Unexpected Guests and Unlikely Friends – A Commentary
HOST INTRO: In the latest from our commentary series, reporter Maggie Green remembers the day an unwelcome guest introduced her to her best friend.
GREEN: When I was in high school, my parents kept close tabs on me. So when I went to college, I was so ready to be independent. I was excited to take the classes I wanted to take, make new friends, and eat what I wanted to eat. I was ready to be an adult.
Liliana Varman was my roommate-to-be. We had been messaging on Facebook all summer. And we seemed compatible. I was from Tennessee, she was from Texas. We both liked musical theatre and thought we’d be science majors. We both admitted that we were pretty messy.
When Liliana walked into our room that afternoon, she was fresh off a pre-orientation camping trip. She was wearing a dirt-covered t-shirt and had stickers on her face. In that moment, I realized we might not have so much in common as I’d thought.
Every night, I went out with my new college friends. We went to parties and sat in the quad until late. Liliana stayed in our room and Skyped her friends from home. I’d come back at 1, 2 a.m., and she’d look up from her laptop, and we’d sort of acknowledge each other. At the time I thought she was judging me for being out so late, that she thought I was a crazy party girl.
Over the next month, we became friendly. We shared a few inside jokes. We did our chemistry homework together. But we didn’t talk very much. We didn’t plan meals together or go out to see our classmates in shows or concerts. She had her friends, and I had mine. We were just…roommates.
One night in October I was fast asleep, my comforter pulled tight. And then suddenly, I heard Liliana scream.
“MAAAAGGGGIIIIIIEEEEE!!!!! MAAAAAGGGGIIIIEEEEE!!!!!!! OH MY GOD MAAAAAGGGIIIEEEEEE!!!!!”
It was 5:30 in the morning. I kept my eyes closed and tried to ignore her. She kept screaming.
“THERE. IS. A. MOUSE. IN. OUR. ROOM!!!”
“BEHIND THE NIGHTSTAND!!”
I opened my eyes. Her bedside lamp was on. Her bedspread was crumpled up on the mattress. But Liliana wasn’t on her bed. She was across the room, standing on her wooden desk by the door, hopping from one foot to the other, hands clasped over her mouth, gasping, Oh my god oh my god OH MY GOD!” I’m pretty sure she even made hissing sounds like a cat.
I decided I was going to have to do something to put her mind at ease. I sat up in bed, picked up my laptop and googled, “How to make a mousetrap,”. There were lots of plans involving boxes and string and tools we didn’t have on hand in a college dorm room in the middle of the night.
So I gathered a cleaning bucket, a toilet paper roll, a chocolate bar, and a stack of books.
First, I piled the books into a staircase, each one just about an inch displaced from the one below. Then I broke the chocolate into little pieces and placed a bit on each step so the mouse would climb to the top of the book steps.
Liliana watched closely, occasionally making a hissing sound to keep the mouse at bay.
I put the toilet paper roll on top of the books with the biggest piece of chocolate at one end. That end hung over the bucket. If the mouse tried to get the chocolate, the cardboard tube would topple into the bucket and the mouse would be stuck.
After half an hour, I was done. I told Liliana it would definitely work. She seemed convinced. Or at least convinced enough to get down off the desk.
She thanked me again and again. I went back to bed, closed my eyes and said, “Shhhhhh.”
The next morning the bucket was still empty. After a few days there was a little dust in it, but no mice. But Liliana and I started going to meals together. We told everyone the story of our mouse. She went on and on about the trap I made. I laughed and said I’d have done anything to get her to stop screaming at 5 a.m. After that, we started making weekend plans together. Sometimes we would talk and listen to music long into the night.
Liliana finally had someone away from home that she could trust to take care of her when she needed help. I had someone I could be vulnerable with when I felt homesick. Today she is still the first person I call when I need to pull myself out of a bad mood. And even if I don’t call, she’ll reach out every few weeks to let me know she’s thinking of me.
We never did see that mouse again. But every year after that, Liliana somehow found a mouse in her room. Even after college. It almost seems like she attracts them. But she always texts me when she sees one. And she says she needs me to come to her rescue and build her another trap.