I do not do well with cold weather. Of course, compared to the rest of the United States, winter in Jeromeville is mild; the coldest winter days still have high temperatures close to 50 degrees Fahrenheit, and the temperature only rarely drops below freezing at night. But even in those mild winters, some of my extremities stay cold when the rest of my body is under multiple layers of clothing, and I have such dry skin that my hands start cracking and bleeding spontaneously.
Every winter, a brief reprieve arrives in late February or early March, which I call Fake Spring. The weather turns beautiful, with a week or two of sunny, warm, dry days. The many flowering trees on the University of Jeromeville campus burst into bloom, and the rest of the trees grow bright green leaves. The weather had been so nice for the last couple weeks that I had been eating the lunch I packed while sitting outside on the Quad instead of inside the Coffee House as I usually did. After my Abstract Mathematics class got out, I walked across the street from Wellington Hall to the Quad, searching for a place to sit. I had walked more than halfway across the Quad when I saw my friends Taylor, Pete, and Charlie sitting on the grass; I walked up to them, waving, and Taylor waved back first.
“Hey, Greg,” he said. “What’s up?”
“Not much,” I replied. “Can I sit here?”
“Sure.” Taylor and Charlie scooted apart to give me room to sit, and I sat between them.
“So where is this apartment you found for next year?” Taylor asked.
“B Street,” Pete replied. “Right across from Bakers Square.”
“It’s a really old-looking building with six apartments,” Charlie added. “But it’s perfect. Just a couple blocks from campus. We’re still looking for a third person, though.”
Finding an apartment in Jeromeville could be a daunting and stressful task. Most property owners and apartment management companies in Jeromeville used the same lease with the same terms. Jeromeville was a university town, and the terms of this lease were ostensibly intended to be convenient for the university students who make up the overwhelming majority of renters. Almost all apartments in Jeromeville would go up for lease in March for a 12-month term beginning the following September. Last year, I kept to myself most of the time while my friends were making living plans for this year, and by the time I figured out that I needed to do something, everyone I knew had plans already. I managed to find a small studio apartment still available in April; I spent a bit more on rent than I would have ideally liked, but I made it work, with help from Mom and Dad.
I had seen enough Roommate Wanted ads around campus year-round to know that, if I was not picky, I would at least be able to find a place to live for next year. But I really wanted to room with friends, hoping that that might give me more of a social life. Eddie Baker from Jeromeville Christian Fellowship lived with seven other guys in a four-bedroom house. More people from JCF lived near Eddie: Haley Channing and her roommates lived down the street, and Shawn Yang, my Bible study leader, lived around the corner with some other upperclassmen. I had only been to their houses a combined total of maybe five times, but living with friends seemed so much better than living alone. It was like that TV show Friends that so many of those people loved, except that unlike the TV characters, all these friends were nice people who did not make me want to punch them in the face every time they opened their mouths. I had never actually watched Friends, but that was the impression I got from commercials. And, although I would never say this out loud, the thought of living right down the street from Haley was definitely appealing to me too. She was cute.
“I might be interested,” I said to Pete and Charlie. “I don’t have a place yet for next year.”
“Sure!” Pete replied. “Can you let us know in the next couple days?”
“I will.” Living with Pete and Charlie would not be the same as having a huge community like Eddie and Haley and Shawn, but it would be better than living alone. And being so close to campus would be nice as well. I asked a few more questions about the apartment, mostly how much the rent was; I would be paying quite a bit less to share this place than I was currently for my studio apartment.
“So what’s everyone’s finals schedule look like?” Taylor asked.
“I have two in a row at the earliest two possible time slots, on the first day,” Charlie said.
“Yikes,” Pete replied.
“Still not as bad as when I had four midterms on the same day,” I said.
“I know. That was crazy!”
“Four?” Charlie asked, incredulously.
“Yeah. I had all my midterms on the same day. One of the professors let me take it the day before, but I still had to take them all within twenty-four hours.”
“My finals are pretty spread out this time,” I said.
“I have a paper due on the last day of class,” Taylor said. “And another final that’s going to be a timed essay.”
“That’s rough,” Matt said.
I noticed out of the corner of my eye a large group of people walking down the concrete path that bisected the Quad, headed toward the library. Someone leading the group was explaining the surroundings to the group; it appeared to be a group touring the campus, probably prospective students, just as I had done two years ago. Something seemed familiar about the tour guide’s voice; as my brain was trying to process this, Charlie said, “Look. It’s Haley.”
I looked up. Haley was walking backward, leading the tour group; the familiar voice I had heard was hers. She wore a white shirt under denim overalls. I never knew Haley was a campus tour guide; she certainly appeared comfortable in her position, like she knew what she was doing. “Haley!” Charlie called out, waving; the rest of us waved too. She saw us and waved back.
“You know what would be fun?” Charlie said. “We should go join Haley’s tour and ask silly questions.”
“Yeah!” I replied. “Let’s do it.”
Charlie and I got up and walked to the back of the group Haley was leading across the Quad, stopping at the southwest corner. “And this large building behind me is Shelley Library,” Haley explained. “A few departments have their own libraries, but most of the campus collection of books and periodicals is here. The library also features many study spaces, including an after-hours quiet room that is open 24 hours a day. Does anyone have any questions before we continue?”
I looked at Charlie, and he raised his hand, pointing toward the oddly-shaped Social Sciences Building across the Quad from us. “That building over there that looks like the Death Star,” he said. “Does it actually contain a green laser that destroys planets?”
I raised my hand next and began speaking without waiting to be called on, right after Charlie finished. “Do cows ever stampede across the campus, and if so, how hard is it to avoid stepping in poop afterward?”
Haley laughed. “These are my friends, Greg and Charlie,” she explained to the group. “They’re just being silly. If you come to the University of Jeromeville, you’ll meet fun, friendly people like Greg and Charlie.”
“Yeah, you will,” I said. “And you guys are lucky. You got the best tour guide ever.”
“Thanks,” Haley replied.
“Have a good one,” Charlie said, waving at Haley. “Enjoy the rest of your tour.”
“You too! See you guys later.”
“Bye, Haley,” I said. We turned around and walked back toward where we had been sitting with Pete and Taylor.
“So what classes do you have the rest of the day?” Charlie asked.
“English and physics,” I said. “And one tutoring group. What about you?”
“I’m done. All my classes on Wednesday are in the morning.”
“That must be nice. I’ve never had a good schedule like that. I’ve always had classes early in the morning, and I’ve always had classes Friday afternoon.”
“That’s a bummer.”
When we arrived back to where we had been sitting, Pete said, “You guys are crazy.”
“I know,” I replied, nodding.
“What time is it?” Taylor asked.
“12:50,” I answered, looking at my watch.
“I better get going to class.”
“Me too. But it was good seeing you guys.”
“You too,” Taylor replied
“Have a great day,” Charlie said.
“I will,” I said. “You too.”
I finished my English paper on Thursday night. On Friday, the sky was gray and threatening and stayed that way all day. It did not actually rain, although it looked like it was going to. Fake Spring had departed as suddenly as it had come. I decided not to take chances on my bike; I took the bus to school that morning, and I drove to Jeromeville Christian Fellowship that evening, paying to park on campus.
I have never done well with big decisions. Anything involving spending a large sum of money or a long-term commitment, I needed time to think about. I could not make such decisions impulsively. Usually it was not a matter of needing time to do research, or perform a cost-benefit analysis. Sometimes this was part of it, but often I would just need time for thoughts about the decision to form, to know whether or not it felt right. And I had a bad habit of second-guessing myself on big decisions.
Pete and Charlie needed a third person to join them in their new apartment for next year, and I needed a place to live. I had known Pete and Charlie since the day we started at UJ, and I trusted them not to be the weird and creepy roommates that were the makings of people’s roommate horror stories. I had no reason to keep hesitating, and after having this in the back of my mind for the last couple days, I felt ready to commit. I would tell them tonight.
By the time I arrived at the JCF large group meeting, the music was starting. I did not have time to talk to anyone. I found an empty seat near the front of the room and began singing. Cheryl, one of the JCF staff members, was doing the talk tonight. I tried to concentrate on her talk, and on the words of the song, but I could not get out of my mind the fact that I had to talk to Pete and Charlie about next year. That upcoming conversation weighed heavily on my mind the whole night.
After the last song and the closing prayer, I stood up nervously. I always got like this whenever I had something important or difficult to tell someone. I looked around the room for Pete or Charlie, and I saw them in the back of the room, talking with Taylor and Mike Knepper. I nervously walked toward them, waiting for a chance to jump into the conversation.
“So we’re going to sign the lease tomorrow afternoon,” Pete explained.
“Sounds good,” Mike replied. “I’ll be there.”
Oh, no. This was not what was supposed to happen. No one told me that I had competition, or that there would be a consequence for waiting more than two days to make a decision. I spoke up anyway, although at this point I was pretty sure I knew the answer to my question. “Pete?” I asked. “Are you guys still looking for another roommate?”
“I think we just found one,” he answered.
“Oh, okay,” I said. I stood there silently for another minute or so as the others talked, then I went back toward where I was sitting before. I missed my chance. I wished Pete and Charlie had told me the other day that I had a deadline. I probably would have been more decisive, since I had been thinking all along that I would tell them yes, that I wanted to live with them. But now they gave the remaining spot to Mike Knepper instead. And that meant I had to start stressing about finding a place to live. I sat down where I had been sitting earlier, staring at the wall in front of me as the worship band put their instruments away. A few minutes later, I saw Haley walking toward me out of the corner of my eye. I looked at her and waved, halfheartedly smiling.
“Hey, Greg,” Haley said. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah,” I replied. “Mostly. Pete and Charlie needed a third person to live with them next year, and I told them I might be interested. I was just about to tell Pete tonight that I wanted the spot, only to find out that Mike Knepper took my spot.”
“Oooh. That’s rough.”
“I don’t think they betrayed me on purpose. I never committed to anything. I just feel like they should have asked me first if someone else was interested. We just didn’t communicate.”
“It’s kind of my fault. I should have committed earlier. I hesitate and second-guess myself, and I miss out.”
“Yeah. I know what you mean.”
“But I just can’t bring myself to make a big decision that’ll involve a year-long commitment on a whim like that. I need time to think about it and let the decision set in my mind.”
“And that’s important. Having the right roommates is a big deal. One of our roommates, the one you probably don’t know, she got into a big argument with Kristina the other day. And it was over something little.”
“Yeah. Hopefully you guys will work that out.”
“Hey, if I happen to hear that any of the guys need another roommate for next year, I’ll let you know. Okay?”
“That would be awesome. Thank you so much.”
“You’re welcome! Hey, that was funny what you and Charlie did, jumping into my tour.”
“Thanks,” I said, laughing.
“Yeah. It caught me off guard, but I needed a good laugh.” Haley smiled, her blue eyes looking right at me, and I smiled back. “How’s school? Getting ready for finals?”
“Yeah. My finals are spread out this time.”
“That’s good. Mine are all at the end of the week. That gives me time to study, but I can’t get any of them out of the way.”
“Good luck on those.”
“You too. Hey, have you seen Kristina? I need to ask her something.”
I looked around the room; I did not see Kristina. “I don’t know where she is,” I replied.
“That’s ok. But I need to go look for her. You have a good weekend, okay, Greg?”
“I will. You too.”
Haley got up to look for Kristina, and I stood up and walked around, saying hi to other people and talking about school and finals. I honestly did not think that Pete and Charlie pulled the metaphorical rug out from under me intentionally. They needed to find a roommate, and since I was not ready, they found someone. But, as I had told Haley, I felt that it would have been nice if they had checked with me, since I had expressed interest.
With all of these people around, I should be able to find someone else who needed a roommate. Bible study was not meeting this coming week because of finals, but I would mention it when we got back after spring break. Maybe I would even ask my friends, or send an email, to let me know if they heard of anyone. I had already told my current apartment management that I would not be renewing my lease next year, hoping that I would be able to find a place where I did not have to live alone, so the option of staying where I was no longer existed. But there would be something out there for me. The key, as I said before, was a willingness to not be picky.
Although I had the sense that I had no reason to feel hopeless, my missed opportunity to live with Pete and Charlie in the apartment on B Street next year hung over my head all weekend. I was frustrated with myself for being so indecisive. When I was applying to universities two years ago, most of them had fixed application deadlines in November and December, and when I received acceptance letters in the early spring, I had around two months to make my decision. Of course, in this fast-paced world, everyone wanted their results immediately, and sometimes I would need to know what I wanted and go for it. I wondered if I was missing out on any other opportunities by not acting decisively…
P.S… this week marked two years since the first episode of this blog. Happy blogiversary to me!