“I didn’t think he’d make it past Thanksgiving.”
This is a story about my old roommate, Butch.
When I went off to college I didn’t know anyone and was a little dismayed to learn my dorm roommate was the complete opposite of me in every way possible.
I’m from the big city, Chicago. He was from a small town in central Illinois. He was a big fellow, a jock. I was short and not particularly athletic. He had a drop-dead gorgeous girlfriend back in his hometown; I couldn’t get girls to look at me if my life depended on it.
At first, I didn’t like him. He seemed a bit oafish, not particularly bright, and he wasn’t doing well in class. In fact, I didn’t think he’d make it past Thanksgiving, and I’m embarrassed to say that I was kind of hoping he’d drop out so I could get a roommate with whom I’d have something in common.
That all changed the night he came home drunk as a skunk. Frankly, I thought this was the last straw because I was studying for an important test and I could smell the liquor from across the room.
But as with many things, life can sure be a surprise. Maybe because when I looked at him sprawled out on his bunk, almost helpless, he was a sad sight indeed. But maybe because for the first time we opened up to each other.
He told me of his hopes, his dreams, his fears. And he told me how he admired me because he knew I was going to go far, be a success, and in the long run lead a happy life. And I confessed that I was jealous of him, with his good looks, his imposing presence, his beautiful girlfriend.
We laughed and bonded that night.
Well, Butch unfortunately died a premature death. He had gone into his father’s construction business, had done quite well, but had suffered a freak injury on a construction site.
And although we hadn’t been in touch for the eight years since our roommate days, his image popped into mind late one afternoon when I was walking the dog. And I knew something tragic had happened to him. I knew it.
When I got back in the house I Googled his name and found out where he was living. I called information, got his phone number and called him. His wife answered and although I had never spoken to her before, I could tell by the quiver in her voice, something bad had happened. She said she had just returned from Butch’s funeral an hour earlier.
I explained who I was and she said Butch often talked about me, that he had never forgotten the type of person I was and how he wished he were more like me. I told her of the time we spoke that night when we both opened up to each other. She thanked me and I told her how sorry I was.
Highland Park, IL