When I moved to campus I was really excited because I was getting the heck out of my house. I very much wanted a break from the weekly hassle of doing things for the rest of my family and I wanted to have a very selfish segment of my life in which all I had to worry about was work, school, sleep, Pop Tarts, and coffee. Oh, and of course, getting to know a bunch of new and diverse people. I’ve only ever grown up in Mexican neighborhoods, so moving to campus meant I would be spending so much more time with the international students, a few locals, and others from different states.
I moved into a 2-bedroom apartment in student housing where I shared a room with a girl named Dee. In the next room was Nicole who was blessed with not having to share the room with anyone, and whenever she was assigned a roommate, they didn’t stick around for very long anyway.
I started to notice there was something a little off about Dee. When we finally got around to making small talk, she was extremely shy and spoke in a child-like voice. She would keep her head down and sometimes she’d look up and I’d catch her eyes peering through the messy strands of her hair. When I learned she was twenty-two, it made even less sense to put the whole package together. Dee was a portly girl and she only wore very modest dresses. She did very little beyond attend class, eat Hungry Man meals, and sleep.
Nicole was the total opposite. She was a cheerleader in high school and still carried that fresh and peppy attitude. She was also very sassy and I have to admit, she was my first impression of a beautiful black woman right there in front of me and not just on television. The way she styled her hair, took care of her skin, and her overall style fascinated me. In her curvy frame, she wore very short shorts, tank tops, and flip flopped her way in and out of the apartment and I thought, “Now there’s a true California free spirit.”
As the weeks went by, I noticed a huge change in Dee. She no longer spoke aloud and one night, she sat at the edge of the bed and didn’t move from there. Even when I woke up to get ready for work the next morning, she still sat there. I was in a hurry so I had to get out of the house as quickly as I could. By afternoon, I got a call from Nicole while I was still at work and she told me Dee hadn’t moved at all.
That evening, Nicole freaked out because there was water all over the floor and she guessed that Dee flushed something that caused the toilet to overflow. But Dee wouldn’t tell us what happened. I mopped up all the water and cleaned the apartment while Nicole called campus police to come and see what was wrong with Dee.
This made me a little nervous because I’ve never really needed to call the police for anything. I mean, I may or may not have anything that may or may not get me into trouble if say, they were to perform a search on my person, but I know my rights. In any case, they went into the room and spoke with Dee for a while. The female officer came over to me to ask me some questions and I shared that it seemed that Dee remained in that position on the bed for over a day and would not speak. Her partner came out and let me know that Dee was supposed to be taking medication, but I knew not for which condition. He asked me to get her some dinner and check to make sure she took her pills.
I was a bit scared and upset. I never knew my roommate needed pills but it suddenly clicked into place that whatever was wrong, her child-like voice should have been an indication. I pulled out a Hungry Man box from the freezer and heated up some Salisbury steak or whatever sad meat patty it is that comes with a side of peas and mashed potatoes. I poured her a glass of cold chocolate milk as well, arranged the hot food on a plate and brought everything over to her desk in the room.
“Here Dee, eat some dinner.”
“Okay!” she obliged in that innocent voice. She ate very quietly.
I waited a few minutes before checking on that pill. I grabbed the bottle and took one out, put it in her palm and said, “Okay Dee, take the pill and then show me that you swallowed it.”
Just having to say that to a grown woman and hearing those words out loud startled me.
She lifted her tongue and let me check that she had indeed swallowed her pill.
No more than two days after that night, her father came by to help her pack and she left the apartment and stopped attending school. Her father mistakenly packed my plates instead of hers. She let us keep her microwave.