Learning How To Be Roommates

I was never very neat. Later in life I learned to attribute
this flaw to my creative genius, saying that my bouts of
disorganization were simply the flip side of my unique gifts
and talents. Yet, when I arrived at college, I hadn't come
up with any impressive reasons for my big messes. They
just were, and my roommate didn't seem to appreciate
their contribution to my bright future.

I'm not sure why they stuck us together. I don't think
they could have possibly picked two more different people
to room together. Kim was extremely organized. She
labeled everything and each item she owned had its place.
She even had one of those cute little pencil holders - and
used it! Mine had become a collection spot for bits and
pieces of paper, odds and ends. I think one pen may have
found it's way into the pencil holder but I certainly didn't
put it there.

Kim and I fed off each other. She got neater and I got
messier. She would complain about my dirty clothes, I
would complain about Lysol headaches. She would nudge
my clothing over to one side and I would lay one of my
books on her uncluttered desk.

It came to a head one fateful October evening. Kim came
into the room and had some kind of fit because one of
my shoes had found it's way (inexplicably) beneath her
bed. I don't know what was so significant about that shoe
but it infuriated her! She picked it up, tossed it toward my
side of the room and managed to knock my lamp onto
the floor. The light bulb shattered, covering the layer of
clothes I had been planning to fold that very night. I leapt
off the bed in horror and immediately started yelling about
her insensitivity and rudeness. She yelled back similar
frustrations and we each ended up pushing towards the
door to be the first to slam our way out of the room.

I'm sure we wouldn't have lasted a day or two longer in
that room. Probably not even a night, if it hadn't been for
the phone call she received. I was sitting on my bed,
fuming. She was sitting on hers, fuming. It was later in the
evening and the room was so thick with unspoken
expletives that I don't even know why we had both
returned to each other's company.

When the phone rang she picked it up and I could tell
right away it wasn't good news. I knew Kim had a
boyfriend back home and I could tell from her end of the
conversation that he was breaking up with her. Though I
didn't mean for it to happen, I could feel the warm feelings
of empathy rising up I my heart. Losing a boyfriend was
something no girl should go through alone.

I sat up in my bed. Kim wouldn't look at me and when
she hung up the phone she quickly crawled under her
covers and I could hear her quiet sobbing. What to do? I
didn't want to just walk over (I was still a little miffed)
but I didn't want to leave her either. I smiled as I got the idea.

Slowly, I began to clear up my side of the room. I took
back the book I had set on her desk and I cleaned up the
socks and the shirts. I put some pencils in my pencil
holder and made my bed. I straightened the dresser top
(but not the drawers - I had my limits!) and swept up the
floor, even on her side. I got so into my work that I didn't
even notice that Kim had come out from under the
covers. She was watching my every move, her tears
dried and her expression one of disbelief. When I was
finally done I went and sat at the end of her bed. Not
really saying anything but just sitting. I guess I didn't
know what to say. Her hand was warm. I thought it would
be cold, probably because I always thought the organized
were pretty heartless. But no. Her hand was warm as it
reached over to grasp mine. I looked up into Kim's eyes
and she smiled at me. "Thanks."

Kim and I stayed roommates for the rest of that year.
We didn't always see eye to eye, but we learned the key
to living together. Giving in, cleaning up and holding on.

Elsa Lynch
from Chicken Soup for the College Soul
by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen,
Kimberly Kirberger and Dan Clark.
Copyright 1999 Canfield and Hansen.