My very first college roommate had the exact same birthday as me. Her name was Sandy, and she had three sisters named Sally, Sophie, and Cindy. (Her parents had considered spelling Cindy's name with an s to match her sisters', but decided that this would be overkill.) Sandy was as blond as a baby and wore contact lenses that tinted her eyes grass-green. She had lots and lots of clothes, including enough jeans to fill a giant traveling trunk decorated with stickers of those dancing Grateful Dead bears. She was very cheerful and outgoing, unlike me. I, at eighteen, was an undiagnosed depressive with two pairs of pants. My shirts were mostly shapeless and dull in color because I hadn't yet started wearing garish Hawaiian shirts over the shapeless, dull-colored ones. I made fun of my limited range of natural facial expressions with a huge and deliberately hideous fake grin, which I produced when I saw people I recognized, to show that I recognized them.
Sandy, like a lot of freshmen, soon got swept up in the social whirl of college, going out nearly every night while I, nearly every night, remained hunched over my Macintosh. I was writing an epic poem about a serial killer, in anapestic tetrameter, and that required intense concentration. I found the rhyming especially difficult. So I wasn't just hunched over the computer; I was hunched over the computer and muttering. That's how she would leave me at eight in the evening and that's how she'd find me when she came back five hours later.
One night one of Sandy's friends, drunk and gleeful, charged into our room and scrawled all over my mirror with lipstick. I remember clearly that I didn't feel angry about this, only weary. Christ, now this. That was how I felt about a lot of things at that time. I believe Sandy may have been thinking of this incident when she told me she wanted to switch roommates. She told me she loved life, and though I don't think she said so outright it was clear I didn't strike her as someone who loved life. Probably my persistent sobriety had something to do with this evaluation but I think it was mostly the hunching and muttering.
The roommate switch worked out OK but ever since that mirror incident -- and the weary feeling, not even annoyance, that it produced in me; and the embarrassment I witnessed in Sandy, seeing her friend's normal teenage silliness slam face-first into that weariness -- I have wondered from time to time if there's a hard kernel of no-fun in me, if I'm a killjoy, if only other sarcastic recluses will ever be drawn to me. The kind of people who, instead of going out, lock themselves in their dorm rooms writing about serial killers in anapestic tetrameter. The kind of people who don't love life.