In the Heat of Winter

April 2, 2012
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It was one of those unseasonably hot days. In an area that was perpetually winter from October first until (at the earliest) the beginning of April, “unseasonably” was almost an understatement. And hot didn’t mean mid-sixties. Oh no. There’d been days like that, on and off, since January. Back then, it had been a t-shirt-and-sandals kind of day. No, today was more of a strip-down-to-nothing-and-lay-on-the-floor kind of day.
The weatherman had predicted a high of seventy-three. But Ali, lying in her dorm room in her underwear, swore it was at least eighty-five.
And this wasn’t the first day. All this week, the weather had been “unseasonably” warm. Rain or shine, it had been in the low seventies. Everyone was happy, the plants were blooming, and the squirrels were beginning to come out and take over the university grounds again.
At first it had been comfortable. “Just lovely,” Ali’s grandmother, who lived in Florida, might’ve said. Everyone had broken out the shorts and sandals, enjoying the loveliness. The novelty had worn off when the thermometer cracked eighty and suddenly everyone’s supply of warm-weather clothes had run out.
Thus, the lying on the floor mostly naked.
Ali found it hard to believe this town, that could reach sweltering temperatures in the height of August, could be the same town that habitually had subzero temperatures for weeks on end during the winter. And the wind. That was all anyone had to say, “the wind,” before everyone else started nodding and complaining about this and that the wind had done. Perhaps the winters there would’ve been more bearable if not for the wind, that bore through any winter coat, no matter the number of layers underneath, and pierced a person down to the blood, like some sort of insane Alaskan or Arctic tundra snowstorm.
Ali came from a city that, though far east of the college town, was only about a hundred miles south of this town. A hundred miles, and yet Ali had never experienced winters such as these. Along with the disbelief of the huge range of weather within this place, she found it amazing that the small distance between the latitudes of these two towns could also result in such an insane difference of weather.
Ali kept waiting for her weird roommate to come back, find her here in her underwear, and then the weird roommate wouldn’t be the weird one, Ali would be.
That was just beyond Ali—how could she be the weird one? She went to class, was involved in a couple of campus bands, played on the tennis team, and hung out with her friends every Friday and/or Saturday night. She was constantly busy, a journalism major working on both the newspaper and yearbook staffs, and when she finally sat down at the end of the day, all she wanted to do was collapse in front of her computer just take a breath in peace and silence.
Her weird roommate, however—and that’s how Ali thought of her, “the weird roommate,” because she couldn’t bring herself to acknowledge the fact that she was actually a real, living, functioning human being—the roommate never left the room unless she had to leave for class. Once class was over—BAM!—suddenly there she appeared in the room. And what did she do? Plop herself down in a chair, turn the TV on to Disney Channel, and play Farmville or Minesweeper—at which she was a champion—on her laptop. She laughed like a yapping dog and clapped like a five-year-old at the stupid jokes accompanied by a laugh track. She might put down the laptop and pick up a book instead, still leaving on the TV, although it wasn’t being watched. When Ali would leave the room, maybe just to go to the bathroom, she would return to find the window closed and the heater turned up to seventy-five. Then, the roommate would get up, set down the book, and leave without returning for hours. And without turning off the TV.
This girl drove Ali absolutely insane.
The window had been a point of contention lately. Ali could understand during the cold months keeping it solidly shut against the blizzard going on outside. But it had been in the high sixties/low seventies for going on three weeks now. It was beautiful outside, and hot and stuffy with the stench of the roommate inside. In the evening and during the nights, it never got lower than fifty. It was perfect weather for sleeping with the window open, a luxury Ali didn’t have at home because of the way her family’s house was built. And yet, she’d wake up to find the window slammed shut. Later her roommate confronted her, saying that leaving the window open was making her sick, and could Ali please close it before she went to bed? Utterly stunned by the roommate’s absolute stupidity, Ali numbly nodded and muttered, “Sure.”
And the first night, she tried to be nice. She really did. She closed the window and lay down for the night. An hour later, she stumbled out of bed, sweat-soaked and panting, and threw the glass open.
Ali told her friends, her parents, her hallmates, her little brother, and even her academic advisor what the roommate had said about “the open window making her sick,” and each and every individual had (depending on their means of communication) gone silent and slack-jawed for a few seconds, before replying with something along the lines of, “Seriously?!” That had been Ali’s mental reaction as well. She wondered, how could fresh air make a person sick? Unless they were allergic to, like, oxygen, or something. She figured, however, that the roommate was getting sick because of her lack of fresh air—of sitting in this da** room rotting in her own filth and germs.
The roommate had more disgusting habits than Ali cared to acknowledge at the moment.
Trying to stop that train of thought, because it was only making her angry and even hotter, Ali began to relish in the sweet silence of the room. The only noises were the rustling trees outside, the birds chirping, and the occasional Doppler effect of a car passing by on the street below. She bathed in the luxury of it, because peace and quiet were things found hard and far between in this room, between the Disney Channel and the stupid kids’ movies the roommate always watched.
And that was a big point of contention for Ali: how could a college student, a twenty-year-old adult in college, stand to constantly watch Disney? A lot of people didn’t understand, saying how much they loved this show or that. But what she assumed to be true was that those people only watched it every now and then, or watched it with much younger siblings. The roommate had an older sister, and the roommate hardly, if ever, watched anything besides the Disney Channel, which Ali had detested since childhood. Ali would’ve preferred that the roommate was addicted to MTV, with its stupidity like The Hills and Jersey Shore, rather than endure another minute of twelve-year-old humor and laugh tracks.
Many times she had considered smashing the face of the TV, or cutting the outlet cable. But she had the common sense and self-restraint (it was mostly self-restraint) to keep her from doing this.
Someone on the outside of this situation, like a zoo visitor peering in to the monkey cage, may wonder how these two completely different people—Ali, a wolf, perhaps, and the roommate… a cow, maybe?—would be placed in the same room. The wolf belonged with other wolves or alone. And the cow… Well, Ali had to admit she loved a good hamburger every now and then.
But the pairing just went completely against nature: the wolf had to suppress her urge to just go and slaughter the cow, while the cow did pointless things like eating all the grass in the enclosure and pooping everywhere.
That’s how Ali felt. She was trapped in a glass box with this girl, and she wanted to either break out of the cage or just get around to eating the da** cow already.
The two had been placed together because Ali’s roommate was supposed to be a friend of hers. But the friend got a job as an RA and moved to a different room in another dorm. All Ali’s other friends already had places, on or off campus, and it was too late for her to back out of her housing contract and make a new one off-campus. Besides, she had thought at the time, how bad of a roommate can I be assigned?
Ali, feeling nicely cooled on her front, rolled over to allow her sweaty backside a chance to cool off.
It was Thursday afternoon, and tomorrow she would be leaving the second she could, to get the he** out of here and spend some time at home with her family. She counted the days until these weekends, usually spaced about three or four weeks apart, not mostly because of her chance to see her family, or hang out with old high school friends, or even just enjoy the scenery of the city she’d grown up in. No, she loved coming home most because she’d at least get the he** away from the roommate.
Thinking of the roommate again, Ali uninterestedly wondered where she was. She was in and out at all times of the day—mind you, only the day—she never set foot outside after six—so there was no way to gauge when she’d be around. Ali wanted to say that frankly she didn’t care, but that would be a lie. She cared if only because when the roommate came back, it meant that all peace and happiness was over and it was time to allow the roommate to just walk all over her.
That was what made her most angry—the total disrespect of the roommate. She didn’t give a da** about anything but her own well-being. The TV constantly being on and the window thing were just huge examples of this. There was also the changing her pads in the middle of the room right in front of her, the making a s***-ton of noise getting ready in the morning, and the nine-thirty-P.M. lights-out time that she practically mandated.
Ali was used to dealing with idiots. She’d gone to a high school full of them. She’d been dealing with bigoted rednecks, hypocritical “Christians,” and close-minded countryfolk since her family had moved to that town ten years ago. She could handle them, could ignore or at the least just put up with them. She was tolerant of all people unless they started to shove their beliefs down her throat. She hated no one unless they had somehow wronged her, in a very serious way. She rarely held grudges, and it took a lot to make her hate a person.
But this girl—this roommate—Ali hated her with a burning, undying passion. She had never hated anyone in this way in all her life. And she’d had her fair share of nasty breakups.
The door suddenly creaked open, and Ali half-rolled over to see the roommate standing over her, eyes, wide and mouth gaping like a fish as she stared. She still held the door open, so a couple of the girls who passed in the hall peeked in and walked away giggling.
Ali groaned and buried her face in the carpet, preparing herself for the he** of the rest of the evening.

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