Other People

There was a knock at the door, and before she could react, it opened.

Her roommate stuck his head in. “You busy?”

“Sort of. I’m working on this paper.”

“Oh.”

“Do you need something?”

“I was going to ask if I could just sit in here for awhile. But now that I say it aloud, it sounds crazy. And I don’t want to bother you.” He started to close the door.

“Wait. You want to sit in here?”

“Yeah, but it’s okay.”

“Are you all right?”

He hesitated a moment before answering. “No.”

“Do you want to talk about it?”

“No.”

“So just sit?”

“Yeah.”

“Come in. Do you want me to sit with you?”

“No.”

“Okay.”

He walked in rather sheepishly and sat on the floor with his back against the wall. He had positioned himself so that he wasn’t facing her directly. She was acutely aware of his presence, but it was his absence that struck her the most. Wherever he was, it wasn’t in her room.

“Let me know if you need anything.”

“Yep.” And then he was gone again.

They had been roommates for the better part of a year, and friends for years before that. She knew he had spells where he spent a lot of time alone in his room, but he was a good roommate: always paid his share of the bills on time, helped with the housework, and was pretty quiet. This, though, was a new one. She really didn’t mind; it was just something he’d never done before.

He was being unobtrusive, though, so she turned her attention back to her computer and kept working. The work was engrossing, and before long, she forgot he was even there. After several more pages, she looked at the time in the corner of the screen. An hour had passed. She turned around to find him in the same position, still staring off, a million miles away.

She stood, walked over to him, and sat down by his side. Very lightly, she touched his arm. “Hey.”

Turning to her, his eyes held the vacant gaze for another beat before they focused on her. “Yeah?”

“What’s going on?”

He shook his head. “I’m sorry. I’m bugging you.”

“Actually, you’re not. I’ve made a lot of progress. I just wanted to check on you.”

“Sometimes, it’s just nice to be around other people. Don’t even need to interact. Just be around them. You know?”

“Yeah.”

“Thanks.” He rested his head lightly on her shoulder. She could feel tears start to soak through her shirt.

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