Having a university roommate goes against every single one of an Englishman’s instincts. Someone you’re forced to speak to every hour of the day? Someone who may shift your desk’s carefully placed territorial boundaries? Someone who may try to coerce you into sharing food? The very idea of it is enough to make your skin crawl. A good roommate can make or mar your university experience.
But pray as you might a god whose existence you generally acknowledge before exams, your fate is usually decided long before Freshers’ Week. This life-altering decision is made by the University using a form that tries to ascertain who the best inmate for you based on anything from your height to the level of anti-social bastardy you are prepared to admit to.
When I discovered I had a single room in my hall of choice I, nearly jumped for joy. Sure, it looked like a very comfortable prison cell – but it was my comfortable prison cell, and mine alone.
The majority of first years seduced by the romantic charm of the older halls are less lucky. In an effort to cram thousands of new students into just three streets, the University has put extra beds in the dorms of my fellow newcomers, beds which will occasionally sleep creatures called roommates.
In fairness, I know lots of people who get on with their roommates. They share study sessions, deep conversations and day-old prosecco freely with one another. But, every so often, it happens: Two very different people with two very different personalities are forced into the same room, condemned to spend the year either avoiding each other or practicing that most British of art-forms, passive-aggression.
This is exactly what happened to a friend of mine. For the purposes of this article, we shall call her Amelia. Now, I must stress that Amelia is not a terrible person. In fact, she’s rather lovely. As, so I’ve been told, is her roommate! But when forced together into the confines of the same room, they quickly turned it into an arena of war. As soon as you enter, the battle-lines are clear: Amelia’s piles of tie-dyed clothes and baggy pants are stationed halfway across the floor, facing the ranks of tiny perfume bottles and evenly placed photos of her roommate, glaring out at her in silent judgement.
The exact causes of this division, like all great conflicts, are unclear. Perhaps it was a roll of the eyes. Maybe a back-handed compliment. But whatever it was quickly evolved into a cold war. St Andrews being St Andrews, word gets out. Within a week, it was common knowledge that they loathed each other, a fact evidenced by angry glares and long silences that spoke more than words ever could.
The declaration of open war came only days later when Amelia, under the influence of vodka, teenage passion and her simmering resentment, decided to bring a fellow student to their room at 2 o’clock in the morning, subsequently displacing her roommate who, quelle surprise, decided not to bear witness to the developing shenanigans. The short-term results of that night were a hangover and a swift trip to the clinic. The long-term results are yet to be seen, but it is safe to say that the relationship between the two has not improved.
Having even the best of roommates is never always easy. Sharing space and possessions, monitoring noise levels and the way you change your clothes are sure to pose some difficulties. But having a roommate you hate is something altogether different. It is a war without guns. It is a war that you cannot win, short of leaving or being left.
While some people may go to sleep only feet away from their best friend and others inches from their nemesis, I can only be happy that when I go to sleep drunken and embarrassed, the only person judging me is me.