Thanks, Pennywise

All Growns Up

Xinyu Li/Senior Staff

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I met my roommates Evelyn and Gail for the first time Aug. 13 — the first day of orientation. Before we met, I had stalked both their Instagrams and gone over them carefully with my friends from home, and on 9 a.m. that day, I stepped into the residence hall with preconceived notions. As I later found out, they did the same.

It took us a little while to get to know one another. We were friendly in passing, went to dinner with one another in the dining hall if we had no one else to go with and would talk occasionally as our nights wound down.

I came home one day to find Gail playing Blonde by Frank Ocean on her black Bose speaker and we chatted about how great the album was. During some light conversation, Evelyn mentioned that she, too, liked Elliott Smith. One night, we came home from separate parties and sat on the floor eating pretzels and hummus, giggling about boys.

Slowly we began to piece together more than just a comfortable home, but a light friendship.

The night things really changed was the night we saw the movie “It” in a cool-aired auditorium of Shattuck Cinemas. It was a last-minute decision, a split-second choice borne from boredom on a Friday night. We walked all the way from Clark Kerr Campus, shocked by cold gusts of wind, huddled next to each other as we jogged toward Shattuck Avenue. We took our seats, tubs of popcorn on our laps, ready for the terrors of “It” to grab us.

Watching the film was a whirlwind of emotions. Evelyn laid with her back on her chair, head almost completely hidden by her jacket, squeezing my hand tightly at every jump scare. On my other side, Gail laughed at every spook, howling at the joke about “gazebos” and the scene when Pennywise dances. I sat between them, doing a little bit of both, excited to be laughing the way I laughed with my friends from home.

Before this, our friendship was a door pushed open by a tiny doorstop. Now, that door was slammed open, and we were suddenly the closest of friends. It’s weird to think that this leap, this connection, was thanks to a dancing clown murdering children.

After seeing “It,” we found more opportunities to hang out. Gail and I would berate Evelyn, telling her she needed to watch “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.” We would order boba at obscenely late hours and sit around getting heated about the education system, our futures and “The Office” until it was absolutely necessary that we went to sleep. On the day I was dog-sitting for my friend, Gail and I took him to Evelyn’s ballet recital, a performance of “Don Quixote.” We sat like proud moms watching her on pointe, covering Salem’s fuzzy ears when the applause came.  

The day before winter break, as all three of us packed our suitcases tight with clothes and textbooks, “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” played in the background on Gail’s tiny TV screen. We debated whether Viktor Krum was attractive, yelled at Ron for not asking Hermione to the ball and screamed when Cedric Diggory died. When we got back, part of catching up was talking about the movies we’d seen. Gail made fun of the way I emphasized the “your” in “Call Me By Your Name,” I wailed about loving Timothée Chalamet, and Evelyn requested we go see “Lady Bird” together.

Coming to college, the thought of roommates — a psychology major and a biology major — scared me more than any dancing clown. I had never been friends with people so different from me. Anything that could go wrong with your roommates had crossed my mind. My mom told me that your roommates are usually your best friends — but I had only heard horror stories.

My mom was right. Evelyn and Gail are two of my best friends here in Berkeley. Whoever sorts roommates unwittingly created an amazing friendship, one built off doing the dance from the “Lemon” music video, seeing if I can fit inside my closet, unfiltered conversation and late-night boba orders.

As I write this, I am simultaneously watching the first season of “Grey’s Anatomy” — which Gail and Evelyn have been begging me to start for weeks. They sit in their beds, mouthing spoilers to one another and yelling at me when I pull my earbuds out to try and listen. As I type, I can hear “IV. Sweatpants” through Gail’s headphones and I can see Evelyn kind of watching “The Interview.”

We are all doing different things, just as we are majoring in different subjects and participating in different clubs. We are all different people, but now, I am infinitely more scared of Pennywise than I am of being different than the people I love.

Maisy Menzies writes the Thursday arts & entertainment column on milestone moments experienced through art. Contact her at [email protected].