Sunday, November 04, 2007

My roommate the spy

Things at the dorm have taken another turn toward the tragic, or at least the weird. At issue has been the evolution of my roommate, and what must be generously termed, for lack of a better word, the “relationship” between us.

I am proud to report that the roommate appears to have broken his addiction to World of Warcraft. In so doing, he has demonstrated far more strength of will than many people I know in the States. At first, he seemed to fill the void in his life with studying and actively participating in hall organizations. While neither of these are activities that I feel particularly compelled to pursue, I can certainly respect the impulse to do either. And as I've reported, we started experimenting with real life conversations!

But more recently, he has taken up an electronic version of Magic: The Gathering. If you don’t remember Magic, it’s a collectible card game where you amass decks of spells, creatures, and the like and then fight your friends. It’s pretty great. I mean, I loved it when I picked up at age 10, was damn good at it when I peaked at age 12, and felt real pangs of nostalgia when I sold all of my cards for cold hard cash when I was 14. I didn’t even know it still existed, though I suppose I had heard something about it going digital. In any event, Magic seems to offer my roommate the key function of World of Warcraft – interacting with people via computer intermediaries at odd hours of the night rather than doing so in real life – without distractions like “story” or “graphics.”

I would consider that a weird enough development, if my roommate hadn’t taken on a bizarre, vampire-like lifestyle. Several times over the last couple of weeks, I’ve come home late from my own evening activities to find that – in spite of demonstrating no verifiable social life for the first month and a half I was here – he’s not even there. I might go to bed at 5 am in an empty room, and awake at noon to find him asleep face-down, fully-clothed, with his blanket only covering him from the shoulders up.

The obvious conclusion would be that, somehow, this once mousy, demure kid has taken up an even more hard-partying lifestyle than my own. But the nights I’ve stayed in and stayed up late seem to contradict that. He’ll be here till 3 am, happily tapping away at his computer game. Then, without word or warning, he’ll get up and walk out of the room. At 4 am, he’ll return, silently reclaim his spot on the computer, and that will be that.

While I’ve always looked at my tendency to listen to music from large headphones while in the room as a great excuse for avoiding the pressure for meaningful interaction that I know wouldn’t happen even if the headphones weren’t there, I’m getting increasingly curious about what’s going on, and have taken to developing elaborate theories with little or no basis in reality. The prevailing one right now is that he’s an ingeniously-concealed spy/assassin of the mainland Chinese government who’s going off on assignment at odd hours. Perhaps the Magic games are an elaborate communication and assignment system. I will investigate further and report if there’s anything worth reporting. If you suddenly don’t hear from me again, you know what happened.

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