by Michelle Jones.
She walked into our room.
“We have a meeting at one,” The Beth said, “Don’t be late.”
Then she stormed out again.
We sit in the two chairs in our mentor’s room and the mentor sits on her bed as The Beth starts telling us about her day.
“So why are we here today,” the mentor interrupts.
What was her name again? I think it’s something French.
The Beth takes it upon herself to start before I can take a breath.
“I don’t think our last meeting helped,” she says. “She doesn’t talk to me about anything…”
Of course I don’t, she is never there!
“She brought that TV in and is always watching it..”
How would she know? Again, she is never there!
“She always has it on loud too!”
Great, now that she is on her rant-page she’ll never stop talking. It feels like every time we are in the same room, she goes off like this. First she will start talking in a Jersey accent, and tries to do the sideways head bob to emphasize her words. Every time she bobs her head, I feel like I should knock her head back into place.
“She is never considerate of what I want…”
Then she becomes louder. Oh God, let it stop. I hate the sound of her voice, please make it stop … what is that on the floor?
“She stays up late, again, with that stupid TV.”
Is it a squished cockroach?
“She is always talking on our phone…”
The roach is disgusting. How could she sleep knowing that is on the floor? Is the mentor so lazy that she couldn’t pick it up after she killed it? Or does she not know it is there?
Has my desperate plea of silence been answered? Is she done?
“She is always in our room,” She finished.
I sat up straighter. Where was I supposed to go? I came from another state! I opened my mouth and closed it, then took a deep breath. I’ll get my turn to talk. No matter what, I will try to act like an adult. It’s unfortunate we were randomly placed together but, this is supposed to be college, not elementary school.
Our mentor began with the rule that we would go through each thing that was bothering us and that we will each say our part.
Yeah. Lets see how long The Beth allows someone other than herself to speak. After living with her for the past three and a half months, I’ve learned that she loves the sound of her own voice and will not hesitate to interrupt. She always thinks Her opinions are the only ones that matter.
The Beth starts speaking (surprise), about the TV issue again. She brought this issue up during our last meeting as well, telling our mentor that she was unhappy because I brought a TV into our room without consulting her about it and that now she couldn’t see out of our room into the hallway from her desk because it was so big.
Poor baby, she can’t sit at her desk and pretend to do homework while eavesdropping on our neighbors for the latest gossip anymore. I hate when she does that.
“Michelle?” the mentor now had her attention on me.
I looked at her, and took a deep breath. This is going to be long and exhausting, I can feel it. “We spoke about this issue in our first meeting, remember?”
She wanted me to remind her of my answer from the first meeting.
I reiterated that she agreed to bring her TV from home. This way I wouldn’t have to buy a new one. After two weeks, I asked if there was something wrong with her TV.
“No, it’s fine. I’m just not sure we need one in our room,” she replied.
“Please bring it in, or I’ll find one to bring in,” I had told her.
The Beth rolled her eyes at me and spit out, “Fine, I don’t care. I’m not bringing mine, so go ahead and find one.”
I took that as a final word on her part, and called up my grandpa. It turns out that he had a thirty inch TV he wasn’t using, and he brought it to me over the weekend. She was never around anyway, so why would she care if I watch TV?
“Yeah! That thing is huge. How was I supposed to know you were going to bring that giant thing into our room,” The Beth interjected. “If I had known that, I would have brought in my own.”
I gave her an impassive glance.
It looked like she was going to start arguing again when the mentor cut in. She asked if I really wanted a TV in the room, and I told her that I like watching movies and having it on for noise. Then she asked The Beth if she was willing to bring in her TV from home in exchange for the big one I have now. She responded with a negative.
“Ok,” the mentor tried to look like she was handing out the final word. “The TV stays in your room, but”
It looked like she was struggling to find a compromise.
After a couple of seconds, her eyes brightened as if she thought of something clever.
“But, you Michelle, will decide what to do with it on the even days, and Beth will decide what to do on the odd days.”
I raise an eyebrow. Mentors really should have some training to deal with these issues, but I agree anyway, telling her that was fine, and The Beth also begrudgingly agrees.
“Next on the list is communication,” the mentor tells us, bringing up a spiral bound notebook.
Did she really take notes on The Beth’s complaining?
“I always talk to her,” She starts out. “But she doesn’t listen to me.”
She sounds like a child whining to mom. Next she is going to start crying and telling her how I don’t play with her anymore.
“Do you really listen to her Michelle?” the mentor asked.
“No you don’t! How can you sit there and say you listen to me when all you do is . . .”
She really loves the sound of her voice.
I let her rant for a while longer looking at the mentor the entire time.
When there was a pause, I cut in. “Can I speak again?” I received a nod and continued.
I explained that I am a quiet person to begin with and I was taught to say nothing if I didn’t have anything nice to say. She is always bad mouthing her friends and complaining about everything under the sun. I pointed out that I don’t like the way she talks about her supposed “best friend” and boyfriend, like they are nothing but scum on the bottom of her shoe.
It had started on the first day. As we moved into the dorm, her friend popped by to see how the rooms were set up. She lived a couple miles away from campus and didn’t want to waste money just to have a dorm experience.
“Only poor people say that,” The Beth had told her.
I was thrown by Her statement. How could she speak to her friend that way? The derogatory comments continued for the rest of the day.
“Did you just cut your hair?” when she received a nod, “It’s hideous, you should get your money back.”
“Did you get your classes?” Nod, “Well you should at least experience a university classroom for a semester, it’s not like you’ll be here for long.”
“Did you get your books yet?” Shakes head, “I figured. You might have to go to an off campus bookstore. It’s catered to those who don’t have money.”
On and on this went. I couldn’t stand to be in the same room anymore and left with an excuse about joining a friend for lunch. Her friend was taking the verbal abuse and didn’t even try standing up for herself.
“I don’t bad mouth people,” The Beth said.
I gave her one of those are-you-fucking-serious looks, then turned away. I knew if I opened my mouth not-nice words were going to come out.
The mentor again found an obvious compromise. She told The Beth to speak of only positives and to say nothing if she didn’t have anything nice to say. I was given the task of trying to communicate with her better.
She looked at the spiral notebook again.
I guess the mentor did take notes. I think her name starts with an M.
“What can we do about the phone situation?” she asked.
Before she could answer, I said, “We already pay for the phone in our dorm bill, and it only reaches people in Tucson. In order to keep my cell phone bill low, I talk to my grandpa and friend through the dorm phone. And I only talk to them maybe two, three times max, during the week.”
I was a little more than halfway through my explanation when she starts talking over me. At this point, my wall of calm is starting to erode and I just continue to talk over her as if she wasn’t speaking.
I just need to keep taking deep breaths. I can’t let her get to me.
The Beth just kept talking as I stared at the cockroach again. The shell was flat, and some of its insides were in a halo around it. I hope my room is far enough away from this one, just in case she creates an infestation of these nasty, never-dying, bugs.
Or maybe her name starts with a J?
I don’t even know why she is complaining about the phone in the first place. She never uses it anyway. I heard the inflection of a question pointed in my direction and looked up. I guess the mentor was waiting for my answer to her compromise.
I went ahead and gave an affirmative. So far she has been pretty fair, albeit obvious.
After consulting her spiral notebook, she chose the next topic. “Why do you think Michelle is always in the dorm room?” she asked Beth.
“I don’t know. She never goes out. She is always in there. It’s like she doesn’t have any friends. Well, I know she has the one. And she doesn’t go out to socialize or get her own groceries. She…”
She is going to be on a tirade for a while.
“And she is always there, even when I want to lie down and rest for a bit. But I don’t feel comfortable with her sitting on her bed staring at me when I sleep,” she finally finished.
I don’t even know what to talk about first, and I felt the wall of calm break a fraction more, my shoulder giving a small involuntary twitch.
“I don’t even know how you came to that last point about me staring at you. Because I don’t, but I am always in the dorm room because there is no where else for me to go.” I slowly enunciated. Hopefully it will penetrate her brain, but I am starting to have serious doubts about her sanity.
“Yeah, she lives in California, where do you want her to go?” the mentor asked still baffled about her ranting.
She said that I could go to the library, which is a twelve minute walk from our dormitory. I could go to my friend’s house, but she has a job on the weekend and can’t always pick me up. I could go to my grandpa’s, but what she doesn’t know is that even though I love him to death, I don’t always want to spend my weekends with a chain-smoking alcoholic. Then she looked at me as she told me to make more friends.
I think she must still be mad at me for “driving” her friend away something she did all on her own.
When The Beth’s friend came over one day, she walked in and sat right on her bed and stared blankly at the wall.
It was a little awkward but I had to ask if she was OK.
“Oh, Beth said she’d be by in an hour to talk to me.” She actually made her “friend” wait an hour in the dorm, while she had something to eat in the cafeteria. Of course, I had to ask why she put up with being told what to do, and being belittled, when she could have better friends.
Apparently I got through to her. They had a huge argument outside the dorm that day, with the friend saying that she won’t speak to her unless The Beth started to treat her better.
I was so proud of her for sticking up for herself.
Looking back at the mentor, I waited for the next topic, not even paying attention to the compromise section of her speech.
“How can you be more considerate of one another?” she asked.
“Well, she can stop talking about me behind my back,” The Beth said with as much attitude as she could muster. She even had the head bob down.
“What do you mean?” the mentor asks.
“She talks about me to her friends all the time, I know it. So I had to be sure the other day.”
So that is what she was doing. I laughed.
“Is that why you hid in the closet?” I had to ask.
The mentor looked startled and The Beth looked flustered. “No, I was doing my homework.”
“In a closet?” I asked her incredulously.
“Well where am I supposed to do my homework?” She asked.
Even the mentor looked a little stumped on how to react.
I still can not believe that she hid in her closet for two hours while I was talking to my mom and watching TV. It had to be cramped in there, it isn’t any more than three feet by two feet with clothes above her head, and shoes layering the bottom.
Gradually, her closet door started to open a couple inches every ten minutes or so. By the time the two-hour mark came, she slammed her closet door open, gave me the dirtiest look she could muster and slammed the door on her way out.
As I told the story, The Beth was constantly interrupting. I was becoming more frustrated. My ears started to burn, and I could feel my hands start to shake.
The mentor didn’t know what to do with that story
“You know, I think you should move out,” The Beth said.
Again she stunned the mentor speechless.
And I… I was on my last leg. My patience was about to be thrown out the window. My jaw clenched, and my legs started to twitch.
“I am not moving out,” I tried in a calm voice. “I requested that room, and I am not going to leave that room.”
She continued on saying that she doesn’t feel like we are going to be getting along at all, and that one of us is just going to have to move out.
All of her mistreatment of her friend, boyfriend, my friend, and myself came rushing at me like a wave. A therapist once told me that my anger is like a soda can. Someone is going to shake, and shake, and shake until the can finally explodes. And I had reached the explosion.
“… and it’s not like you go anywhere anyway, and…” she continued.
“Listen to me and shut your trap,” I started out quietly.
“I am not going to take your verbal abuse anymore,” I told her, then looked to the mentor enunciating every word. My anger felt like it was filling the room every time I spoke, “I am tired of her antics, I am tired of her childish behavior. I want her out of my room. I requested it, it is MY room.”
The Beth didn’t interrupt me once, surprisingly, and instantly conceded. I stood over her when she filled out the necessary paperwork. Then she left to go home for the weekend.
Watching her leave the mentor’s room. I was still shaking, and felt a massive headache coming on, but it felt like a heavy weight was lifted from my shoulders and I was able to breathe again.
The mentor twitched when I looked at her, to say goodbye. “You are frightening when angry,” the she told me. She gave a nervous laugh while skirting around where I stood, showing me out of her room, and wished me a better afternoon.
A month from that meeting, The Beth still turned tail, and ran away whenever she saw me. She ran away whether I saw her in the dorm, the cafeteria, or out on campus. I am still baffled as to why and it still makes my friend laugh when I showed her how frightened she was of me. But I didn’t care. It was the first time I stood up for myself without my family and friends there to help.