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Wednesday, 26 February 2014

My roommate and I

Days often pass with just a few glimpses of each other and a hurried smile and a 'Hi', and maybe a 'How was your day?' - to which she'll say 'Good' and that will be the end of our interaction for the day. Mostly we each just lead our own lives, hardly crossing the lines into each other's territory, unless it's to borrow or lend something or request that the lights be switched off.

But sometimes she will ask me if I can help with her ESL (Engish as a Second Language) HW (She is Chinese) and I will spend an hour with her, correcting her sentences and suggesting topic sentences. I will receive a very grateful 'Thank you' and will retreat to my side of the room, feeling benevolent and generous. Sometimes she will say, 'Have you done this in Calculus yet?' or will ask for help understanding the bank's customer service representative. I am always glad to help.

Our conversations can never run very deep. They are stilted and halting, as each of us tries to make ourselves understood. We can never quite share an experience, or talk about a topic of common interest, because our ability to communicate stops just short. We try to talk to each other, stumbling over the commonplaces, and laughing a little uncomfortably when one of us doesn't understand the other. Our conversations run along strugglingly for ten minutes, and then both of us smile and retreat back into our worlds.

She is my almost-friend. Not an acquaintance, because I know her better than that and I like her; I'm pretty sure she likes me too. I've had acquaintances, and I've had friends, but an almost-friend is a new experience. A new experience I'm quite happy to have.