I closed the vents on my head, and let the hot air of fame float me up the stairs to my abode on the second floor. In my hypoxic state, I realized that life was now happening at a much quicker pace. I would have to be constantly adaptable to new situations, much like the punch drunk small fry that were moving disjointedly in my new roommate’s aquarium. The fish looked decidedly unhappy about their forced relocation. I wasn’t quite sure why he’d brought them. Captive fish aren’t really travel animals. They don’t like walks.
To my brash self, it seemed easier to buy new fish upon reaching the dorm. That way, when they weren’t fed, were fed to drunks, or made their sentimental journey down the porcelain expressway, there would be no great loss. After all, I had traveled with a minimum of my personal possessions in an oversized green army duffel. My roommate, whoever he was, had used a flatbed truck to relocate his former room. An initial and unobtrusive survey of his belongings failed to turn up of any of the tell-tale signs that he might be planning to murder me in my sleep. Most importantly, he had missed my zany antics at the Circle of Death.
As I reveled in this bit of good fortune, the door opened, and he walked in, followed by his parental units. He was lanky and rangy, and he had a drawling accent that dragged along the floor. Displaying remarkable self-restraint, I acted like a normal, common, person and spoke in a regular voice at a calming level, and mentioned only my name with an appeasing smile as I shook his hand. Immediately, I saw smiles wash over their trio with drastic relief. I exchanged small talk for a couple minutes, and then gracefully excused myself from the room.
Much later, when we met back up, absent parental accompaniment, and exhausted from the gauntlet of grueling introductory messages, we began to chat. It turned out to be actually unnerving how much the Longhorn and I had in common. He had played soccer. So had I. Both of us liked to free climb. Even more remarkable, we were both freshman in an out-of-state-university and knew no people whatsoever. So we talked. We sat for a long spell and shared pleasantries, and were already awake when the fire alarm was pulled at three in the morning by our soon-to-be-rival dorm, and had a head start on planning revenge when we returned to our room. It was at this point where the conversation became serious.
“Well, I’ve only known you for a couple hours now, but I already feel that we’re going to be the best of friends.” He spun out leisurely from his bed. I wasn’t sure about the latter, but I didn’t want to disturb the status quo. “Anyhow, there’s something that I have to tell you that I haven’t told anyone.”
I kept quiet with my plethora of theories. He continued.
“So, I’m a real devout Catholic. But there’s my girl, you know, from home. Anyhow – she’s pregnant. Three weeks. I don’t want the kid, and I don’t want to leave it up for adoption – what do you think I should do?”
All things considered, it wasn’t the worst thing I could have heard, I thought. I answered quickly and accurately from my heart.
“Well, I think if that’s the case…” I paused, allowing myself an inch of political room, “You should probably consider an abortion.”
Every iota of camaraderie sublimated off from the room in a millisecond. His casual drawling tone vanished, replaced by a sullen, angry rasp.
“I’m a Catholic. We don’t do that.”
I considered telling him that if he was that devout, he probably shouldn’t have been doing the horizontal lambada in the first place. Then I realized where such a comment would leave me: sleeping with one eye open or challenged to an early morning duel. Since I had left my pistols at home and had no seconds, I shut my mouth firmly, and passed out to his affronted tossing and turning. At the crack of eleven, I woke, and in the spirit of early morning friendship, extended an apology about my advice.
Since I usually never apologized for my beliefs, I viewed it as a great concession in the interests of inter-room harmony. It didn’t matter. He had gone Cold War on me. From that point on, we never exchanged more than outside pleasantries at best. He even taped off his half of the room at one point. I then proceeded to marginally move the tape closer to his bed when he was absent just to mess with him. He once abused my liberal ears with vile epithets about my advice. But I ignored the low level strife heroically, because in three months he and his surviving fish were gone. In the meantime, I marveled at how my evolving persona had accrued two strikes in one day by acting and not acting like myself.