Saturday, September 19, 2009

Flying Rodents and Nudity

When I was junior in college, I did a 6-month study abroad program and got back in June, at the end of the school year. What this meant was that while all my friends were sorting out their housing arrangements for the coming (and presumably final) school year, I was off trying not to get malaria and getting a lovely staph infection instead. So largely via email--which, in 1993, was not the fun and user-friendly experience it is now--I tried to set up living arrangements long distance.

Thus it was that I arrived, the following August, at the house I had agreed to share with four other girls. One of them, I knew; she had shared an apartment with another friend of mine, so I'd seen her pretty often. One, I had never met and knew only as the quiet and kind of scary friend of the other girls. One, I had known for a while and she was a pretty good friend of mine. (Of course, just to show that I'm not always great at picking friends, what I didn't know was that over the next few months, she would have many screaming tantrums, repeatly get engaged to a friend of ours and then break it off, and finally she would move out, leaving all her things and a big hole in the rent check for several months until we got a new roommate.) And the last girl was someone I'd gone to high school with but hadn't really known until college. Between shared friends and a shared hometown, Stacy and I had grown pretty close, and she was mostly the one that I was looking forward to living with.

The house had been split at one point, and there were still two doors--one upstairs, one downstairs--that could be dead bolted shut to split the house into two apartments. There were two bathrooms, five bedrooms, and two kitchens. It was an odd setup but it worked well for us. What didn't work well, from the moment I arrived in the house, was the bedroom that had been assigned to me while I was away. Of the five bedrooms in the house, I got the one with no windows, the one literally under the stairs, the one that was only a bedroom in the sense that a bed would fit into it if you tried. I was pretty unhappy that this decision to give me the crappy bedroom had been made without consulting me, but when I got to the house and saw it, I was just exhausted. I had been driving all day, all my things were still in the truck parked outside, it was late, and I just wanted to go to bed. Fortunately there was a bed already in the room, so I borrowed a blanket, took out my contacts, stripped down to my t-shirt and underwear, and crawled into bed.

A couple of minutes later, I heard a strange sound in the room. It was a sort of a flapping, whooshing sound. I didn't have my contacts in and my glasses were in the truck with the rest of my worldly belongings, so it took a moment for me to identify the weird little flying shadow. But when I did, I leapt into action. Well, figuratively leapt. Actually, I wrapped the blanket around me, including my head, and I dropped to the floor. I scurried out of the bedroom and up the stairs, whimpering all the while. Finally I made it to Stacy's room, and I knocked on the door as politely as I could. When she answered, I threw open the door and cried, "Stacy, I can't see, there's a bat in my room, and I'm not wearing any pants!"

And bless her heart, she just scooted over on the bed and said, "Hop in."

That year probably did more than any other to change my life and turn me into the person I am now. It was full of independence, romance and foiled romance, academic achievement and frustration, and the realization that soon enough, we were going to be expected to do something with our lives. And through it all, I had these amazing people who, no matter what, were always willing to move over and make room for me, whether or not I had pants on.

Stacy and I have seen less of each other in recent years, though we try. It's hard, as your lives change, to keep in touch as much as you'd like. But there's something about the changing seasons, school starting, watching my own kids grow up and make friends, that makes me miss her terribly. I want to stay up late playing (and drinking) gin, talking about everything and nothing. I want to hear all about her job, her house, her love life. I want to show her my kids, my projects. I think I'll email her, see if she's free sometime soon just to get together and remember why we were friends in the first place. And to remind her that, no matter how much time goes by, there's always room for a good friend.