On Things That Can’t Possibly Only Happen To Me Marianna Tabares

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.

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.

Featured Image by Maizzy on DeviantArt

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  1. Oddly, I had a pretty similar college roommate experience. I talked to my roommate over the phone a few times before moving into the dorm, and she seemed pretty normal. However, upon arrival, I realized she was nothing but. I’m a bigger girl and nothing wrong with some weight, but she was very very overweight and didn’t take care of herself at all. When her parents went to leave, she went chasing and screaming after them down the hallway, sobbing for them not to leave her. I should have known right there that wasn’t a good indication.

    She was not at all sociable and spent most of the time in the dorm room. A few times I invited her to hang out with some of the people I had met on campus, and she would come along but talked very little and never made an effort to make friends.

    Maybe a week into school, I came back to my dorm room, and my next door neighbor told me that the police had come by knocking on the door and couldn’t get my roommate to open the door. She said they kept asking how many pills she had taken. Apparently, they got in and took her out. I never saw her again, and within 24 hours, her parents had moved all of her stuff out.

    Then, because I didn’t pay for a single room, they forced me to get another roommate. A set of twins had decided to room together and then changed their minds and wanted to live apart. So, one of the twins moved in with me on the 2nd floor, while her roommate stayed on third floor. After a week of her not spending hardly any time in the room because she was constantly with her sister, she too decided to move out of the room and back in with her sister because they shared so much stuff and didn’t like being on separate floors.

    And if only they had let me live alone after that, but no. I was forced to get yet ANOTHER roommate, and this time I had to move. I was NONE too happy about it. Despite it all, we sort of became friends… but the kicker is, I’m married to her ex-boyfriend. I met my husband through her because at the time we moved in together, he was her boyfriend. I promise I was not a boyfriend stealer, and it didn’t happen until later… but that’s more college roommate story.

  2. I work with people that have psychiatric needs. Psychiatric issues are some of the hardest things to watch a person struggle with. I took a Mental Health First Aid class through work, and it is a really amazing training. Anyone can take them. They are geared toward educating communicating members on how to help someone having a psychiatric crisis or hiding/struggling with a psychiatric illness. They cover everything from depression to schizophrenia, from bulimia to self-harm, and alcoholism and addiction. It’s honestly something all college Freshman would benefit from taking as well! Here’s the national website, if anyone is interested. http://www.mentalhealthfirstaid.org/ I took the course through a non-profit in my area.

  3. one of my closest friends in college had some strange brain misfiring they could never figure out. She would fall asleep at random points during the day and then we would think she had woken up as though from a nap and was just very groggy but she would still be asleep. She would walk around, talk to us, eat, even sometimes go to class, and then inevitably she’d just wake up.
    “wait, why am I not in the hallway of Old Main?” she would say, looking at us, eyes suddenly wide with confusion.
    ‘we haven’t been in Old Main since class this morning.’
    “morning? what, wait is it not morning?”
    ‘no it’s almost 4, we’re getting ready for dinner. you’ve been with us all day. don’t you remember we got lunch and then–’
    “I’ve already eaten LUNCH?”
    It has since stopped, but I still have nightmares about the horrified look on her face as she’d go from being one moment a little groggy to wide eyed terror, head slowly looking around, and voice nervous and soft asking us “where am I, what time is it and how on earth did I get here”

  4. You are such a gifted writer Marianna.. I was imagining this all happening as I read; I even pictured Nicole sitting on top of the kitchen counter calling you up. This story gave me goosebumps. Love it!

  5. Man, I feel like I picked the worst title for this one. Now that I think about it, there’s so much coming out of it in regards to realizing when people have these special needs and situations. at the time it was just such an unusual thing that happened. It was definitely a learning experience in terms of knowing how to help people who’ve got something going on that I don’t know a whole lot about.

    Marianna | 7/11/2011 12:07 am
  6. In sixth grade I had a friend who used to act a bit strange when we hung out. One day I was over at her house and were playing in her room. She locked the door, then started giving me really intense indian burns and watching my face intently to see my reaction. I kept telling her to stop and she wouldn’t, and she would block the door when I tried to leave. I saw a fax machine so I used it to call my mom to come pick me up, and also call this girl’s mom to please let me out of the room. My friend was terrified and hid in her closet. I felt really bad for her, but used to moment to get out of the room. When I told her mom that mine was picking me up soon, she looked concerned and asked if something had happened. This clearly wasn’t the first incidence.

    We didn’t hang out again, but I felt bad. She really was a nice girl and we had fun, except for the few times she got all…w ell, crazy.

  7. College is always rough, and I think that some of it may have to do with the pressures to attend a 4 year strait away (this is just an opinion of course.)
    My best friend attends a very good school, and within the first quarter of her freshman year, her room mate attempted suicide by hanging… luckily she survived and went back home to deal with her issues in a much better environment.

  8. As a freshman in college, I had a roommate that didn’t clean anything and another that was bi-polar and quit taking her medication. It wasn’t an ideal situation for me, but I had some great friends to help me overcome those challenges.

  9. As someone who takes medications for anxiety/depression, and who knew a girl freshman year who had to take medications (I believe for epilepsy), I have to say you definitely did the right thing. I’ve been on both sides of similar situations, and it is really difficult to handle from either side. Wherever Dee is now, I hope she’s okay.

  10. This weekend I was in a situation that sounded so weird the night before that I was like, “Only I could get myself into a situation like this!” But then it ended up not being a weird situation.

    Your situation definitely sounds weird though! But at the same time I feel bad for Dee. I wonder what was wrong with her, and also what she flushed; I was thinking maybe it was her medicine, but then there was some left that you had to make her take so maybe not. Leighton Meester’s character in The Roommate didn’t take her medication and it made her go crazy and try to harm people, so at least your former roommate didn’t have that issue when she wasn’t taking her medication! Still, maybe I should ask any future roommates if they’re on medication and have them warn me if they plan to stop taking it!

  11. Thank you!

    Marianna | 7/10/2011 05:07 pm
  12. That’s an incredible story! It’s too bad that she had to leave school. At least you didn’t have to worry for her anymore.
    I had just met my room mate as freshmen last year, and we became quick friends. I soon learned so much about her though within only the first few weeks of school when she had a full blown panic attack one night. She was anxiously wandering around our room, unable to sit still or to calm her mind, so we took a walk outside together in our pajamas in order to get some air. I just couldn’t let her go by herself. At the time, we both knew she had anxiety problems and took medication for it, but neither of us could have predicted what was about to happen.
    It wasn’t long that she began to complain of shortness of breath as if her lungs were shrinking. So we sat down at the corner of the block in the grass when the panic attack took full force.
    I had never witnessed one before, so to be there with her while she grasped my hands, closed her eyes, and cried out anything that came to her mind that caused an ounce of stress, was definitely a defining moment in my experiences and for our relationship.
    The campus police patrolled up and idiotically asked,
    “What’s going on? Have anything to drink tonight?”
    Me: “She’s having a panic attack.”
    “Can’t you stop it?”
    “No, it’s a panic attack!” The point of it is that it isn’t always triggered by something and it has to get worse before it gets better.
    Three more police cars, two ambulances, and a couple of hot EMT’s later, my roommate gained back control of herself and we were able to go up to our room and go to bed.
    Even though these things happen, we all learn so much from the experience especially since you and I have never dealt with serious problems that require daily medication.

    • You sounds like you did an amazing job. I used to get panic attacks almost every day and I look back on those times and am so amazed by and grateful for all the people who had the patience to talk me through them. They’re scary to have and just as scary to witness!

    • Haha the EMT’s were the best part! When she came back to her normal self, she was super giggly around them! Luckily, we didn’t have to go to the hospital because she calmed down just being inside one of the ambulances. We laugh about the whole thing now, even though it was totally not a laughing matter at the time. I tease her because one of the things she shouted was “I CAN’T DO THE STAIRS!” (we lived on the 3rd floor of a dorm with no elevators) She’d laugh that I’m retelling the story again :)
      Your roommate should have told you about her medicine, but from the sound of the situation, I don’t think she was in a position to talk about much of anything to anyone. You definitely did the right thing by calling for help and watching out for her when she took her pill even though it put you in an uncomfortable position. It doesn’t seem like it should be your responsibility, but as her roommate, you would be the first person there who could help her.

    • Wait, I love that you pointed out two hot EMT’s. I just laughed! But seriously, that’s really good of you to be so patient through that. I’ve never really seen one, I mean, my mom had one and she mostly cried it out, and it was really scary to have to go to the hospital. All I know to do is stay really calm, but I never think of what else could possibly happen if the person just totally gives up.

      I just wish I knew what that roommate was taking. I’m sure she had a lot of stuff going on that I guess I wish I had at least been told about since we were sharing a freakin’ room!

      Marianna | 7/10/2011 05:07 pm
  13. I was lucky enough to have a pretty “normal” roommate. The only thing we really had in common was that we both loved rice…It’s a weird time for a lot of us, and when you start living in close quarters with another, you can’t help but see some strange stuff.

  14. That would be so scary! I’m a RA at my university and I haven’t had to deal with anything like this, probably because I’ve only been a RA for a semester… but as a RA, we’re trained to deal with the absolute bizarre. Anything completely dangerous can happen when you have a college kid, away from home, who is depressed and lonely. It can be extremely scary at times… we just have to be on the lookout for anything suspicious that could indicate depression or anything like that.

    But thanks for sharing! You are DEFINITELY not the only person that something like that has happened to.

  15. Wow crazy story. My freshman year, friend had a roommate who was rarely ever present and when she was, she was very mean to my friend, put her down and then brought strange boys over. By the end of the year, she had moved in with my roommate and me

  16. These things don’t only happen to you. When I was a freshman in college, I walked in to find my roommate (who was a stranger to me before we moved in the dorm) sitting under her bed (we had them up on stilts to be able to hide from our RA – long story) holding a razor blade to her wrist. She was home before the end of the first month.

    • WHAT??? Oh wow. I have to admit, after a while I was scared this girl might kill herself.

      Marianna | 7/10/2011 04:07 pm
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