On my first day in college, I was settling into my dorm room, and in wandered one of the ugliest people I’ve ever seen. The college experience is unique in that you’re suddenly in close proximity to a large number of people whom you don’t know, are vaguely your own age, are on the cusp of adulthood, and coincidentally the onset age of many forms of mental illness. The little troll-like beast looked around at the stuff I was unpacking, and half-asked, half-pronounced, “So, you like hockey?”
I didn’t want to leap to conclusions, so I looked around for any indication that I liked hockey, or that anything in the room implied anything of the sort. It’s not that I dislike hockey, it’s just that I never gave it a second thought. Perhaps it was some kind of test question, or conversational opener. “Why do you ask?”
“You just kind of looked like you like hockey,” he replied. This didn’t strike me as particularly complimentary.
After a moment, it was apparent he was going to say nothing more. “Do you like hockey?” I asked him, for no particular reason, starting to feel vaguely uncomfortable with his continuing presence.
“It’s okay, I guess,” he stated flatly, and wandered out the door.
I’m normally the type of person who ends up being friends with people who are socially awkward or who don’t make friends easily. I’ve never been able to bring myself to walk away from the lonely, and can usually find something interesting or redeeming in anybody. By virtue of sticking up for or trying to help the downtrodden, I seemed to end up hanging out with them frequently.
I made a sincere effort with the troll to engage him in normal conversations. Partly because of his striking unattractiveness, I made even more of an effort than came naturally. In nearly every conversation, the troll managed to insult me in some way, and despite my best efforts to draw him in to social situations, got nowhere. Everybody absolutely hated him.
I didn’t hate him, which meant that I got to commiserate with people who had to deal with him. He actually had an amazing ability to say, at any given point, the very thing that would piss off the greatest number of people, and was such a pernicious loser that he was thrown out of every organization he attempted to join (an amazing feat, frankly) — he even attempted to join the volunteer fire department and was judged “a danger to himself and others” on the first day of training.
After a while, I gave up.
Near the end of the quarter, I was walking by his room on the way to the cafeteria, and heard him wailing, “I just can’t win!” I stopped for a moment, and he howled, “I don’t care any more! I don’t care any more!” in an anguished screech.
I wasn’t quite sure what to do. A few friends saw me standing there, and stopped and stood there with me. After a moment, the troll screamed louder, “I don’t care any moooore! I don’t care no moooore!”
About a week earlier, we had all been present on the couches in my room in a mad college combination of studying and drinking when our mutual friend “Matt” staggered into the room and announced, in a drunken slur, that he’d “had quite enough.” We waited for Matt to say something else, or pass out, but instead he ran toward our large, open, fourth-floor window.
My roommate, closest to the window and thinking faster than any of us, managed to grab Matt by the ankles as he was halfway out the window. Matt bent at the waist as momentum carried him forward, and his face hit the side of the building. Three of us hauled him back inside, unconscious.
Matt’s face was scraped up, but otherwise he didn’t seem in very bad shape, so we dumped him in the common room, careful to leave him face down.
Neither Matt nor the rest of us spoke of the incident again, but it was foremost on our minds as we stood outside the troll’s door.
“You think he’s going to kill himself?”
“He probably should, I hate that guy.”
“Oh come on, we can’t just stand by and let him kill himself, whether we like him or not. We should get him some help.”
“Okay, let’s go in.”
I knocked, then banged, on the door, but the troll didn’t answer. He just kept up that awful screaming: “I don’t care any mooooore!”
Crap. I tried the knob, but his door was locked.
“We’ve got to break in”
We knew from experience that the dormitory doors could be opened by applying enough pressure to the metal frame while pushing the latch. We ran to our rooms and came back with a crowbar and a thin screwdriver. When we got back, the troll was still screaming, “I don’t care any moooore!”
I winced at the awful noise. “My god, he sounds like he’s suffering.”
“At least we know he’s still alive.”
After a moment, the four of us managed to spring the door open, and tumbled into the troll’s room.
He was sitting in the dark under his desk, in nothing but his underwear. He looked remarkably pleased to see us break his door and spill into his room, as if we’d all decided to visit him on his birthday. He was wearing huge, ear-covering headphones, which he removed upon seeing us.
“Oh hey, guys,” said the troll, “I was just listening to some Phil Collins.”