College was a very difficult time for me. I felt extremely out of place, like the ugly duckling in the midst of swans. I felt as though all the other girls at William & Mary were thin and beautiful and popular, where I was rather short and chubby and decidedly not beautiful. All I had going for me was my smarts, but even my freshman roommate rubbed in my face that you didn’t need to be smart to go to W&M. She was dumber than a box of rocks, but she was there on a soccer scholarship. Admissions didn’t really care how smart (or not) she was; she was useful for her soccer skills.
It didn’t help that I was rather socially inept.
My freshman year I cobbled together a group of friends from a nearby all-boys’ dorm. Boy, did that place smell funny. Eventually we added another girl or two, and I bounced between this group of friends and another I managed to latch onto. The other group was how I met Angela, a very excellent woman and a wonderful friend, even ten years later. I don’t really recall how I latched onto this other group, but it was a good thing I did.
Near the end of my sophomore year, my then-roommate, who had had leukemia as a kid, had fallen and busted her knee in class one day. She wanted my then-boyfriend to take her to CVS for a prescription, as he was the only person she knew with a car (cars were highly discouraged at W&M because of a huge lack of parking). There was no way he could do that. We had a huge homework project due in Computer Architecture the next day, and we were all working on it together.
From that point on, she wouldn’t speak to me. Most of our friends, the ones from the all-boys’ dorm freshman year, took her side and left me adrift. This is why it was good I had latched onto that other group.
It still hurt my feelings because I felt as though I had done everything I possibly could for my roommate. She felt she wasn’t strong enough to maneuver crutches all over campus, so I ended up pushing her to and from most of her classes and lifting her wheelchair up the stairs to the dorm. I even had to put on her shoes and socks for her.
I really felt as though I belonged in this other group. Most of us belonged to the sci-fi club, which is exactly as nerdy as it sounds. I worked most Monday nights, so I missed most of the meetings and instead could only see the movies that were screened. We saw such things as Ice Pirates and Evil Dead 2, not to mention Return of the Killer Tomatoes, featuring a very young George Clooney.
I roomed with another girl my junior and senior year. We stayed in the all-girls’ dorm in the basement, the same dorm I had lived in with the roommate who’d ended up in a wheelchair. We seemed to hit it off really well. My roommate was a quiet girl, and she always said she preferred hanging out one-on-one instead of all in a group. Her opinion was people tended to become assholes in groups. She had some odd moods, but I felt as though I did a pretty good job of leaving her alone when she needed it, and keeping her company when she wanted it.
Halfway through my junior year, Kurt transferred to Virginia, and we fell in love. I started spending most of my weekends at his apartment. Summer break didn’t help matters; our group of friends were from all over the East Coast, so we didn’t see each other for three months. We kept in touch through IM and email, but it wasn’t the same.
Senior year came, and I was spending more and more time with Kurt. I was starting to be ostracized, probably because I was spending so much time with Kurt. I can’t imagine why else I would have been thrown out… unless my boyfriend from sophomore year (now my ex) told my friends that I had carried on a relationship of sorts with him even though we’d broken up and I was dating another boy, before Kurt. But really, that was between the two of us; it was no one else’s business.
Finally by the middle of my senior year, my life on campus was unbearable. I no longer existed to my roommate; I would arrive home from class and she would immediately decamp to our suitemates’ room. Dinner plans were made blatantly in front of my face without any kind of invitation to join, and if I did push my way in, it was a very uncomfortable meal to sit through. At one point, my roommate had made dinner in our dorm for our friends, and no one wanted to clean up. I volunteered to do so, mainly because I felt so uncomfortable, and TGP, a fellow dinner guest, raced down the hall to help me. He said to me as I scrubbed dishes, “Why do you want to reconcile with these people? You wouldn’t believe the awful things they’re saying about you back there.”
It got to the point where Kurt would pick me up immediately after class on Friday and not return me to campus till almost midnight on Sunday. At one point, I became so upset that I called an off-campus friend on a Thursday to get me the hell out of Dodge. I couldn’t even wait the hour that it would take Kurt to get to me, so I had him pick me up from my friend’s house.
It didn’t help that I was under a huge amount of stress anyhow. My parents were not pleased with my graduation plans; I had no job as yet, and I planned to move in with Kurt. They weren’t keen on him because he was a sailor, and they felt I was settling too low. I wasn’t even sure I was going to graduate. I was barely passing some of my required classes for my major, and without the immense help of some of my friends, there’s no way I would have graduated, not with a Computer Science degree, anyhow. I could barely eat, I was having near-constant panic attacks, and I was nauseous all the time. I could barely sleep, even at Kurt’s house, removed from everything. He had to talk me to sleep every night that I spent with him, to ease my mind enough so I could sleep.
Graduation came, and I was indeed among the recipients of a degree. That night I moved into Kurt’s house and collapsed into a state of exhaustion. I never heard from any of my friends again, save Angela and a couple of other people not really part of “the group.” I hear things through the grapevine, like my roommate is now engaged (maybe married by now) to my ex, the same boy she swore she would never date if he were the last man on earth.
I wrote about this very obliquely a year or two ago when I finally decided to forgive all these people. I don’t know what happened, I don’t know what I did. Regardless, I have forgiven them all, and it has really lifted a load from my shoulders. The day I wrote about it, I said I felt as though I kept trying to prod a tooth that had been pulled, to see if it still hurt, and I kept being amazed it didn’t hurt anymore.
One thing I have learned is to be more reserved. I will never be so carefree with my friendship again. Each time I meet a new friend or a new group, I try to hold back, to protect myself from this happening again. I’m hyperaware of what I say and how I say it. I try my best to put people first and to shut up so much about me. But I keep wondering, if I were a better person, would this have happened? If I were nicer, a better friend, a sweeter person, more caring…. The What If game plagues me.
So now you know. I’ve never put this out there before, afraid that I would be found by my former friends and denounced. It’s been seven years almost. Sometimes I can’t believe it’s been so long.