Chapter 3: Geeky Roommate

My first thought in seeing my roommate was “You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.”

Just by looking at him I knew that if I had encountered this guy at my old high school, I would either be throwing him in the locker or stuffing his skinny ass in a garbage pail. Suddenly I was living with the kind of person I would have beaten up in my old school.

He pushed his thick rimmed glasses up on his nose with his index finger. The glasses seemed to be bigger than the kid’s face. His dark hair fell in his eyes. His clothes were baggy, but not in the hip, in style way. They were baggy as if they weren’t made for a tiny frame like his. The large watch he wore on his left hand was ragged, the leather bald in some places, like he toyed with it.

“Uhh… hey. I’m Isaac…” I began awkwardly. “Uhh, it looks like we’re going to be roommates.” I shrugged helplessly.

“Yeah, right. Come in.” He opened the door and I moved into the room carefully. I don’t know what I was expecting to find. Perhaps walls covered with tinfoil and textbooks the size of my head. Actually, I was almost entirely expecting a full blown Star Trek convention… But the room looked surprisingly normal.

The walls were painted a pale beige, which seemed uniform throughout the entire dorm. To the right was a small kitchenette. It was tiny, but it would definitely work. I could hold my own in the kitchen, and I was actually quite relieved that I might get to cook for myself.

“I’m Thomas Hardwicke.” He wiped his palm on his pants and extended his hand to me. His fingers seemed to almost tremble. This guy was like a nerdy cartoon character.

“Thomas… do you go by anything else?” I shook his hand firmly.

He frowned, his glasses slipping down his nose. “Like what?”

“Tom? Tommy? I mean, what do your friends call you?” I asked hesitantly.

“Friends? Uh… Thomas, I guess.” He glanced away and I took that to mean he might not have had that many friends.

In the center of the larger room was a large blue sofa that looked plush and comfortable. So did the matching chairs. The coffee table between them looked almost brand new. None of this furniture seemed to fit into a dorm setting. Everything looked completely new.
In fact, this wasn’t anything like a dorm from what I could see. I’d partied with a few guys from University of Tulsa, and their dorm rooms were absolute coffins. This place wasn’t huge, but it was comfortable at least.

“It must be weird for you to be here, right? I mean, deciding to go to a school like this. I mean, I’m sure this must resemble more like Hogwarts than an actual school.”

“Hogwarts? What the hell is that?” I frowned.

“It’s…. never mind.” Thomas said quickly. “Uh…. They brought your stuff up over an hour ago, I thought maybe you might have gotten lost or something…” He laughed nervously.

“No, I got stuck listening to Firey-pits.” I tried to quip.

“Professor Firestone,” he corrected lightly.

Apparently the smarter you are, the less funny things become. Not that my joke was funny, but most would realize I was trying to lighten the mood and fake a laugh.

“Professor Firestone said you transferred from a public high school… that’s got to be weird for you. Going from a normal school, this place has got to feel more like Hogwarts.”

I frowned. “What? What’s that?”

“Uhh… never mind.” Thomas glanced down at his feet. “I hope you don’t mind, but I already chose a room… They didn’t tell me you were coming until yesterday, and I had already moved in all my stuff… I mean, both rooms are the same size, just one is closer to the washroom, that’s all… I mean, if you want to switch back or anything…” The poor kid was trembling like a scared puppy.

“I’m sure it’s fine. I don’t really care.” I shrugged.

“Why don’t you show me around?” I offered eager to change the subject.

“Uhh… right. Sure.” He pushed his glasses up on his slender nose again. He was wearing the uniform but the pants looked almost as if he could fit three of himself in them. The tie was knotted so tightly around his thin neck it looked like it might choke him.

“Well, there’s not really much to see. Living room and kitchen.” He waved his hand around. He opened one door. “Uhh…. Your room, if you want.”

I recognized my things scattered across my bed.

“I noticed the guitar… do you play?” He pressed.

“Yeah, for a couple years now.” I nodded, surveying the room.

“That’s awesome… what kind of music do you play?”

“I uh… write my own mostly. Rock, folksy or blues stuff, sometimes. Depends on the mood. I’ve written the odd country song too, though I personally can’t stand the stuff.”

“That’s cool.” The slang seemed forced to him, but I chose not to dwell on it.

“Do you play anything?” I asked, taking time to survey the room. A double bed was pushed into the center of the far wall, beneath a large window. It was covered in thick red curtains. The same red fabric was on one of the blankets stacked on the bottom of the bed. Apparently, I had to make my own bed too.

There was a desk along one wall, with a small black laptop perched on top. A lamp sat near it. A low dresser ran the length of the other wall. A bookshelf stood next to the dresser; the top shelf already stacked with books that all appeared to be textbooks and notebooks. All in the original shrink wrap.

In my old school, our books were all ancient. Some of them were even printed before my parents were born.

I moved into the room and opened the closet. Sure enough, five identical school uniforms were hanging there. A set of shoes were placed neatly together on the floor. I cocked one eyebrow; impressed.

This was more than I even had back home. There I shared a bedroom with two of my brothers; I didn’t even have a whole closet to myself. Maybe this was going to be worth it.

I tuned back into what my roommate was saying. “I…I used to play the clarinet but I… I guess I kind of got bored with it.”

“That happens… why don’t you show me the rest of the place?” I asked.

“Oh, right.” He smoothed his hair back behind his ear and pushed his glasses back up his nose simultaneously.

He led me to the next door. “This is my room.”

He wandered into the room. The layout of his room had changed a bit; he’d moved things around, moving the desk in front of the window.

I glanced at the poster on his wall.

He followed my gaze. “Oh, that’s uh… Albert-“

“-Einstein,” I finished. I knew full well who it was. I recognized the black and white image of him with his tongue hanging out.

“I’ve always admired him… I don’t know why, I guess that makes me a geek.” He shrugged.

I chose to let that one slide.

“Umm… that’s the bathroom.” He pointed.

I took no more than a handful of steps out of his room and opened the bathroom door. Double sinks. Double medicine cabinets, and the shower and toilet were separate from the room with the sinks. This place was like a five-star-fucking-hotel instead of a dorm.

“Huh, so… umm… what’s there do to around here, then… for fun? Any bars or anything?”

Thomas frowned. “Uh… in town, I guess. But anyone caught drinking on or off school grounds is severely punished…”

“So, then what do you guys do, then?”

“Well, each residence has a games room, but I usually don’t go down there, it’s usually pretty busy. But there’s a pool table and a foosball table and a TV and stuff. Sometimes they do movie nights… And of course there’s a pool in the gym wing. Most of the time you have to be in the gym class or on the team, but on the weekends they do a free-swim.” He turned his gaze to his feet again, shuffling them on the carpet.

“And you don’t go to any of that?”

He shook his head slowly, having to readjust his glasses again. “Not really my thing.”

“Okay, so what do you do, then?”

He paused. “Study… read… and play video games.”

“Awesome. I got any good games?”

“I’ve got all the latest, actually. Everything that’s come out in the last year.” His whole face seemed to light up and he led me back into the living room. I saw the expensive gaming systems; surround sound and the video players.

“Nice.” I whistled. “Wow. Do you like science fiction movies?”

His eyes widened. “Love them!”

I straightened up and dropped my hand onto his shoulder. “I think we’re going to get along just fine, man.” I assured him.

He smiled crookedly, and glanced back to his feet.

“I should unpack and get settled… but first… can you tell me where the smoking area is?”

Thomas frowned. His expression was unreadable. I wasn’t sure if he was confused or disgusted.

“Where can I go to sneak a cigarette quickly?” I rephrased.

“Nowhere, I-I don’t think. This is a smoke free campus.”

A rush of nicotine starved panic shot through me. “Okay, but then where do the teachers sneak off to between classes for a smoke?”

“They don’t. I mean, as far as I know, none of the faculty smoke. I don’t know any of the students who smoke either… “ He frowned in thought.

“Alright, that’s no big deal. I was just curious….” I cleared my throat. “Uh… do you mind if I unpack and get settled?”

“No, no. That’s fine. I’ve got some studying to do, anyway.” He pushed his glasses up on his nose.

“Sure. Maybe later we could try out some of those video games?” I offered.

A grin crossed his face. “Sure.”

“Okay.” I left him in the living room and went into my room. I inconspicuously closed the door behind me and quickly glanced around the room.

I crossed to the window and yanked back the heavy curtains. I shoved up the heavy window and sucked in a breath of crisp air.

This would have to do for now. I reached into the front pocket of my flannel shirt. I yanked out a cigarette and shoved it between my lips. I rummaged frantically through my pockets until I found a lighter. I flicked the button a few times, and got nothing but the odd spark.

“Come on, come on.” I muttered around my cigarette. I needed this. More than I needed to breath right now, I needed a puff.

I tried a few more times and finally got a decent flame. I brought it carefully to the end of my cigarette and got it lit.

I drew in a deep drag with a sigh. I was in heaven.

I exhaled, deliberately angling the smoke toward the curtains flapping in the wind.

I shoved the cigarette back into my mouth. “An entire campus where no one smokes…. Un-fucking-believable.” I grumbled.

Suddenly something hit me. I unzipped my duffle bag and dumped the entire contents of my bag on the bed. I sifted through the contents frantically.

“Oh, you’ve got to be fucking kidding me!” I groaned.

I sifted through my belongings just to be sure, before I went through my guitar case and the bag my mother had sent.

I had hidden a bottle of vodka and a carton of cigarettes in the bottom of my bag; neither of which were present. Someone must have removed them.

“Fuck.” I cursed. There was no way I could even get into town to use my fake ID to get more, either.

I sighed and plopped down on the bed. I finished my cigarette. I reached out the window and butt out the cigarette on the side of the building.

I hid the butt in my drawer, reminding myself to flush it later so I wouldn’t get caught.

I figured as long as I was stuck here, I might as well unpack. I pushed all of my belongings to the floor and set to work making my bed. The sheets were soft, and I realized then how tired I was. I was ready to just crawl into those sheets and go to sleep.

But that would mean the next morning would come sooner. And I would bet starting my first day here.