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By: Ape

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Across our miniscule dorm room, my roommate's sniffles became louder.

It was our first week of classes at UCLA. My roommate and I were randomly assigned to be one another's roommates. She -- a tall, white, sturdy girl from Northern California -- and I -- a short, sturdy
Asian girl from Southern California -- made an interesting pair. We were both pretty laid back, though, so we got along immediately.

Except for that one night.

Our beds stood only four feet apart, but even as it became obvious that she was crying, I ignored her. I thought to myself "It's none of your business. If she wanted to talk, she would say something." These two thoughts repeated in my mind over and over again as I pretended to read Ishiguro.

After a few minutes, she ran out of the room, and the heavy wooden door slammed behind her. Moments later, I heard loud keening through the door. I heard nearby floor mates' doors opening, and offering solicitous words to my homesick roommate. Even as my face turned hot with panic and shame, I gripped my book and my eyes raced over words, trying desperately to continue reading. It wasn't working, though. My mind was somewhere else.

Shit.

I screwed up.

I should have said something.

But I didn't.

To this day, I can't say exactly why I didn't ask my roommate what was wrong when I heard her sniffling across the room. I didn't even look up. Maybe it was because growing up, crying was met with exasperation and accusations of weakness. I learned that "crying doesn't fix anything," and you better stop crying, regain your composure, and pretend like nothing happened. Fast. Even when I was 26, heartbroken, and unable to control my tears during a family dinner, my parents and sisters dutifully looked away from me and continued their lively conversation. Criers don't deserve sympathy.

It took me many years and a few rifts in friendships to learn that sadness and grief should not be ignored or met with cold stoicism. That empathy and kindness are essential. That even if it feels weird , you should still ask "Are you OK?"

 
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At The Laundromat is a supportive online community that exists to challenge the taboo of talking. We welcome you to air your dirty laundry – your past, your emotions, your fears, and your questions – in a safe space. ATL is also an online extension of Vanessa A. Yee’s documentary featuring young Asian Americans breaking the silence that takes hold of their lives and their families. So speak. Write. We’ll listen.
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