I paid for my food and walked over to a near-empty table. I shook the crumbs off the fluorescent orange chair across from my roommate and sat down with my tray. People nearby were talking loudly about how drunk they were last night, which happened to be a Thursday.
She and I talked spiritedly over our bland cafeteria meal about what great fun it would be to go backpacking. I pushed the rice around on my plate, because it was kind of hard and chewy, and left the chicken to sit there in its dryness. I felt bad about wasting a whole piece of chicken but it really was repulsive. My vegetables were the best part and they were even worse-tasting than normal. But I ate them for health’s sake anyway.
I finished eating and started on my cookie while my roommate went back to help herself to a dessert. She returned with Smarties and I sighed deeply, making myself as comfortable as I could in my plastic chair.
My roommate has obsessive-compulsive disorder. It doesn’t always show, but I really notice it when she eats Smarties.
I watched her dump the bag onto a napkin and a crease formed above her eyebrows as she concentrated intently on the task at hand.
First she sorted them into clusters by colour. She was a little horrified that there were only three green Smarties and the brown ones seemed to come in two shades, but she seemed to get past that all right. She just sorted the browns very meticulously.
I watched her sort them into vertical columns, two-by-two, colour-wise. Then she began to eat them to even out all the rows. That was when an acquaintance of ours came by and snuck up on her from behind. My eyes were too glazed over to even notice him coming, so by the time I thought to warn her it was too late.
When she’s in her OCD-mode, she’s more jumpy because of the intense concentration. She jumped and screamed a little, and then he saw her nice array of Smarties on the table.
“Obsessive-compulsive disorder,” I explained to him.
“If you mess this up, I’ll kill you…” she warned. He probably thought she was joking but I knew she was serious.
He put a hand down to the napkin and she slapped it out of the way. He tried again and she grabbed his wrist and threatened him.
“What order do you eat them in?” he inquired.
“Yellow, orange, pink, red, purple, brown, then green,” she replied simply, keeping hold of his wrists.
“Can I have a green?”
“No. You can have any other colour but green.”
Eventually he got bored and left.
She continued to eat, in the special order of course, putting two at a time in her mouth because it had to be even.
When she got to the last few rows she offered me one of each colour. I took the offer, feeling quite honoured.
When I think back though, I think she just did that because she needs to put two in her mouth at the same time, and there were three of each colour left at that point.
I made sure to eat them in order, and synchronized myself with her.
Yellow. Orange. Pink. Red. Purple. Brown. Green.
Brown and green hold flavour best, she explained to me one day previously.
Orange and pink sometimes interchange, as do some of the other colours, depending on her mood.
By the time she finished, we had only twenty minutes to get back to the dorm and leave for class again. We carried our trays to the garbage counter, sorting the compost and the trash, then putting our cutlery in the bucket and sending the tray through on the belt.