At the beginning, we were complete strangers.
Our first meeting was the weekend before the start of college. It was an orientation weekend for freshmen. Dad came with me to help move my things into my new home, a simple, nondescript room in one of the dormitories. Two desks, two closets, two extra-long twin beds, one sink, one window. I didn’t know a thing about my new roommate but his name and address, and a picture I saw of him in some mailout I got from the school.
He wasn’t in the room when Dad and I arrived, but it was evident he’d already been there and dropped off his things. We unpacked all my stuff, went downstairs and outside, and that’s where I found him. We introduced ourselves and shook hands. He was this tall, outgoing, basketball-playing dude from New Jersey. I was this incredibly handsome (liar), suave (liar), athletically gifted (pants on fire) genius. (pants in ashes, working on the shirt)
But we hit it off from the minute we met. As we stood there with our parents, discussing suitable window treatments for our dorm room, he offered the following helpful input:
“I think pink would be nice.” And we all laughed.
Bingo. This guy has a sense of humor, like me. We’re gonna be fine.
And we were. For the next four years.
Bob (e-Bob, Bob-o-lene, Bobcat, shish-ka-Bob), this one’s for you.
I gotta say, we had a blast living in the dorm the first two years of college. We became friends with all these other crazy guys on our floor: Scott, Brad, Fred, Mark, Bob (another Bob), Dick, Tony, Rob, Goat, Walter, and others whose names, unfortunately, time has erased from memory. We played cards, watched Saturday Night Live, ate together in the cafeteria, threw frisbees down the dorm hallway, even bowled a few times in that hallway. All kinds of fun stuff. We were “adults” now, but still, very much kids. And Bob and I were sort of the jesters of the group, supplying most of the funny lines, keeping everyone else laughing as often as we could.
We kept each other laughing, too. We were both brought up with basically the same beliefs and values, and we both grew up in funny families, so we found the same things humorous, more often then not. We constantly cracked each other up; we each had our own habits and rituals which, over time, the other knew well enough to imitate. We improvised our own lyrics to popular songs, making them much funnier. We each tried to prove to the other who could be sillier. I don’t know who won, but it was a fun competition.
One thing that eventually became funny, though it scared Bob a little at first, was when he could hear me talk in my sleep. Bob was a very dedicated student; I didn’t know anyone who hit the books harder at college than this guy. That meant he was often up late studying, while I was getting my (totally unsuccessful) beauty sleep. So, in those late hours, the silence of the room would be broken by my completely nonsensical, sleep-induced declarations, totally freaking out my roommate. He worried that I might be an alien from outer space. Sometimes, I would even have full conversations with him, having no memory of them the next day, when he would delightedly fill me in on what I missed. (“We gotta get rid of Diane…”)
Bob became my brother over the next four years. My own brothers are older than me, and I didn’t really grow up with them, because they were husbands and fathers by then. Bob was my age. (Well, actually, he is about a year older; just a reminder, dude.) We did things together. We trusted each other with personal details about ourselves. We got to know each others’ hopes, fears, strengths and weaknesses, and we supported each other through tough times. We were there for each other, anytime.
Now, that doesn’t mean we always got along. There were a few times when I pissed the guy off; seems I’ve always had a knack for that. Fortunately, he would always forgive, and we moved on, a little closer from the experience. There’s no denying, we became the best of friends.
But, of course, at the end of those four great years, we went our separate ways, getting jobs, finding new “roommates”, and settling into the rest of our lives. We don’t stay in touch as often as we probably ought, and that’s not really anyone’s fault. That’s just what life does; it’s a play, evolving from one act to the next, with different scenes and characters, and the previous one just recedes into memory.
But, boy, I’ve got some great memories of the time I spent rooming with this guy. Whether it was destiny, divine intervention or just plain good luck that brought us together, I’m just so glad it happened. No question, I’d do it all again.
My favorite roommate is, of course, my wife. More on her another time.
Sorry, Bob. But, you’re the best runner-up I could ever have asked for.
I love you, brother.