Every year that I was in college has resulted me living with a roommate or two. The first year I had two roommates who ended up being pretty cool. I was a nervous freshman who didn’t have a clue about life as an adult, and the roommates that had shared our little closet of a space on Cal Poly Pomona’s campus helped me navigate the very awkward transition from high school into all things college.
Then there was the second year. I had three other roommates who were nice, however, dishes kept piling up and were constantly being stacked like Jenga pieces in the sink. Just one wrong look at the filthy pile of dishes would send the tower of grime tumbling down. Ignoring that, and the time one of my roommates ate raw uncooked spaghetti nervously in the bathroom, they were all incredibly good people who were there for me when times grew difficult.
The third year was the first time the “fourth roommate” situation came about. There were three of us, who were already familiar with each, other living in an apartment. However, there was a fourth room that remained empty. The school’s randomly assigning roommate system had placed an unknown girl into our apartment that the three of us had to deal with.
Was she going to try and steal our stuff? Was she messy? We didn’t know. We were nervous about her moving in, but apparently, as we found out later, not as nervous as this new roommate was about moving into our apartment.
It took less than a week for all of us to sit down and become friends with this new girl. She was an amazing roommate who turned out to be a wonderful friend that I still catch up with hand out with to this today. And what the experience taught me was that you have to be open and understanding to any new person who is coming into a group, as what I now call, “the fourth roommate.” So when the same situation happened at the beginning of this year, I made sure that I was on my best behavior.
The fourth roommate this year had moved in months after our second-year lease had begun. My sister and our friend had cleaned the house, created more space for her to put her things in all of the common areas, and we attempted to contact her ahead of time about the giant ball of furious cat that had taken over our apartment. She never answered, but we were hopefully that she was still nice.
I had a feeling then that she might not be the person that we were hoping her to be, and it, eventually, became the case. She had moved her things in to our apartment and left for a week. She, unannounced to me, had my number but never gave me hers. She never once spoke to me unless it was her usually two lines when I did happen to see her, “Hi,” she would pause for an answer back from the respondent. “How are you,” and immediately leave whatever room the respondent was in.
Her words and her gestures felt robotic, and, dare I say it, fake. I felt as though that was all there ever was or ever will be, and so I ignored all the other little problems that had risen as she continued her stay with us, until recently when a huge fight grew in the living room.
The other day I heard screams about how the dog and cat were never going to get along from my room in the apartment. Every single problem that anyone has ever had with anyone had come up during the screaming match that day in our apartment. And then, after minutes of talk about how the fourth roommate never felt welcome in our apartment, I heard my name getting dragged into the discussion.
Needless to say, everyone eventually calmed down from our talk in the living room, and we have gone back to the polite and robotic banter that had permeated throughout this past year in our residence. Looking back on the situation, if I could do it all again, I would have tried to break through the politely robotic banter that the fourth roommate had spat out without conscious thought of what she was doing, and tried to ease the divide that the “fourth roommate” syndrome created. I know now that I can’t blame her for being standoffish in the beginning, because it’s up to the larger party of the group, the “three other roommates,” to welcome the “fourth roommate” with open arms.