BEIRUT, Lebanon – I left for Beirut this week to spend my final semester abroad. In doing so, I became the first of my roommates to officially depart Ann Arbor. Leaving college doesn’t really bug me. I’ve said it before: If these really are the best years of my life, I’ll kill myself by the time I’m 30. But I will miss the guys.
A lot of my friends balked when I told them I was living, during my senior year of college, with five people who not only attended the same high school I did but the same middle school. It is a little odd. Most people I know try to get as far away from high school classmates as they can when they attend college. For a while, I did the same, save for living with Mike in the residence halls freshman year. I asked him to room with me because I was afraid if I went in blind there was a chance, however slim, I would get for a roommate another one of our classmates whom I couldn’t stand.
For the most part, though, I stayed away from people from high school when I got to college. I still saw my roommates in Grand Rapids during vacations and occasionally at school, but mostly because we had football tickets together.
I’m not sure what exactly brought me back. I guess I felt I had proven to myself I could survive without the comfort of people I had known for so long. More likely I was tired of a string of roommates I didn’t know so well, who only after I had moved in revealed habits ranging from cocaine to serenading any girl I brought into the apartment with really bad ’80s songs strummed on an out-of-tune guitar. My female friends would often refuse to come to my apartment during second semester of that year, and bringing dates home became out of the question.
The strange thing is, my roommates and I have virtually nothing in common save our shared years in school. Andrew is the engineer who abstains from drinking and smoking and drew up the plans for the fire pole to take us from the third to the second floor when we heard our house was going to be torn down at the end of the year. He was even thoughtful enough to equip it with a trap door so none of the rest of us would fall down the hole while intoxicated.*
Mike is the alpha male. He became the de facto coach of our intramural football team, which caused Josh to quit because he felt Mike was taking it too seriously. (Mike still stands by his decision to bench Josh, whose best play of the season was showing up late for the first game of the playoffs, just in time to give our team five players and avoid a double forfeit and save our season.)
Josh is in the Business School. He’s the only person I know who beatboxes in the shower. He never turns off the Food Channel and can tell you, on sight and at great distance, what year a pair of Air Jordans came out.
Matt studies econ. I think he’s all roided up, he swears he’s not. We don’t agree on much, and when he tells me he doesn’t like a girl I’m dating I usually assume I’m dating the right kind of girl. Matt threw Josh through a door once in high school. When Mike gets drunk and starts a row, he runs to get Matt.
Aaron studies psychology and Buddhism. He’s headed to Tibet this summer. Catch his show freeform radio show at 1 a.m. Mondays on WCBN.
The closest thing to a real theory on how the whole thing worked is that our disparate dispositions created some sort of balance. Sometimes I wondered if it was really as good as I made it out to be, but then one of our other friends would come over to the house sit next to me on the couch just to listen to us bullshit. We know just how far to push each other. None of us ever hit on a girl one of the others brought home and we’ve played baseball in our living room. The dynamic was so comfortable we apparently set off matronly urges. A couple girls I know tried to adopt us like a tribe of Lost Boys.
This is the first column this year I haven’t written while sitting on our ratty sofa, smoking pot, feet propped on the coffee table that is no longer with us as a result of my going away party, weaving snippets of the conversation into whatever I’m complaining about.
Sorry, guys, if I left some dishes in the sink.
* Alas, the fire pole never materialized. Our slum – I mean, landlord, decided to rent the place out again.
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