My second year in college, I had a roommate who I never got to know very well. He was a biology major and was always in the labs. I was a theater major and always at the theater. We basically slept in the same dorm room. The only real memory I have of us interacting was the time he brought home a live frog---a rescue---from the lab. The frog momentarily got loose and we had a few madcap moments together trying to catch it. (I was all for having the frog in the room.) He was quiet, I was quiet, it worked pretty well as random roommate assignments go.
I came back from the Thanksgiving weekend that semester, I found a note
from the RA (resident assistant) to come knock on his door when I got
in. He gave me the news that my roommate had tried diving in a
notoriously dangerous underwater cavern called Jacob's Well.
It has an allure to divers who want to explore but is also full of
false leads to the top. Divers without guide lines back to the surface
are likely to get lost and run out of air in their tanks. My roommate
was one of those divers.
Suddenly, I was in a room
half-filled with a dead man's stuff. It wasn't a lot, as I recall. He
had some books (of course) and clothes. I don't recall anything unusual.
I started to try to pull some of it together for his parents and then
that started to feel invasive so I only did a little bit. I was just 20
and not much experienced with this sort of thing. We'd lived together
for 3 months and were still strangers. I wondered if I'd know better
what to do if I'd known him better.
So it was
especially awkward when his father came to pick up his dead son's
belongings. I felt like I should be there when he arrived, and so I was.
As might be expected, he seemed like a man sleepwalking, in a daze.He
seemed hopeful that I might have photos or stories of his son to share
with him. Of course, I had nothing.
As best as I can
remember, I believe I let this sad father in the room, spoke to him
briefly, watched him start to gather things, saw him find a photo of his
son, and excused myself. When I came back, half of the room was empty.