Archives for posts with tag: college roommates

Dear Reader:

I am not sure how to follow up a story with tantric sex, so I’ve stepped back to a little effort at pure fiction.  The story below is part two of a story called “Roommate Issues”  the first installment of which was posted on this site on October 23, 2012.  It concerns the not-uncommon situation nowadays, where a basic suburban American kid at a middling college ends up with a foreign exchange student as a roommate.  Thanks for reading.


Me and Nathan have almost finished the freshman year.  He’s acing science courses while I struggle with sociology, which is kind of embarrassing.  He hasn’t exactly helped my personal sociology, either, if you know what I mean.  I can’t bring a girl back to the room ‘cause he just hangs out and wants to talk about molecules or something.

I said to him one night:  “You gotta get out of the room sometimes.”

“Where should I go?” he asked.

“What if you went to the gym?  Do a little working out.  Add some muscle.”

He just looked at me kinda disappointed, and said:  “I’m not sure I’d know what to do.”

I wasn’t planning to be a saint or anything, but before I could even think about how it would go down, I said:  “How ‘bout if I take you the first time and show you the ropes.”

He grinned.  “Thank you so much.  I would like to see ropes.  Maybe I can take you to the chemistry lab with me sometime and I will show you what to do.”

“That’s okay, Nathan,” I said.  “No obligations.”

So, last month I took him to the gym.  Some of the guys looked at me a little funny when we walked in together but they can’t talk crap to me.  Not to brag too much, but I’m pretty much a regular there, and it shows.  Nathan, on the other hand, is a little lacking in the muscle department.  He hasn’t lifted anything heavier than a chemistry book his whole life.  I showed him what machines to try and wrote him up a little routine.  He took it real serious.

After that, much to my surprise, Nathan seemed to like the gym.  He even went on his own like every day last week.  The other night, he came back to the room all proud and announced:  “I’m growing bigger breasts.”

“Chest, Nathan,” I said.  “A man gets a bigger chest.”

He looked confused, so I pointed to the Kardashian poster on the wall.

“Women have breasts, I explained.  “Men have a chest.”

“Oh,” he said.  “Thank you for fixing me.”

I laughed at that one.

“Dogs get fixed, Nathan.  I’m just helping you.”

“Dogs?” he said, confused.

“Never mind,” I said.  I wasn’t sure how I’d explain that one.”

Overall, living with Nathan hasn’t been so bad.  He’s quiet and clean and always has things I can borrow when I run out, like toothpaste and shampoo.  I was even starting to think about asking where he’s rooming next year – maybe we’d stay together or something, when, get this, I come home from dinner last night and find him with a girl.  Yep, there he is sitting on his bed, dressed, next to a skinny girl whose glasses are larger than the rest of her head.

“I want you to meet Jhin,” he says, looking proud.

“Shin?” I try to repeat.

“Jhin,” he says.

She looks up at me and I get the whole picture.  She is probably the least attractive Asian girl I have ever seen.  She’s got zits and a gap between her teeth and eyes like saucers behind thick lenses.  She’s in a Mickey Mouse tee shirt and a pair of pants that look like my mom’s living room curtains.  She doesn’t say anything.  She just smiles up at me and I see they are holding hands.

“Oh my God,” I think.  “Nathan’s got a girlfriend.”

This is something I never expected.  Me and Nathan discuss a lot of stuff: food, music, sports and he tells me ninety-nine percent more about chemistry than I understand, but we never talk about girls.  Anyway, I guess it’s cool.  Why not?

“I meet Jhin at the gym,” he says.

“Aha,” I think to myself.  “That’s why he’s been going so much.”

“Do you work out?” I ask her.

“I work desk,” she says in a squeaky voice like a cartoon character.

Now I remember seeing her.  She checks i.d.’s and hands out towels.  So, like this is really awkward.  Am I supposed to stay and act like I’m studying, or is she going to leave, or what?  I walk over to my desk and turn on the computer.  I’m acting like I’m reading stuff but I’m really wondering if they are gonna leave, or if she’s gonna leave, or, God forbid, they’re gonna make out.  They whisper something to each other and Nathan says to me:

“Going to library now.”

“Oh, I didn’t mean to make you leave,” I say, though I’m, like, really relieved.

When they get off the bed, I see Jhin looking up at him like he’s some sort of god.

“Wow,” I think, “this girl’s in love.”

“See you later,” says Nathan.  “Jhin has to do research on human connection to other spices.”

“Like cinnamon or pepper?” I ask.

“No,” says Jhin.  “Humans compared to monkeys or dolphins.”

“That’s ‘species,’” I say, trying not to laugh.  Man, Nathan cracks me up sometimes.


The apartment below the girls’ had been empty since the semester began.  Tina and LuAnn never gave it a second thought.  They completed their school work, participated in the social rituals of college life, watched their shows and, in general, enjoyed each other’s company.   Both girls were attractive, but in different ways.  Tina was tall and thin and had a luminous smile.  LuAnn was curvier, with curly hair and a mischievous twinkle in her expression.   Each girl garnered plenty of male attention, and occasionally conferred “benefits” on mere friends, but neither had a steady boyfriend.

The lack of a constant male presence was probably what secured Tina and LuAnn as long-term roommates.  This was their third year together.  There was no issue of rivalry or loneliness as often arises among girlfriends when one pairs off.  There was no issue of having a third person waking up regularly in the apartment.  When someone did stay over, as soon as he left, Tina and LuAnn usually broke into giggles.

“College boys are such babies,” said one.

“We run circles around them,” said the other.

“I can’t wait until we’re in the working world and find some real men.”

“That’s for sure!   Guys who make real money and drive nice cars.”

This situation prevailed until the day his presence was announced downstairs by the un-muffled sound of his pick-up truck.  The girls raced to the window to see what was causing the commotion.  Wafting cigarette smoke before him, a roughly handsome, highly tattooed, sandy-haired behemoth emerged from the cab holding a key to the downstairs apartment.   He tossed an empty beer can into the back of the truck as a sort of exclamation point to his arrival.  It clattered to a stop among several others.  His gas station attendant/landscaper charm fascinated the college girls like cat-nip piques the interest of a tabby, though they would not admit it.

“Ewwww,” said Tina.  “He’s disgusting.”

“What a loooooser,” said LuAnn.

Within a week or so, Tina needed some help with her bicycle pump.  She wandered downstairs.
“His name’s Jack,” she reported upon her return, moments later.  “He seems nice enough, but pretty dumb.”

“Really?” said LuAnn, feigning disinterest.  “I thought he’d be ‘Spike’ or ‘Rocky’ or something.”

“Well,” said Tina. “He looks strong enough to lift a car, so his name is about right.”

The girls snickered at her joke.  A few days later, when Tina was not home, LuAnn found herself in need of a ride to class.  Jack helped out.  Over the weekend, Tina purchased a new bikini and, while modeling it for LuAnn, found that she needed to walk down to her car to get something from the back seat.   Later that same day, LuAnn decided that someone besides Tina should try out her brownies before she brought them to a party.

“Did you see what Jack’s wearing today?” LuAnn asked, upon her return, appalled.

“Sure did,” said Tina.  “That tee shirt is four sizes too small.  It must be from when he was in seventh grade.”  She shook her head in disapproval, and added:  “That’s probably the last grade he completed.”

The girls laughed aloud together, eying each other carefully.

The following week, Tina barged into the apartment, outraged.  “His damned truck is taking up half of my space again!”

LuAnn glanced out the window.  “There’s still plenty of room,” she said.

Ignoring her, Tina declared:  “I’m going to go down and tell him off.”

LuAnn jumped to attention:  “Don’t do that.  He’ll get angry.”

Tina continued towards the door.  Radiating concern, LuAnn changed tracks:  “I’ll come with you.”

“That’s okay,” said, Tina, flying out the door and down the steps.  She called out over her shoulder:  “I’ll handle it myself.”

Tina was not back after fifteen minutes.  After twenty minutes, LuAnn sent a text.  There was no response.  LuAnn paced back and forth.  She strained to hear any sounds from below, but could not.  After thirty minutes, LuAnn called.  Still no answer.   LuAnn was deeply concerned.  She did not know what exactly she feared, but she convinced herself that it was necessary to rescue her roommate, her friend.   She virtually ran out the door and down the steps.  Emerging from the apartment at that moment, flushed with exertion, was Tina.  Her hair was mussed, her clothing askew.  She was smiling broadly.

“Are you okay?” asked LuAnn.  “You didn’t answer your phone.”

“Oh,” said Tina, blushing.  “My phone must be on vibrate.  I didn’t hear a thing.  Anyway,” she continued, “Jack and I are going to the beach.”

Behind her, Jack emerged, a cigarette dangling from his lips.  He smiled shyly.

“You and Jack?” sputtered LuAnn.

“Yes,” said Tina, nonchalant.  “Do you want to come?”

LuAnn sat stonily in the back seat of the truck while Jack and Tina snuggled up front.  A flood of emotions coursed through her mind ranging from shock and humiliation to remorse and recrimination, and back again.  To think, just the night before, she and Tina were speculating about their weddings and how they would be each other’s maid of honor.   Now, she was deciding if she would tell Tina she was defriending her on Facebook or just let her find out herself.



My situation shows why a kid can’t count on a college to pick his roommate for him.  I should’ve answered that survey they sent, like my mother said.  I can’t admit that to her, though.  She’ll never let me forget it.

So I get to school the first day and I’m all psyched and ready to go.  I’m gonna have a lot of fun and all that.  Who do I find in my room, already reading a friggin’ chemistry book?  None other than Nathan, a Chinese guy.  I thought he was someone’s dad or something, what with his glasses and comb over.  He looks like he’s forty-five!  But no, he’s a “visiting student,” or some such thing.  If he does good enough in English this year, he’ll get to stay for all four years and graduate.  Hell, he’ll probably finish before I do.

Nathan’s not even his real name.  It’s something no one can pronounce.  His advisor decided “Nathan” would be easier to use in college.  I think they could have come up with something better than “Nathan.”

That first hour or two, he just keeps smiling at me and offering to carry stuff.  I say “no thanks” about ten times, but he keeps insisting.  So I let him carry a few boxes though he’s not really up to it, if you know what I mean.  I still have to take all the heavy ones.

Some guys from down the hall pop in.  They have their weed and pipes out and are rarin’ to go.  Jeez, the last parent only left the floor about ten minutes before!  Anyway, I left my stash at home, safe and sound in the crawlspace where my mother will never find it.  Who knows what she did back in college, but I didn’t want to take any chances packing it.

So I say to these guys:  “I’ll join you tomorrow, but I gotta get downtown and load up on some stuff,” and they’re like:  “Okay, dude, come on over when you’re cool.”  Then they ask Nathan if he’s up for a little toke.  Heh!  The friggin’ guy doesn’t even know what they’re talkin’ about.  They look at me and just start cracking up.  I don’t like getting laughed at, y’know, but anyway, they kind of seem like jerks.  Nathan just looks confused.  I sorta feel bad for him, but also for me.

Nathan’s real quiet the rest of the afternoon.  He gets back to his book while I unpack.  He sorta follows me over to the cafeteria for dinner and sits at my table.  It’s a little like having a pet, I guess.  He just smiles at me and waits, and hardly ever says anything.  I’m thinkin’, “How’s he gonna get any good at English if he never talks?”  So I ask him some questions, like:  “What teams does he root for?” and “Who’s his favorite band?”

He nails the first one – the Houston Rockets – ‘cause they had Yao Ming.  But he doesn’t even know what I mean by “band.”  I have to play friggin’ charades in front of a bunch of kids at the cafeteria making like I’m hittin’ a drum and strummin’ a guitar.  They probably think I’m nuts.  Anyway, there must not be much music over there ‘cause Nathan can’t name a group.  After a long pause, he says:  “Bwitney Spear’?”

I can’t keep myself from laughing, but I think he’s serious.

So we get back to the dorm, and I’m looking around for something to do.  Everyone’s like hanging out in the lounge and getting to meet each other and Nathan just seems to want to say “hi” to that chemistry book again.

“Nathan,” I say.  “What’s so good about that book?”

“I really want to know organic chemistry,” he says.

I guess he’s into growing vegetables or something.  I tell him I’m going out and ask if he wants to come, but he just blinks at me from behind those glasses.  Then he says, believe it or not, that he’s tired and will go to sleep soon.

“Nathan,” I say.  “It’s your first night at college.  You can’t go to sleep at ten o’clock.”

“Yes, very sleepy,” he says.  “Long flight.”

I’m like, “Okay, dude.”  So I leave.  But I don’t feel good about it and the whole time I’m at the lounge, and the R.A.’s introducing everybody and the girls and guys are checking everybody out, I’m like thinking about Nathan alone in the room.  It’s like I’m becoming a damned parent or something.

After an hour, I decide there’s really no one great to hook-up with so I go back to the room.  And Nathan’s in pajamas.  I haven’t seen a guy wearing pajamas like that since I was ten.  Anyway, he’s putting away his clothes into his dresser, and he’s writing something with a marker on his socks.  So I ask him about it:     “Nathan.  What’s with the socks?”

“Oh,” he says.  “Each day, I use different pair so they will always be even.”

“Hunh?” I say.

“Yes,” says Nathan.  “Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Wednesday, and so on.”

“It’s Wednesday Thursday.”


“Wednesday is before Thursday, not Thursday before Wednesday.”

“Oh, yes, thank you very much,” says Nathan.  “You help my English so much.”

That was the happiest I’d seen him, organizing his friggin’ socks so he knows which pair to wear each day.  How did this happen to me?


So I’m in my bed and it’s dark and Nathan’s asleep in his bed on the other side of the room.  And I’m thinkin’ about how this is my first day of college and, so far, it’s been no fun.  And what am I going to do about this roommate situation?  Can I change rooms or something?  And, all quiet like, Nathan whispers across to me:

“Are you awake?’

So I say “Yes.”

He says:  “Thank you for being so nice to me.”

And then I feel bad again ‘cause I was just lying there thinking about how I want to get out of there.

“Ah, no problem,” I whisper back.  And I’m thinking to myself:  “Yeah, no problem for you, man.  But I got a big problem.”  Finally, I must have fallen asleep ‘cause next thing I know I’m waking up.  And where’s Nathan?  He’s already sitting at his desk reading.  It looks like he’s been at it for hours.  He tells me he is sorry if he woke me up.