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The Scent of a Room

The first thought that came to mind the first time I walked into my dorm room at my new boarding school was, “It smells like carpet.” If I had said that out loud, and someone who heard had asked me what carpet smells like, I would have drawn a blank. Random thoughts like that pop into my head all the time. “Julie Andrews” was my second thought when I turned to meet my roommate. I went in for a handshake, but she came in for a hug. A millisecond of awkwardness occurred, but her British accent quieted my rambling mind.
The good thing about roommates is that they are there to hang out with during the first few days of school so you don’t seem like a loner. I was lucky enough to have my roommate in the same work job and English class, on the same dining hall table, and doing the same afternoon sport as me. We were both cut from the J.V tennis team, so we managed cross country together.
The first month of school was hard to get used to. Classes were hard, schedule was tight, and I missed home. I remember one day very clearly. I had turned in my English essay and was expecting a good grade. I had spent a whole Sunday morning writing an essay about a single line from one of Walt Whitman’s poems and to be honest I was quite proud of myself when I finished. But when I got my graded essay back, I was so shocked and disappointed that I didn’t even go get my usual Ham and Cheese sandwich after class. I skipped practice. I hid under my covers and cried until I was tired of crying. That day, I felt hopeless. I had made all my best efforts, but I was not receiving satisfactory results. Later on, I returned from dinner to discover a little blue sticker on my desk. It said “Cheer up lovely. We will talk after lights out. Xoxo”
That night after lights out, I heard her roll in her bed. With the dim moonlight shining in, I could see her outline on the other side of the room.
“Do you hear the train?” she said to me in a semi whisper. “I can’t believe I hear the train!”
“Yeah, I do.” I thought about it, I realized that I’ve never been on a train before. It was weird to think that we were sleeping so close to train tracks where people were passing to different places, while we were just going to wake up in the same place day after day and do the same thing over and over again.
“E.C wants to room with us,” she said, this time her voice louder.
“Does she?” I asked. “Why?”
“She doesn’t like her roommate, so she wants to move out.”
“Oh I see, but why us?” E.C was a girl we knew in school. She was not particularly close with either of us. In fact, we rarely talked to her.
“Good question. I really have no idea,” she said. “She insists on us, only us.”
We went to bed after that. She never asked me what was wrong, and I was glad.
The days went by in the same way, classes, sports, classes, sports. I looked forward to breaks so I could go home. Home was the only thing that was not part of this tiring pattern. I got this wish towards the end of winter. We were asked to leave the school, because we broke a major school rule. We regretted it deeply, but in the end, we left school for a big break.
At the Philadelphia Airport, we ate lunch in silence. I remember we ate Chinese. It was the same kind we would order every weekend to eat while watching Gilmore Girls. After lunch, it was time to board our flights. I was destined for California, she for England. We stood just outside of the food court and reenacted the hug we had on the first day we met. Except this time, it was a different awkwardness. After that, I picked up my bag and we both walked our separate ways. I thought about the smell of carpet and tasted the saline of tears.



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