The Niagara Falls effect

The first waterfall Sasha ever saw was the Niagara Falls. She has been to quite a few after that, but nothing has ever compared to that first time when she saw Niagara.

Tim has a few friends who live here. He went to their place, and it is really nice, but because he saw our place first, every other place in comparison feels dull.

When the first encounter with anything is its best version, nothing else of that kind can compare. We set that benchmark and expect it to live up to those expectations and hence, end up being disappointed. This is what we call the Niagara Falls effect.

The first time I lived with someone else was in college; she was my first roommate. But we became friends very quickly. She is still my best friend after four years, and I couldn’t be happier that I decided to live with her. So naturally, my expectations for having a roommate were a little different. It works like that right? You live with someone, you share almost everything with them, you are bound to become more than just flatmates. That isn’t the case with the three of us. We are in no real sense “friends.”

I guess my expectations from my roommates are a little high. Sasha and Alisha both are really nice people, but I can’t blame them for not being my best friends right off the bat. It is not their fault; it is simply the Niagara Falls effect. We share a few moments that make me think that maybe we are getting closer but those moments are too brief to be the foundation of something real. What I realized is that they feel as lonely as I do in this city sometimes. The reason they are drawn towards their boyfriends at an exponential level is more than just chemistry between them. I am not saying they don’t like their respective boyfriends, but there is definitely something more there. If you end the night feeling alone, it is much harder to go to bed. You keep twisting and turning and can’t comprehend why your bed is bigger than what you need. It makes you think if it is meant only for you. Three successful girls, seemingly we have everything; on paper, we shouldn’t have anything to complain about, but then what is this uneasiness that keeps us from smiling?

Our first weekend together, we all decided to go to San Francisco. It was a fun girl’s night out. Although the three of us ended up doing different things. We went to this club where Sasha couldn’t stop dancing, and Alisha got herself a drink and went outside to smoke. I kept juggling between the two. I liked the music, but I wanted that cigarette too.

Eventually, we did end up hanging out together. We went to this quiet lounge that a lot of people recommended. Here’s the thing about word of mouth, you never know what the original opinion was and where down the road it was altered. This highly talked about place ended up being really disappointing, but it did force the three of us to turn to each other for entertainment. This was the first time Sasha opened up about her relationship insecurities, and this was the first time she ever told us how she met Tim. At this point, I had known her for five months and never knew that. It felt like we walked through her whole relationship in just one night. I’m not sure if it was the third sidecar that got her talking or the fact that she could actually talk to someone about it, but she was ready to pour her heart out. This was the night I saw this person as just another girl like me; she was not only this amazing girl who had it all, it made her real, it made our friendship seem like a possibility.

Before that night, I didn’t know what I thought about Alisha, but by the end of it, she was this strong, confident, persistent girl who doesn’t give up. She told us all about her struggles for finding a job and how she used to stalk people on Linkedin, at Meetups, anywhere she could possibly find an opportunity. Her passion for her profession was apparent in her eyes. Her enthusiasm could make you want to learn more about design. And she didn’t have it easy. She had humble beginnings, supportive but financially struggling parents, an estranged brother living in Europe, and a boyfriend she was trying hard to hold on to. It is sometimes easier to open up to strangers, and that is exactly what we were to each other that night. Judgment was no longer a part of our dynamics, and it was easier, to tell the truth than to hide our flaws. But we are humans after all. After drinking the gut spilling amount of alcohol, we needed to make the night light and satisfy our appetites. Luckily, we found a doughnut place and truly they were some of the best doughnuts I have ever had.

The car ride back home was quick. We didn’t talk much on our way back; there was a comfort in the silence. It didn’t feel like we need to speak anymore. We were okay with being quiet around each other.

I have never been to the Niagra Falls. Both Shruti and Alisha have been there with their parents. I have heard it is a beautiful place, but I have never been excited about it. We three make a lot of plans, but neither of them has ever wanted to go back to Niagra. In some ways, that makes me happy; we are at a stage where saying no to each other feels like a hassle; like we’ll let the other one down. But that’s how typically roommates behave I assume. We live together to save money; we live together to be able to afford our lifestyle; we live together because Craiglist matched us and we didn’t hate each other. We live together for a lot of reasons but for neither of us, it was the first choice, it was the better choice. We are different enough to never have something common to talk about, but we are similar enough to be able to live together and understand each other’s lifestyles and preferences. And anyway, as long as we can have a silent car ride without it being awkward, I think we’ll be okay.