It’s that dreadful time of year again- housing at Loyola. There are tears, arguments and long phone calls to Mom because you don’t know what to do. I’m only reminded of my experience last year. I went through the tears, arguments, and long phone calls but made it to six names on a housing agreement sheet and an apartment in Newman by the end of March. Or so I thought.
It’s mid August, I get a phone call from Gina (named changed) expecting her to ask me if I can bring the coffeepot because she’s bringing the microwave. But I was wrong.
“Hey Ange. I really have to tell you something important. I’m not coming back to Loyola.”
WHAT?! I’m moving-in in a week. She can’t be serious.
“Where are you going, Gina?” I try to respond calmly.
“I’m transferring to University of Delaware. They have a better program for my major,” Gina explains.
“Oh. Okay. We’re going to miss you.”
“I’ll come visit. Don’t worry.” She assures me.
We talk briefly for a few more minutes and wish each other luck in the upcoming semester. I immediately dial Gina’s would have been direct roommate, Christine to try to understand what exactly is going on. Christine and my roommate Fiona had just been on vacation with Gina a few weeks prior and said nothing to me about Gina not returning to Loyola.
Christine answers the phone and already knows what I want to talk about. She’s furious with Gina for not saying anything until August when she knew since at least May. Christine informed me that Gina still had not told our mutual best friend, Fiona, who is also my roommate that she was transferring before Fiona went to Spain for ten days. Needless to say, no one was excited about the situation. We understood why she needed to transfer; we just did not understand how could she wait until almost move-in to break the news. We’re supposed to be friends.
Fast forward to move-in day. I receive a phone call from Gina, hysterically crying about wanting to come back and already not liking Delaware. Classes hadn’t even started for either of us and she had moved in just the day before. I convince her to video chat with the rest of my roommates and we all tell her she has to give Delaware a chance. She tells us her parents are willing to pick her up and bring her to Loyola today so that she can start the semester with us, if she really wants to and if we want her to come live with us. It all seemed so ridiculous. We all had just been getting used to the idea of no Gina and Delaware really does have a better program for her major. We tell her not to come back, give Delaware a shot, and she signs off of video chat.
In Victor Turner’s “Images of Anti-temporality: An Essay in the Anthropology of Experience,” he discusses the passage of time and how people change. He says, “those we are ‘with’ or ‘for’ today may become those we are ‘against’ or moving ‘away from’ tomorrow. Time makes friends foes, foes friends, lovers indifferent, divorces spouses and espouses divorcees. Groups split like cells in nature and splice with the splinters from other groups, “ (245). Gina in a matter of days went from being one of our closest friends to someone we felt like we did not know. We went from being excited to live with her to unwilling to have her move in. Our feelings were hurt that she couldn’t give us a heads up about not coming back and then sticking us on the rollercoaster of possibility of coming back.
We spend the next seventy-two hours anxious that any minute Gina and her parents will be here to move her in. Any knocks on the door and there’s a reminder, “Check first to see if it’s Gina!” Followed by giggles. This appears as a release of what Spencer would refer to as nervous energy. After all, Gina could really show up at doorstep with her bedspread and backpack, ready to be a Loyola student.
My roommates and I go on our apartment-shopping spree. We are picking out fake flowers for our common room, when we find a single black rose among the flowers. Fiona says to Christine, “Get this for Gina’s bed! It can be your roommate!” We all burst out laughing.
“In memory of Gina,” giggles Christine as she twirls the rose in her hand. It is slightly morbid but she was no longer a physical presence in our Loyola lives. This is similar to part of Freud’s idea of humor. We were trying to protect ourselves from experiencing the pain of the loss of our good friend, by making a joke out of her leaving Loyola.
We purchase the single flower and place it on the empty bed in our apartment. After the first day of classes, Fiona reports that in the classes she would have had with Gina, that the professors pronounced her name incorrectly and asked where she was during attendance. We all giggled at the mispronunciation of her name and joked, “Oh, don’t worry, she’ll probably be here on Wednesday.”
Days later, Gina calls us and let’s us know she will be remaining at University of Delaware for the semester and she’ll see about coming back for spring. We leave the conversation relieved it’s cleared up for this semester and anxious about spring. She reminds us she’ll be visiting in a few weeks.
Turner also says, “Obviously, when human beings gaze upon other beings, unmasked by pressured events, nothing can afterwards be quite the same, with regard to relationships, as it was before the social drama began,” (248). Here’s what Gina was missing. It’s not the same. We adjusted to her action of withholding information and not being a constant presence in our lives. She expected everything to have remained the same from our first year of college. Instead we have running jokes with our R.A. about our mysteriously missing sixth roommate that he still makes door decorations for and puts her on our bulletin board. We always offer anyone who is a frequent visitor in our apartment to move in and be our sixth roommate. And every so often we try to imagine what life would be like if Gina lived with us.