A roommate, as promised

I was told I would be getting a roommate many times in the last several months. Two weeks ago, they said a new roommate was coming that afternoon. This time, she showed up.

One of the housekeepers came in early to consolidate my things on one side of the room, and within a couple of hours my new roommate, whom I will call Darlene, moved in. She has been here more than a month in another room on the front hall. The only thing I knew about her is that she goes back and forth to take smoke breaks several times a day. I never had the occasion to speak with her.

She moved in, and I started chatting with her like I would with any stranger I might meet. I thought if I told her a bit about myself and what I do during the day, it might reassure her.I told her that the room would be fairly quiet because I do not watch TV anymore. I told her I turned it down because Mr. M next door became agitated with the sound of the TV. But I could never lower the volume enough so he would not make a fuss. I decided more than three years ago to forgo TV, get a laptop and use my headset instead. Now, Mr. M cannot hear any loud noise coming from me in this room.

Nothing I said changed her expression. She showed no emotion, and her affect is totally flat. Darlene did not say anything to me that first day, which made me uncomfortable. She later asked me if my insurance paid for the room. I told her it paid for part of it, and my Social Security Disability Insurance paid for the rest. She said nothing else.

The next day, Darlene was too cold with my window air conditioner on and wanted it turned off. She said the window is on her side of the room and my air conditioner should not be in it. I told her I was not trying to freeze her. I explained that there is no other place to put a room air conditioner unit but in the window. Somehow, the nurses were able to smooth things. Darlene occasionally still gets too chilly and complains about the air conditioner.

Since then, Darlene and I have what seems like an armed truce. The only time she was halfway pleasant was when I offered her a piece of chewing gum, which my aide gave her.

Darlene is not compliant with toileting as requested by the aides during the night, and there are altercations at times. She also chats with at least two other people when we are in the room by ourselves. At first, I found Darlene’s conversations with herself a bit creepy. The intensity of her shrillness and the silliness of her laugh belie her stone face.

When there is shouting and upheaval, I feel discomfited. However, I am trying to be a good neighbor and roommate. I am hopeful both Darlene and me will soon feel less threatened and a bit more comfortable.

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