“Call me Alex!”, he said that while standing up just next to the bed that he was probably occupying naked from the waist up, and smiling with a childish smile. I thought he was over-friendly, but his voice was so loud and firm, that I could not think of an appropriate semi-sarcastic response which which I could use to distance myself from him, without being rude (“OK”, “If you insist”, etc.), so I just shook his hand and started a regular conversation, asking him how old he was, for how long had he been staying there etc. but to my surprise, although still very friendly, he wasn’t at all eager to answer my questions, and it even seemed that some of them he did not know the answers of. So unusual were his reactions that for the first few days I had the suspicion that he might be “really insane” - a fact which understandably made me uncomfortable, especially since, given the fact that both of us were under the same circumstances, such categorizations were far from objective. My mind could help but think that probably I was insane and he was the normal one, and he seemed insane to me thus.
Alex had a huge scar on his left knee which I noticed immediately when I saw him and which made me want to immediately distance myself from him even more. An urge which did not dissolve even after I learned that he got it in a trivial way (sports incident) and was even strenghtened by my my realization that it weren’t the scar, nor his cheerfulnes which crept me out, it was his hair, the way he wanted to shake hands, and all the other numerous ways in which he looked just like me.
“So what do you do for fun?” I asked, consciously trying to distance myself from him by emphasizing our differences by talking about my weird hobbies which I was sure would be to him most alien, “I like to read”. But he just gave me a thumbs up and changed the subject leaving me with no choice but to make friends with him.
I usually picked my friends very carefully, never approaching them until they have passed some of my elaborate mental tests, like imagining them in hard situations and seeing how would they escape from them, or, perhaps more importantly, imagining us hanging out together and assesing if we look cool enough. It was true that recently I started abandoning this practice. But that was not because I didn’t want for my friends to comform to my criteria, rather it was because I just started realising that I was too bad at judging the people around me for me to provide a decent enough assesment. But that kind of reasoning clearly wasn’t valid for Alex’s, as he was clearly not a person whom I could interest in science, hard nor soft, neither with any of my other interests. Which meant that although he seemed accepting, he could not be a person who can be anything more than my roommate.
“And who are you?” Alex’s voice was so loud that it somehow got into my head and made me replay all kinds of memories that I thought identified my personality, like my acceptance in the Sofia Mathematics College (where I have been studying for the past 10 years), and also things that I wanted to forget but could not, like my first poor mark which I got shortly after my admission in the same school, which was the first time I tasted marijuanna. I don’t know why, but I couldn’t get rid of that memory, althought the occasion was completely uneventful. Perhaps it was because of my obsession to always have control over my behavior and, if possible, over everything around me. And then I though, maybe it was this obsession, and not my obsession with mathematics, which was the defining characteristic of my personality. Perhaps if Alex were indeed interested in who am I, I would have to tell him that story and how terrible I felt then. It was not the fact that I was high that unnerved me - it was the fact that I could not stop being high on command and transition to whatever state I wanted to be in a given moment.
That is what I would have told Alex if he was really interested in me, but he of course wasn’t - he just wanted to know my name. As for the fact that I was a control freak, seeing the way he was looking at me he, had probably already gotten it by then.
“Sorry, I am a bit of a dork” I said trying to apologise for not responding to his very simple request, while at the same time spicing up my persona with some self-irony. “It’s OK, me too” he responded softly. Althought I was sure that he was doing it just to make me feel good, his response actually offended me in several ways: firstly because he chose to take what I said literary, as opposed to the joke which it partly was and secondly because he chose to agree with it instead of trying to convince me that I was wrong. And the fact that he assumed the dork identity actually made it worse, as it looked like he was doing it just because he pitied me, which was the last thing that I needed.
Had he been a real dork, his gesture would have been gladly accepted by me, only he actually seemed like the exact opposite - one only needed to see the way he stood up - calm, fearless, not feeling a single bit of shame over his naked body (in which there also wasn’t anything to be ashamed about) to see that any of my issues such as the ones I mentioned above would for him be most alien. He seemed to me like a person who, for example, when rejected by a girl whom he wanted to date would, not feel crushed but exhauted by the occurence of so unlikely an event.
This was the way I perceived Alex, although I was sure that this wasn’t the whole truth especially since he was here with me - to him maybe his issues were serious, just as my issues were serious for me.
Had we been able to switch places for some time, we both would have probably been able to realise that and live the rest of our lives lives care-free not needing any kind of therapy. This thought were, for some time, so vivid that made me want to actually switch places with him and not only figuratively - I had to become as strong as him, and as confident as him and to adopt his character, only so I can then better appreciate my own character to which I would go back to after a couple of months - a process which, I imagined, would cure me from all kinds of anxiety forever. Only after I spoke with Alex for a couple of hours had I realised that it was impossible to do - his personality was becoming even more illogical for me with every new piece of information I was learning about him, his decision to make friends with me being the most illogical of them all.
“You want to meet with my girlfriend and her friends?” he asked me while I was looking at my opened suitcase. I pointed at my luggage and smiled half-jokingly laghing at him. Of course I did not want to go anywhere, I had just arrived and I have work to do. I smiled for a few seconds more, but he just smiled back and continued talking about his girlfriend (she was coming from a rich family, she was always looking very sexy, even in her uniform etc.) with a smile on his face and I started imagining that he was actually laughing back at me, thinking something like “What kind of loser would spend his evening tidying up his clothes, where there are so much more interesting things to do”. It was as if his whole posture was dictating these words to me and one had to just find a systematic way to analyse it in order to spell them out. And so I said “OK” and I went out with him.
“I hate this place.”