When it came to attending university, I found myself facing two options: on the one hand, I could take the train, and that meant dragging myself out of bed at the crack of dawn so that I could do my make-up on a hot, stuffy, crowded train, and then I could do the same thing at night, altogether sacrificing a good two hours of my day each time I had class, and that wasn’t even taking into consideration possible complications like blizzards in the winter. Or, I could stay in a nice, warm, convenient residence, spending a little bit of extra money but being within walking distance of my every class. I took the residence option. And so, for three and a half years, that’s where I’ve been, and I don’t regret it. But, that being said, it hasn’t exactly been a perfect experience either. In fact, it’s been delightfully unperfect, filled with inconveniences and annoyances and downright unpleasant moments, but what else can you expect when you’re living with multiple, university-aged strangers?
So, without further ado, here they are – the five best stories that I have from living in residence.
1. Public Displays of Way-Too-Much Affection
Let’s talk about sex.
It’s a natural part of university life, I get that. For a lot of people who live in residence, it’s their first time being away from their parents’ home and living in a co-ed environment. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with it.
That is, until I’m preparing to take a shower at eleven o’clock at night, after a busy day of classes.
Until I’m stepping into the shower stall, and I start to notice particular noises in the one next to me.
Until I realize that it isn’t only one voice coming from that stall, but two.
Until I recognize one of those voices as belonging to my next-door neighbour.
At that point, my only option is to leave and have a shower at another time, when I can properly block from my brain all thoughts of what has gone on in these stalls before I showed up.
2. The Tale of the Naked Stranger
For the most part, the residences at my university are co-ed, and as much as I’m fine with that, incidents like the one described in the first story convinced me to try out an all-girl’s floor for my second year, in the hopes that that might fix those problems. So I moved into my room, and there were only three other girls living on my floor. I only remember meeting one of them: a somewhat unfriendly girl who knocked on my door one day and told me that I needed to stop locking the door to our suite because she couldn’t get in when she forgot her key. Let’s just call her Lisa.
I didn’t see many people in that suite for a good, long while, and as much as I was sort of disappointed that I hadn’t made any life-long friends, I really didn’t mind it all that much. I just went about my business, coming and going to classes and cooking my food in the kitchen. It was all perfectly mundane.
That is, until I found a complete stranger sitting on my couch one day.
A complete male stranger, meaning that he most definitely didn’t live on my all-girl’s suite.
A complete male stranger who was naked. And I mean naked, with only a laptop sitting open on his lap to cover the junk that I definitely didn’t want to see.
I didn’t realize that he was naked until I was already standing in the common room, just holding the pan that I had brought from my room with the intention of making myself some delicious mac’n’cheese. When I did finally notice, I froze, just staring at him and wondering what in the hell I was supposed to do about this. Nobody covered scenarios like this when they sent me out into the big, wide world. Nobody had even mentioned that this was a possibility. Did I kick him out? Was he a guest of one of my thus-unmet suite-mates?
What made the situation even weirder was the way that he reacted to it. He just lifted his naked head, gave me a polite smile, and said “hey”, before turning his attention back to the laptop that was covering his otherwise naked junk.
For a brief moment, I continued staring at this naked stranger sitting alone on my couch. I then turned around, walked out of the common room, and figured that I could find something other than mac-n-cheese to eat.
And that is the story of how I met Lisa’s boyfriend.
3. Nighttime screams and a broken frying pan
My third story also involves Lisa and her boyfriend.
I never learned her boyfriend’s name, but he hung around a bit more after that first meeting. Sometimes he was naked (the next time it happened, I walked into the common room, he screamed from the kitchen “I’m naked!” and I walked right back out). Sometimes he was clothed. Either way, he and I eventually came to a bit of a silent understanding, nodding to each other whenever we saw the other in the suite. I liked him.
Well, I liked him better than Lisa, anyway.
As I said, Lisa was somewhat unfriendly. Between her and I, there were no polite smiles or silent nods of understanding. She’d just brush passed me without so much as a glance, speaking to me only if she wanted me to move out of her way or something to that effect.
And then, there was the night that she and her boyfriend got into a fight.
I wasn’t around when it started, and I don’t know what it was all about. The little that I did come to understand was picked up from the things she screamed, at about nine o’clock at night.
What I do know is that her boyfriend somehow got into her room without her. He closed and locked the door, refusing to let her in. And so for a good half hour, she pounded on the door and screamed, demanding that she be let in. The two other girls and I drifted awkwardly from our rooms to ask if she was alright. “Yeah, I’m fine!” she screamed at us through her tears. “He just won’t let me in!” and she kicked hard at the door.
Eventually, the two other girls and I drifted helplessly back to our rooms, but she continued screaming, kicking and screaming and crying until even I, a complete outsider who knew nothing about the context of their disagreement, began to be annoyed at her boyfriend for allowing it to go on this long.
And then, another sound joined her screaming, the sound of metal scraping hard and fast on metal, and it was enough to pull me out from my room again. Lisa didn’t look up at me this time, she just kept on slamming the frying pan that she had got from the kitchen against the heavy, metal door of her room. I went immediately back to my room and just listened to the sound of her beating the door with a frying pan and screaming.
A good forty-five minutes after the argument begun, her boyfriend opened the door, and screaming all the way, Lisa physically pushed him out from the suite before barricading herself, alone, in her room. When I left my room next, I found the handle of the frying pan laying broken, twisted, and lonely in front of her door.
I didn’t see her naked boyfriend again after that.
4. Blood on the counter
This next story isn’t so much a story, per se, as it is just an incident. There’s no real ending, no resolution. There’s just the fact that, one night, I walked into the dark, empty kitchen, to find shining, wet droplets of something sticky and red on the counter.
Is that blood? I thought, drawing a little bit closer to look at it but too disgusted at the thought to touch it. As there wasn’t much that I could do either way, I just left it, figuring that whoever it belonged to would clean it up eventually.
The next morning, I returned to the kitchen, and saw that the red liquid was still there, dried and congealed the way that blood does.
That’s totally blood, I thought, and avoided that counter like the plague afterwards.
I don’t know where the blood came from. There’s only one suite-mate who I didn’t see after that point, and the rest of them just ignored the issue entirely, smiling and carrying on as though there wasn’t just blood laying about on our kitchen counter. I don’t know if someone cut themselves while cooking, or if they had a nose bleed and just didn’t notice that it got on the counter. I don’t know anything at all. All that I know is that it’s another fantastic part of living with strangers.
5. I’d rather just burn to death, thank you very much
This story doesn’t relate to one specific year, like the other stories did. This has been more of an ongoing problem. Because, you see, I’ve returned to the same residence building for the past two and a half years – mostly out of convenience, rather than for any real reason at all. And every single year, I think that it’ll be different, that they have people working to fix the problem. But it never is.
Because, you see, for the past two and a half years, the fire alarms in my building have been broken. I’ve heard multiple different explanations for why they are, but I can’t say that I know very much about fire alarms, so I’m not going to try to explain it myself. All that I know is that it means that there are constantly people coming and going trying to fix them, allowing them to go off for hours at a time. And, possibly worse even than that, it means that the fire alarms can just go off at any time at all, even if there’s no reason for them to go off. Their favourite time seems to be in the middle of the night.
So for the past two and a half years, there have been multiple nights where I’ve been rudely woken by the shrill scream of an overly-anxious fire alarm. I quickly collect all my valuables, things that I don’t want to lose just in case, like my notebooks full of my writing, my wallet, and my cell phone, and then I drag myself outside to stand in the mass of barely-awake university students, complaining about the eight o’clock classes they have to be awake for in the morning. Sometimes it happens on nights when it’s raining, but the best is when it happens in the dead of winter, while we’re all dressed only in our pajamas and maybe a jacket if we managed to grab it with our valuables.
The constant fire alarms have gotten to such a point, that as I was stepping out of the shower in the morning on my last day in residence before the start of the winter break, I found myself smiling at the announcement I heard over the PA system, warning us all that they were going to be testing the fire alarms, so please excuse the shrill scream that was to follow and go about your business. Ah, residence life, I thought nostalgically to myself, how I love you.