. I was actually concerned that he had no friends at one point. So, I tried extra hard to get to know him then… to no avail. I think he picked up on my efforts because he started mentioning being over at friend’s house. That explained his absences when he wasn’t at work or class. Up until then, we just thought he was with other ladies.

***

Somehow, as my year with Colin came and gone, I found a respect for him. Maybe he was intimidated. Three extremely outgoing seniors—who already knew each other well—came in and basically dominated the apartment. Maybe he felt like he couldn’t truly hang loose in our presence. Or maybe he was extremely introverted and our interactions made him nervous. Or maybe he was anti-social.

Whatever his deal was, I’m sure living with the three of us was a lot to handle. So, maybe it wasn’t entirely his fault. I think back and question if trying to ask him so many questions from the start was a good thing. I guess I just pictured us being great friends because we were roommates.

He wasn’t there when I officially moved out. So I left him a note.

Colin,
It’s been real. Best of luck.
-Bryson

Indeed, I wish him luck. I also hope he at least got a few good memories with those three crazy people he shared a toilet with for a year.

 

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