We met on move-in day. The air was thick with anticipation and sweat from our fatigued bodies as we dragged our meager, yet still bulky possessions through the house and began the long process of arranging them. I was in the bathroom, washing my hands. They appeared, emerging from the Big Stall. Our eyes locked in the mirror. Their face went blank and they froze in surprise. I half-smiled, still trying to make a good impression, and beat a hasty retreat.
This was the beginning of our long and ongoing relationship as Bathroom Buddies. Never speaking above a mumble, barely meeting each other’s eye, we’ve seen each other every day since then. Somehow, each new meeting is still tinged with almost excruciating awkwardness. We both know that the gods of fate have thrown us together, for better or for worse, but neither of us seems to want to acknowledge that. It would be a breach of etiquette.
Encounters with Bathroom Buddies in areas other than their natural habitat should be avoided at all costs. Not only is it just weird to see them fully clothed and pursuing activities other than hygiene, it’s also even more uncomfortable. In the bathroom, each person supposedly has business to attend to: showering, washing hands, removing contact lenses, etc., so pretending to ignore the other person is easy enough. Running into them in the hall, or, worst of all, the Deece, leaves you without a safety net. How can you look at them existing out in the world and know what it sounds like when they pee?
Even the daily sink-side rendezvous is a challenge. Somehow, we manage to time it so that we’re always brushing our teeth together. A supposedly simple and private task has become another uncomfortable social interaction fraught with peril: “How long do I need to brush my teeth so that they won’t judge me for being unhygienic? How long is too long? And they started thirty seconds before I did, so why are they still not done? I have to win this!!!” We’ve had several Bring It On-style “brush-offs” (minus the creepy sexual tension, thankfully). I’m definitely winning, but I’m not sure if they’re keeping score or not. They should be.
In the many silent interludes spent together, I find myself itemizing aspects of my Bathroom Buddy’s person, making mental notes to craft a strange sort of blazon composed of cowlicks, small t-shirt stains, slightly too short or too long pajama bottoms and the occasional and perplexing fashion faux pas of socks with shower shoes. The color of their toothbrush, the length of their shower, the strange way they rinse out their mouth, all these create a more detailed portrait of the person they are, yet I still know absolutely nothing about them.
Despite this small detail, we share so many strangely personal experiences, almost like a married couple. We see each other each morning and evening, in various states of undress. We pee at the same time. We bathe at the same time. We grimace at each other when the soap and paper towels inevitably run out. We hit each other with the bathroom door upon exiting and entering. College’s strange way of throwing people together has worked its magic, but neither of us knows what to do about it. We’re living together, but we’re not quite sure how that should work.
The Bathroom Buddy is a strange relationship, familiarity juxtaposed with discomfort, intimacy with anonymity, host to all of our private proclivities and hygienic habits. It requires an intricate dance of openness and avoidance rarely experienced before. No matter the awkwardness, your relationship with your Bathroom Buddy will last the duration of the year. Even if it’s strange and awful, it is possible to get through it with a little effort and consideration: keep the romance alive like you would in any other relationship and don’t shit when the other person is in the room.