Friday at Starbucks

On Friday this week, a new Starbucks opened right down the street from our apartment.Generally, I prefer hole-in-the-wall, non-chain coffee shops, but those are few and far between in Korea. As it was the Grand Opening we decided to check it out. Unlike the Starbucks’ in my hometown, which are more like kiosks in the two grocery stores, this is a full-blown coffee shop. It has two levels, an abundance of baked goods and shelves of coffee paraphernalia for purchase at high prices. Sipping my coffee and taking in the odd artsy-yet-commercialized ambiance, I was reminded of a short-lived tradition from last spring during my final semester of college.

My fifth and last year at university I lived with three other girls. One was my best friend and the other two were complete strangers until I moved in three days before the start of the semester. My best friend and I had lived together for the last two years and were content as living companions. However, our last apartment was a bit of a wreak with leaking windows, minimal insulation and a back door that blew open in strong winds (a daily occurrence in Wyoming) allowing snow and dirt to become comfortable in the living room. So, we opted to lived in the newly constructed apartments nearby even though it meant living with two strangers.

We soon discovered, living in a house full of girls is an interesting experience, especially when the attitudes and personalities they bring to the table clash so magnificently.Despite the roommate questionnaires we filled out to determine compatibility, things we less than ideal.  Rather, it would be safe to say, most days our roommate situation was a match made in Hell.

Our first semester went by like a roller coaster on a rickety track and shortly after the start of the new semester, we were all ready to kill each other. Once in a while we would have coffee with our nemesis of the week to try to work things out, but such pacification events had short lives. Everyone was fighting with everyone.Going home from class was like preparing to enter an area full of snipers. You could never be sure who would throw the dagger that night, just that someone would.

And then, at the end of January, the crazies happened. It started with one roommate’s break up followed by her ‘cancer scare’, if there can be such a thing. Next came the pregnancy/miscarriage/abortion drama and the back and forth with the ex-boyfriend. The three of us watching all of this play out were unwittingly pulled together, trying to piece together what we slowly realized were lies, carefully spun and crafted to take advantage of all gullibility in each of us. Our own petty fighting lessened the day we realized we were living with someone who created realities far different from the one in which we all lived and she seemed to have no idea that she was doing so. Thus, sporadic Friday morning coffee dates became a set tradition.

It started with my best friend and I trying to patch up the holes torn into our relationship and discuss the goings-on at home. Then the crazies got worse and it turned into a three-way date to deal with the one thing we couldn’t escape: roomie number four. Every Friday morning we got up half an hour early, got ready for the day and made it to the Starbucks in Albertson’s between 7:30 and 7:35. Coffee in hand, we’d sit at one of the six tables blinking sleepily under the florescent lights to vent frustrations, offer suggestions and generally try to cope with everything.

By April, the divide between roomie number four and us was so wide it was clear that crossing it was nearly impossible. It wasn’t just the lies anymore that were bothersome (we’d all agreed to stop believing what she said) but rather the series of male companions that came trooping through the house unannounced. Every week there was someone new. We rarely saw these stay-over buddies, but rather witnessed their brief time in our house through the series of large shoes we’d find by the door several mornings a week. Once in a while we would learn the name of the newest man, but we never remembered them.

Our coffee dates continued through the summer, even after roomie number four moved out, and ended in August, when we all went our separate ways. Though it was a tradition with a limited existence, it was one on which we all counted for our sanity. And, as I discover this Friday, it is one which I miss in that weird nostalgic yet glad-it’s-over way.

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