A hint of oregano. A pinch of basil. A dash of rosemary. As the water boils and the bubbles rise to the surface, I find myself lost in staring at them rising and popping. A bead of sweat forms on my forehead and trickles down to my cheek, waking me back into reality.
My college roommate Molly had an infectious laugh and bubbly personality that everyone gravitated toward. We were clearly opposites as I was more of the quiet introverted type. During our freshman year, Molly quickly became very involved in campus activities, cheerleading for our University’s football team and rushing a popular Sorority. Meanwhile, I spent my free time in our dorm room, enjoying my alone time as she was often MIA for entire weekends.
Even though we were opposites, I enjoyed our polarity. Since we were so different, we had no reason to interfere in each other’s lives. At the same time, we maintained a level of mutual respect for one another, and we shared some deep conversations on week nights when she would actually sleep in our dorm. I had the feeling that, despite her immense popularity, I was the only one who really knew Molly. She told me about how her parents were never around growing up, and she seemed like she still had the heart of a young girl who so desperately needed attention.
As I watched Molly continue to gain popularity, constantly party and be chased around by the boys on campus, I never even wondered if she’d leave me to move into her Sorority house. It seemed like, with me, she had a safe space to land. She seemed to have an innate understanding that I knew and accepted her, and our lives were so opposite that they never intertwined outside of our room.
During our senior year, we were amazed to be assigned to the same Science course to help meet our Gen Ed requirements. It was an 8am class, which Molly grimaced about, but I didn’t really mind. I was typically up early any way, reading and enjoying a bowl of oatmeal I microwaved in our room. On the first day of class, I found myself feeling a bit anxious “I wonder what interacting with Molly outside of our dorm room will be like?” my mind pondered. I was fully aware that she maintained two separate personas for the past three years, and this would be the first time she would be forced to merge them together.
True to form, Molly spent the night prior out. As usual, I had no clue where she was, and I can’t say I really cared. She was an adult, so was I, and I never felt the need to babysit. I arrived to class promptly at 7:45am to secure my preferred seat: third row, closest to the door. This was a system I worked out since freshman year. Due to my vision, I couldn’t sit too far back in a large lecture hall without squinting the entire hour. And while I actually enjoyed learning, I sure as hell didn’t want to sit in the first row and give off the impression that I wanted to actually participate.
Every five minutes, I glimpsed at my phone and got a bit more nervous about Molly. “I hope she remembers.” I really did care about her and her academic success. Of course, I couldn’t appear like I was obsessively watching the time, so as other students entered the classroom I’d jot down fake notes onto my notepad to appear intelligent while also avoiding eye contact to successfully give off my preferred “Please don’t sit next to me” vibe.
“Anyone sitting here?” I was jolted from my notepad by a friendly male voice. Glancing upward, I saw him. Chad was a six foot tall hunk of man with steel blue eyes. He had just enough facial hair on his chin to look manly without looking un-kept, and he wore a teal blue t-shirt which really complimented his eyes. I found myself unable to speak, or think really, so I just shook my head no. My heart raced and my palms grew sweaty.
8am. Our Professor kicked off the class with a rowdy “Good morning!” Chad whispered to me “It’s a bit too early for this peppy-ness!” I laughed, relaxing a bit. He’s funny too. I glanced over the door, still no Molly. Where was she? About 10 minutes later, I noticed Molly trying to sneak into the classroom, wearing sunglasses and a hat, seemingly recovering from a hangover. For a moment, my eyes caught her glasses, and I smiled. She froze for a moment as she looked at me, her face remaining stern as she grabbed the only seat left in the front row.
“This semester,” our Professor proceeded, “We will be working in teams of two. The work you and your partner accomplish together will make or break your grade.” I gulped. I highly preferred my independence. “While I could assign you,” he continued, “your adults. Pick your partner at the end of today’s class.” I gulped again. As the bell rang, I was surprised to see Chad turn to me. “Wanna be partners?” he asked. How could I say no to those eyes? I nodded yes.
“Aww, look at my besties becoming besties!” Molly shook me from his gaze as she placed her hand on his shoulder. Besties. I hated that word. Chad laughed “Yea, you know I had to pick the smartest partner in class!” I blushed. I was surprised to see Molly’s usually friendly face remain stern, as I heard her inauthentic voice pop out “Aww…my roomie is SO smart!”
I noticed that Molly didn’t come home that night. Weird. Typically, Mondays – Wednesdays were her nights to spend in our room. I found myself missing her presence and our conversations. The next night, I was relieved to see her come in the room, though her energy was much heavier than usual. “So…you and Chad, he’s cute, right?” I found myself wondering what was behind that question. “Uhm, yea, I guess” I hesitated. “I mean, if you like him you should just go for it…he’s a totally nice guy.” Why was she trying to push him on me? “O, uhm, I’m not really looking for anything.” Silence. Molly was never silent.
As the semester went on, I noticed Molly coming home less and less, and I found myself feeling really perplexed about attending class. While I enjoyed learning, and sitting next to Chad, I often worried about her and felt this general instinct that something was off. While she wasn’t being mean to me, she wasn’t being herself either. I was receiving the cold shoulder version of the inauthentic Molly on the rare times I saw her, and I desperately missed my old roommate.
“Today we’re going out in the field.” Our Professor explained toward the end of the semester. “Get the data that you need for your project.” With that, it was official. I was going out with Chad outside of class. We left the room before Molly even arrived. “I know where we’re going!” Chad exclaimed. Without giving me time to think about it, he was off and I was hurrying to catch up with him. “Hop in” he said as we approached his Jeep Cherokee. We drove off seemingly into the wilderness, where he parked on the edge of a forest trail. “Come on!” he said, jumping out of the car. I hurried to keep up.
He took me to the edge of the trail, where there was a beautiful stream that was at the bottom of a waterfall. “This is my favorite spot” he said. I found myself impressed. I knew he was a partier, like Molly, but there was clearly more. “I knew we’d find the best rocks for our project here.” Impressed again. He actually cares. I turned my head to the stream and a gorgeous small brown rock called to me “Omg!” I squealed, running toward it. In that moment, I was my giddy inner child, collecting rocks. I held it in my hand, admiring how shiny it was. Seeing Chad approach me brought me back to reality. “O” I blushed, “Sorry. I’m a bit of a rock geek. I just like this one.” He laughed. “I like it too” I found myself shivering a bit as he walked closer, “And I like you, too.” Without hesitation, our lips met.
I went back to my dorm room on cloud nine, but feeling a ping of emptiness in my gut as Molly wasn’t there. It was a Friday, so I should have known she wouldn’t be there, but I really missed my friend. I decided to ground back into reading and my school work, and was surprised to receive a text from Chad a few hours later “Come to our party tonight.” Like Molly, Chad had rushed into Greek Life his freshman year and had established himself with his Fraternity brothers. “Thank you for the invite, but parties aren’t really my thing” I responded honestly. “Aw, come on,” he texted back “I’ll be there, and I want to see you again.” How could I say no?
My whole body seemed to shake as I approached the Frat house. The party started at 8pm, so of course I arrived promptly at 7:45pm. I couldn’t appear that desperate, so I walked around in circles outside of the parameter. By 8pm, I was busting at the seams. “I’m here” I texted. I was pleasantly surprised when Chad came rushing out of the Frat house, lifting me into a bear hug. My heart melted. “Maybe this won’t be so bad” I thought.
I found myself surprisingly having a good time. I was enjoying people watching, and I kept a drink in my hand so I could appear cool while also keeping my guard up. I decided to embody the extrovert characteristics I learned from both Molly and Chad, and play that character for the evening. “What are YOU doing here?” I felt a familiar hand on my shoulder as I turned to see Molly, shocked and inebriated. “Uhh…”Chad interrupted me “I invited her” he said as he put his arm around me. “Awww” she responded. That fake voice again. “Aren’t you two adorable?” With that, she stormed off.
At this point, I was really confused. What had I done wrong? My mind raced and I felt unable to reground or enjoy my evening. I told Chad I wasn’t feeling well and departed. The next morning, I was pleasantly surprised to see Molly asleep in her bed when I woke up. “Maybe we are okay.” I thought. Her phone rang, she must have forgotten to set it on Do Not Disturb. I went to silence it for her. It was Chad. Why was Chad calling her? I hit dismiss to see he had also sent her several texts.
Glancing over to make sure she was still passed out, I swiped up to read them.
“Mols, Kat can’t know what happened last night.”
“I know we’ve been hooking up all semester, but I’m starting to feel bad.”
“She’s a good person.”
“I know you wanted to keep it a secret but I think we should tell her.”
WHAT THE HELL?
I put the phone down and left the room. I didn’t know where to go, so I just hopped into my Toyota Camry and just drove. I wound up at the same trail head that Chad had taken me to. The place that we kissed. I took the stupid rock that I had saved in my pocket like a DORK and threw it back into the stream. I was heartbroken.
I graduated with a full scholarship to a Master’s program in Environmental Studies. I sure as well wasn’t going to let Chad ruin my lifetime love affair with rocks.
“Aww, Kat, this pasta is really good.” I had invited Molly over to see my graduate school apartment, where I lived alone with my full kitchen. “Thanks” I smiled. “What’s your secret?” she inquired. “Rat poison.” My face remained stern as I grabbed her hand, leading her into my bathroom where Chad laid dead on the floor.” As her throat slowly enclosed, I whispered, “Aww, you two are so adorable…dying next to your bestie.”