Moving into my freshman dorm room was one of the most memorable experiences of my college career thus far. No, it wasn’t from the high of a newfound freedom, nor the fact that I was finally gaining a fresh start. It was because when I opened the door, I walked into a giant science experiment and no one could have prepared me for what I found.
As the scene of my living situation unfolded before me, I could barely form complete thoughts. Pictures of dilapidated houses and dirty frat parties raced through my mind as I drew the uncanny parallels between them and my new room. I let my head wander to who exactly this mystery roommate could be, a girl I wouldn’t meet until tomorrow. I spent hours questioning the sanity and personal hygiene of the person I’d been assigned to live with, until I finally settled on my faith in the system. I mean, how could a school that I gave so much time and effort to match me with someone I hate?
The next day, I turned my key and walked into a situation so unexpected, it felt as if I was in an episode of The Twilight Zone. There she was, quietly wiping down the surface of her desk, her family enthusiastically chatting and folding clothes around her. Her mother turned and offered a genuine smile while introducing herself and the two younger children in the room, who quickly stiffened under the glance of a stranger.
When I turned my head to the corner where she stood, she was already staring, sizing me up with wide green eyes partially hidden by her long, unkempt hair. She didn’t say a word, letting her mother speak for her, only nodding to show that she was in fact listening.
On paper, our interaction could have been perceived as mundane—a normal, uncomfortable introduction between two people meeting under the pretense of already being stuck together. But as I focused in on the background, I noticed a makeup bag that lay unzipped on her nightstand, its contents being just two shades of bright orange and white—prescriptions that doubtlessly had to be for something more serious than allergies. Although I couldn’t quite read them, the letters on the bottles stood clean and stark against their labels, just like how her name looked on my computer screen when I first saw it a few months back.
The association made me realize that without context, letters mean nothing. They’re just symbols that, when standing alone, tell a story based on only assumption. As memories of the room in its state the day before flooded back into my head, my eyes stayed glued on the ominous pill bottles. The letters were coming together in a different way than how they were in my head before and they told the real story about my new roommate.
She had a severe form of ADHD that created the perfect cocktail of erratic behaviors to ensure that we would never be able to more than barely function together. Her sleep schedule was inhuman; she constantly wavered in and out of a state of hyperspeed and forgot four times as often as she remembered. I hated her for all of these things, and I hated myself for it.