5.02.2007

Roommates I Have Known, Part 4

Once Olivia transferred, we managed to convince the Housing Office that Samantha could move from her room across campus to join us. They fell for it, and Samantha was in.

Samantha fit right into the room. A petite girl with blonde hair and blue eyes, she was originally from England, and came to America when she was 10. I remember one time she showed me her green card, which was actually a nice shade of pink. Who knew?

She and I got along very well. She was a quiet girl around new people, but once I got to know her, she had a really dark sense of humor that I loved. We stayed up late a lot our freshman year, getting to know each other and talking about all the things from our hometown. Since we both went to high school in the same town, she and I were convinced we knew each other before college and just forgot that we ever met. Maybe we did, maybe we never did. But today, knowing her as well as I do, I think it was because we were destined to become best friends.

She and Cari had both decided to rush a sorority our sophomore year, and I remember the sisters coming to Megan and I ahead of time to let us know they'd be breaking into our room in the early morning hours to get them. This struck me as really funny, because during our freshman year, the girl next door to Samantha rushed Chi Omega. The sisters made a HUGE racket, banging on her door and screeching loudly at about 6 a.m. I remember stirring in my sleep, thinking "What was that?" I didn't know that Samantha flung open her door and glared at all of them. One of the girls smiled and said, "Sorry!" in that sing-song girly voice that isn't really sorry at all.


Samantha slammed her door as hard as she could.

I tell you, if the girls hadn't woken up everyone up with the screeching, that door slamming did the trick. I was on the other side of Sam's room and holy cow, it rattled our windows. The Chi Omegas treaded quietly out of our hall and never made another peep.


Samantha was legendary that day. All of us on the hall were awed by her. So when the sorority came to get Samantha and Cari for their own initiation (NOT the Chi Omegas, thankfully), instead of the hoopla we witnessed the previous year, the sisters tiptoed in with flashlights and snuck both of them out quietly. What a contrast.

Our own Tuesday night parties in the Chalet continued. But with two sorority girls as roommates, I tagged along with them to the off-campus parties on the weekend. Most of our school's social life came from the Greek system. One fraternity in danger of losing its charter from dwindling membership attracted the attention of some of our guy friends, who saw it as an opportunity to rebuild the group as their own. So we joined their parties on the weekends, too.

The campus started a shuttle bus system that we used to travel to the nearby apartments off-campus. There was a theme song for these rides that a few people reading this blog will be able to sing along with immediately: "Ride the shuttle bus, get your money's worth ..." And now that I've reminded you of it, I DARE you to get this song out your head by tomorrow. :)

Both Samantha and I were dating "older" men, and late that spring term everything got really messy. Samantha was always there to listen and always knew the right thing to say. She was incredibly supportive. I can only hope I was the friend she needed then, too.

Both Cari and Samantha, who were taking German, decided to spend fall term of their junior year studying in Vienna, Austria. That would leave me without a roommate for one term. Cari's planned roommate for her junior year, a sorority sister named Jen, needed a roommate for that term, too. So she & I paired up in an off-campus apartment that fall, waiting for our roommates to come back to the USA.

It was a terrible horrible no good very bad time. Jen was up to that point just a nodding acquaintance of some people I ate lunch with regularly. She seemed normal enough for the first few weeks, but it turns out she was a touch crazy in the head, and it all started coming loose that year. She had a boyfriend that I think enjoyed pushing all of her buttons at once and stepping back to see what happened. I sort of kept my head down and tried to ignore it.

But there was also some serious drama with the fraternity and boyfriends and good friends that all happened for no good reason whatsoever. And the whole time, my best friend was halfway around the world, speaking German every day. She and I wrote each other constantly, and sometimes saved up our money to call each other. I remember pouring out my heart in a very long letter about all the terrible things that were happening, and she called me very early one morning to talk about it. I had kind of gotten better by the time she called, but hearing her voice on the phone brought it all back right away and I think I spent most of our precious few minutes on the phone crying. I still have her letters, filled with lots of No Ways! and How Could Theys?! - as many as she could fit into the left side of a postcard. I tell you folks, that is a true friend.

Samantha came back to school in January, and we managed to secure the apartment next door. I remember the rent was something ridiculous like $400 a month for a two-bedroom. The place was originally built as government housing for returning Vietnam veterans. It was a dump, but it was OUR dump. We made the best of it with some of our parents' cast-off furniture and kitchen stuff.

Speaking of kitchen stuff, this is where the baked beans on toast figures in prominently. I'm sure she can chime in with all of my weird stuff, too. But this blog entry is about HER. :)

Sometimes we had our own parties in that apartment. But the best one, I remember her mom sent me some money to buy her a cake for her 21st birthday. Samantha was a little younger than the rest of us because of the age differences for grade school in England. So all of us had been 21 for quite a while, and we decided to celebrate her birthday in style. For college students, "style" is code for "get a keg." I had been to plenty of parties with kegs, but never had one in my own place before, and never had one since then. We bought ballons, made snacks, invited all the neighbors and cranked up the music. It was a great party and I know Samantha had a lot of fun, too. I can't wait to show her kids the pictures one day.

Six months after we graduated, I heard our apartment building burned down over Thanksgiving Break. I lived nearby and came back to town often, so I drove over to see the damage. Sure enough, there was a shell of a building left, surrounded by orange consruction fencing. It was shocking to see it. I just stood there, staring at it for several minutes, not saying anything.

The fire started two apartments away from ours. There were lots of rumors flying around, but that particular apartment was the home of two younger girls we knew from the fraternity parties, one of whom smoked constantly. However it started, though, I can't imagine coming back from the holiday and seeing everything GONE. This was a place where I had stored the precious few things I'd managed to collect and call my own. My computer, my entire music collection, my clothes, and those super bath towels my sister had given me. I couldn't imagine starting over with nothing.

I got some renters insurance for my own place, pronto.

Since graduation, we've both lived in plenty of different cities. We've called and written and emailed to stay in touch. I was in her wedding, and many years later, she was in mine. I've spent weekends at her house, enjoying her children and chatting with her husband. We've even had some very rare girl time to ourselves. She has morphed into a wonderful chef, a mother of two darling kids, and a very responsible homeowner. After a long career in the legal field, she stayed home to take care of her kids, and now teaches science to junior high students.

This is the dark sense of humor girl I spent so many nights in college hanging out with, laughing over something ridiculous at 2 a.m. at Dunkin' Donuts, or singing Nine Inch Nails in the car at the top of our lungs with the windows rolled down. I tell you, life takes some strange turns. I'm just so glad she's still here to laugh about it all with me. And also to help me remember it. :)

3 comments:

shaas said...

I think that my first apartment complex (forty north) is now known as "murder north" or "the murder capital of Stillwater" - probably would have been better if it had burned down actually.

These have been fun to read.

Jennie said...

Thank you! It's been fun to write them.

And it's a wonder our parents let us live in these slums, eh?

Samantha said...

These definitely have been fun and have brought back so many memories :-)