(Note: No, I didn’t turn to drugs due to how sad the last part of the story was. But…well, you’ll see how it all fits in.)
Luckily, things almost immediately got better for me friend-wise, though it had very little to do with me.
I’ve never been all that good at making friends. Which is to say, I’ve never understood the process. I couldn’t tell you good places to meet people or effective techniques for finding shared interests or anything like that. I am, however, surprisingly good at going about my life randomly and then having friends when I go home.
Which would be great, if I weren’t also surprisingly bad at overthinking things.
I spent a lot of my first two or three weeks of college “trying” to make friends. I approached random people before class to have awkward conversations. I spent time in places that reflected my hobbies and waited for friends to arrive, like some sort of horrible friendship trapdoor spider. And as you might guess from the words “horrible friendship trapdoor spider,” it didn’t go all that well.
When nothing came of it, I sort of gave up. This wasn’t because I’d suddenly become aware that you can’t force friendship. The truth was, I had more than enough to keep me busy attending classes and trying to kick start a fledgling writing career.
(It’d be hard to argue, in fact, that a key reason I was able to succeed in either school or writing was because I had plenty of free time.)
And that was about the time my RA stopped me in front of my building, reached into his pants and showed me something that would change my life.
“Um, good for you,” I said, looking down at the six cans of beer he’d expertly crammed into the elastic lining of his pants. It didn’t look like the first time he’d done it, and that made it all the sadder somehow.
“You want one?” he asked, glancing about conspiratorially. “Don’t worry. I won’t rat you out to anybody.”
I briefly reviewed my policy on drinking any liquids that had been warming in another man’s pants to make sure and then offered an excuse at random. “I have a policy against drinking liquids that have been warming in another man’s pants.” Okay. In hindsight, it wasn’t that random.
He gave a chuckle and nodded. “That’s cool. That’s cool. You probably shouldn’t be drinking anyway. It’s not good for kids to get into stuff like this too young.”
I thought about defending myself and then remembered I was only seventeen. He wasn’t technically wrong. “Is there a reason those are in your pants?” I hesitantly asked, seeing that information wasn’t going to come about on its own.
“It’s against the rules, man,” he said, explaining that alcohol was strictly prohibited in dorms – even if the student was of drinking age. “But every now and then I do the guys on my floor a solid and smuggle some in.”
Considering I despised my RA with the white-hot heat of a thousand dying suns, I briefly thought of turning him in. Unfortunately, he was my only point of contact. And something told me he wasn’t likely to escalate the matter. Still, identifying the situation as one I wanted to be nowhere near when it blew up in someone’s face (or in their pants), I promptly returned to my room and locked my door to the maximum extent it could be locked.
Then, I waited.
(I vaguely recall also playing “Metal Gear Solid 2.” I can do two things at once.)
It didn’t take long for the police to arrive. By which I mean, they took an almost suspiciously short amount of time to arrive after the RA had returned with his spoils and shared them. (All told, it was about seven minutes.) And that’s when it hit me. My RA hadn’t just smuggled beer into the dorms in the lamest way humanly possible. Instead, he’d just pulled off the lamest sting operation of all time.
I breathed a sigh of relief at having not chosen that particular moment to violate my own policies regarding reaching into another man’s pants and pulling something out for any reason.
The rest, as they say, is history. I stood in the hallway with the rest of my floormates as we watched the police escort Hitler’s Youths – the only two people stupid enough to fall for (or be enticed by) that sort of slapdash operation – out of the building. Both were weeping openly, though I choose to remember them as they once were. I like to imagine them walking away proudly, arrogantly and shirtless, each dribbling a basketball as the elevator doors closed and they vanished into legend.
“Wow,” a voice said to one side as the onlookers began to disperse. “I can’t think of a more deserving pair of assholes.”
The voice, as voices often do, belonged to a person. I turned to see one of the floormates I’d very briefly interacted with on my initial tour of my surroundings. He extended his hand to me to shake. “Sorry. We didn’t actually get to talk when you stopped by. My name is Matt.”
“Huh,” I said, biting my lip pensively. “If I ever write about this experience later, all these people with the same name are going to start to get confusing.”
“Wouldn’t you just refer to yourself in the first person?”
He actually had a point there.
I won’t oversell Matt as being some friend that changed my life forever. In fact, I wouldn’t even try to claim we were incredibly close friends. But he was the first friend I made in college, and as it turned out, the single decent human being on my floor.
Just because the others hadn’t been arrested didn’t mean they weren’t terrible people for a variety of other misogynistic and/or racist reasons.
Probably the only thing I remember about him with any real clarity was that Matt was absurdly, astoundingly and relentlessly lazy. I won’t pretend to be any sort of paragon of hard work myself, but Matt had attained what I can only assume was a Buddha-like level of enlightenment in a religion of pure inactivity. Without spoiling future events too much, he once commented – perhaps prophetically – that he was glad we were only three doors from one another because he didn’t think our friendship would survive a flight of stairs between us.
From there, I went about my life and went about making friends in very average ways. It wasn’t a rite of passage or a step on my way toward adulthood. In fact, if not for the beer story it wasn’t even all that interesting. (Though that portion alone is largely worth the price of admission.) But it was an event and it happened.
When you see all the stuff I eventually don’t leave out, you’ll probably see that it happening was almost all it needed to be included.