Watching Darren pack up his stuff at the end of last year was a terrible feeling. I helped him take down his posters, pack his trophies into a box, and altogether just... get ready to leave me.
I knew that would happen, sure-- he was going to graduate before me in any case-- but when it came, it hurt more than I expected to see him leave. We weren't exactly friends, but we were teammates in football, and there was an underlying sense of camaraderie that gave me a bit of comfort within our cramped little dorm room.
This year, I'm getting a new roommate to fill up the empty side of my room. I know a little bit about him-- that he's in the same grade as me, that he used to be in a room of three and that's why he's being moved into my room now. I don't know much else, but I guess today is the day I learn.
I unpack what I'd brought home with me over the summer, until the door opens behind me.
I turn, and my first impression is already unimpressive.
The guy who stands in the doorway behind the hall's overseeing teacher, Mr. Thomas, is decidedly not who I expected, nor who I wanted, to room with.
He's tall, but that's mostly the insane platform boots if I had to guess. He has on a black-and-purple striped sweater under a black hoodie, and the black, ripped skinny jeans he's paired with that aren't even the worst part.
No, the worst part is that he's also got a full face of black makeup and black cross earrings dangling from his earlobes.
He's full-on goth.
I'm brought out of my thoughts by Mr. Thomas telling me, "Josh, this is Ezra Abramov. He'll be your new roommate. Ezra, Josh Preston."
Ezra gives me a nod. "Nice to meet you."
"Yeah, whatever," I say dismissively, turning back to making my bed.
He sighs. "Thank you, Mr. Thomas. I can handle myself from now."
Mr. Thomas leaves, and after Ezra says a quick goodbye to who must be his mother, we're left alone.
"Just so you know," I tell him, "just because we're roommates doesn't mean we're gonna be friends or anything."
"Okay, if you want to be that way." He sighs again and gets around to setting up his side of the room.
As I finish my side and turn to watch him (like I'd help-- ha!), I notice that almost everything he owns has the same black-and-purple motif. It looks so out of place next to the soft blues of my own side of the room, and it definitely looks nothing like what Darren's side used to look like. I can't believe this is the guy I got stuck with as a roommate.
But I've just gotta live with it now, right? I can't change this.
I don't have to be nice, but I do have to at least tolerate him. I can do whatever I want outside of here, but within the room, there needs to be a truce.
I guess I don't need to establish a truce unless I've done something bad though, right? Am I even planning to?
I might. Maybe it'd get him to leave me alone.
I watch him until dinnertime, when we gather in the dining hall with everyone else. For a prep school, Aerial is pretty chill, so there aren't assigned seats or anything. Just grab what you want to eat and sit with your friends. I usually sit with the football team, so I grab a seat with them now.
Ian, our senior team captain, is buried in what must be plays for the next game. On the other hand, Kieran (another senior and one of Ian's best friends) is eating like he's starving and also scrolling through his phone.
I realize I left my phone in my room, and sigh, but start in on my dinner. Ezra sits at the table with us, but far enough away that I just subtly glare at him and try to give off 'leave me alone' vibes. I don't want him trying to associate with me.
For a first day, it hasn't been the worst year. But I can't say I'm entirely optimistic, either...