Tuesday, February 2, 2010
The New Dorm
The new dorm is not nearly as nice as the old dorm, at least not in terms of physical comfort. The building is older, the Internet less reliable. The kitchen is smaller, its implements more outdated. I share a room here, whereas before I had my own. The bathroom is an abomination of aged tile and filthy carpets matted with dust and hair, the shower a low-ceilinged affair with weak water pressure, unreliable temperature, and a floor cluttered with the shampoo, conditioner, and body wash bottles of four people. All in all, it's a major downgrade from where I lived in the Fall.
I love it so much more.
Don't get me wrong: Tall Roommate, Smart Roommate, and Non-Frat Roommate were all nice guys, and I knew that in a sticky situation, like the one I got myself into last Halloween, they wouldn't let me down. But they weren't friends. Even at our most cordial, I wouldn't have called them that. They were polite.
Here, in this dingy, thirty-year-old housing unit, I've found for the first time in my university career flat-mates with whom I actually have camaraderie. This warm atmosphere, however, is not confined to my room, and is in fact an outgrowth of the overall culture in Student Town, where I already knew several people before moving in.
Red-Headed Friend, an acquaintance since my Sophomore Year, lives here, as does Friendly Guy, who was already a friend of mine during a time when I had almost none.
It was Friendly Guy, in fact, who realized who my new roommates would be when I told him my room assignment number last December.
"If you're with who I think you're with, you're going to like them," he said. "They're nice guys."
He wasn't sure if I would actually be bunking with the young men he had in mind, though, and as I drove from Mountain Town to campus the day before the start of the semester, worst-case scenarios played themselves out in my mind. I saw every binge-drinking, hard-partying, gay-bashing frat boy in existence over the course of the ninety-minute trip.
I had no more than walked through the door to my new apartment when those fears melted away, and within days the unlikely notion, then the reality of actual friendship set in. I have been very lucky.
There are four of us in the room, at least officially, and a host of close friends and former residents who stop by on a regular basis.
Weird Roommate and I share a bedroom, while Gay Roommate and Sweet Roommate share another, and the four of us enjoy in common a bathroom, living room, and kitchenette.
Weird Roommate, as his name suggests, is a bit odd. His speech is highly formal he's given to making random noises and observations, often to no one in particular. On several occasions I've taken my head phones off to address what might have been a question, only to find that I wasn't being spoken to. No, there was nothing he was asking me. Weird Roommate was just talking to himself.
Weird Roommate's behavior became a topic of discussion my second night here, with the others cracking up as I recounted the abnormalities I'd picked up on after one day in residence and that they'd been discussing for an entire semester.
"What's up with the way he walks?" I questioned as the room roared with laughter.
"It's not really a walk," Sweet Roommate said. "It's more of a glide, kind of like he's a super villain."
"Did you tell him about the knives?" Sparky asked.
"Oh, yeah, dude, this was crazy," Sweet Roommate answered. "I was out here cutting up an onion one time, and I was like, 'Man, does anyone have a knife?' Out of nowhere, Weird Roommate comes down the hall with this massive butcher knife, and he hands it to me without saying a word."
I must have shown my shock, because Mexican Gangster pointed at me and laughed, saying, "Look at his face!"
"Come here, dude," Sweet Roommate directed, leading me back to my room, where he went to Weird Roommate's side and pulled open a drawer in his desk.
Sure enough, there were two huge gleaming blades, sitting alone in the wooden panel.
"Awesome," I said, looking at the menacing metal. "I sleep here."
Weird Roommate has proven friendly enough, though, and at least where I am concerned has demonstrated no homicidal urges yet.
Sweet Roommate is the one with whom I've bonded the most.
He's a tall, jovial 20-year-old with a penchant for Lady Gaga, a friendly demeanor that moved him to welcome me into his group the first night he met me, a giggling laugh that would seem more appropriate coming from a twelve-year-old boy than a college Junior, and a fundamentally kind nature.
The other night, during one of the parties that are a frequent occurrence here, I locked my dorm key in the bedroom after having a few drinks.
He and I left for the Student Town residents' desk to retrieve a new one, and while the Resident Adviser on duty was fishing in her drawer for the bronze implement I happened to notice a box of free condoms sitting on the countertop.
Calm as could be, I reached my hand in, clasped my fist around the latex and plastic, pulled about three quarters of the container's contents out, and shoved them into my coat pocket, all without making a sound.
Sweet Roommate looked at me, his eyes crinkling with laughter.
"You're ridiculous," he informed me, and then we exploded into loud cackles that made the girl helping us fight not to laugh.
The fourth resident is Gay Roommate, a fellow homosexual and someone in whom I have, just to preempt the questions I know are coming, no sexual interest whatsoever.
He's nice enough, and when he is obnoxious it's typically in general, not aimed at any specific person.
Other regular personalities include Sparky, a twenty-two-year-old former roommate who smokes like a chimney and drinks like a fish but looks like a teenager; and Mexican Gangster, a jolly hard partier who, despite being expelled from housing and banned from the dorms, sleeps over on a regular basis (Mexican Gangster is in fact ElSalvadorean, and Sweet Roommate is given to refer to him as "ElSalvadorable").
Grand Pa is someone I've met only a few times, a young man about our age whose pseudonym is actually a moniker given him by friends poking fun at his traditional views on some issues.
There's no one here I really dislike, although Weird Roommate occasionally makes me nervous.
Another thing that I adore about living here is the difference in culture; Student Town is a group of old apartment-style dorms, set up in three-story brick blocks, and the community here is much different than in my last residence, where spacious modern rooms were all housed in a single large building. The set-up here encourages students to congregate outside or at least pass one another while walking to class, while in my old housing unit the way out consisted of going down the hall and getting into an elevator.
It's very easy to meet people in Student Town.
While visiting with Red-Headed Friend a few nights ago for cooking lessons, I was introduced to her two friendly and cool roommates, and before long we were bonding over a shared love of laughter and overeating.
"We don't have that much cake," Red-Headed Friend called from the fridge as we settled in for dessert. "So the pieces are going to be kind of thin. Who wants the small slice?"
Her two roommates and I each averted our eyes to the floor and were totally silent for about three seconds, when we looked up, realized that we'd all been doing the exact same thing, and burst into laughter.
And they're far from the only new friends I've made.
There's Boy-From-Poland, the genial nineteen-year-old who spends every holiday in Warsaw because his father worked for years at the American embassy there. Then there's Girl-I-Don't-Have-A-Pseudonym-For-Yet, whose acquaintance I made for the first time last night during the course of particularly raucous festivities.
"Hi," I laughed, bounding into her friend's room because my feet were cold from where I'd been standing outside in socks.
"Hi," she smiled, hugging me as her friend cracked up in the background.
"Honey, you're so little," Girl-I-Don't-Have-A-Pseudonym-For-Yet said, putting her arms around my shoulders. She shot an evil look at Sweet Roommate. "How much did they give you?"
Sweet Roommate laughed and raised his hands in defense.
"Not that much," he insisted, a smile on his face. "Really."
Tonight I ran into Girl-I-Don't-Have-A-Pseudonym-For-Yet while doing my laundry, and after she asked jokingly if I was alright, we had an hour-long conversation about our families, hometowns, and the benefits of living on campus. She's not a partier but doesn't judge those who are, and I'm not a heavy partier but I enjoy it now and again.
That's what I love about being here: though my roommates consume alcohol with gusto and though almost all of them smoke marijuana, they put no pressure on me to join; weed just isn't my thing and I'm not one to drink all the time. They understand that, so when I want to refrain they're fine with it and when I'm ready to jump in I'm invited.
Similarly, someone like Girl-I-Don't-Have-A-Pseudonym-For-Yet is not castigated for being more tame, nor does she condemn the wilder set.
When I told her about Red-Headed Friend's attempts to educate me in the culinary arts, she revealed a love for spaghetti that rivals my own.
"The next time I cook, I should let you know," she said.
"If I'm here this weekend it would be perfect, since we'll probably be snowed in," I answered. "Let me give you my phone number."
Just like that, a new contact was in my address book.
The coolest thing about Student Town is that people who like to cook spaghetti can hang out with political science nerds who love to sing, and both of them can be friends with the drinkers even if they don't drink. Student Town is big. There's enough room for everybody.
And honestly, that's a nice change from the places I've been the last few years. Some of them were pretty crowded.