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Death of a roommate

Back in the fall of 1990, upon arriving as a freshman at the University of Delaware, I was assigned a triple inside Russell Hall A.

This was not ideal. The rooms were made for two, and three was painfully crowded. But, as a newbie, I didn’t have a leg to stand on. So I showed up and introduced myself to a pair of strangers—Anthony Marciano from Tuckahoe, N.Y. and Chris Moger from Long Island.

We basically had a bunk with vertical beds, then a single cot. For some reason (I don’t recall the negotiations or logistics), Chris took the bottom bunk, Anthony took the top bunk and I got the single. And—all things considered—it worked out fairly well. Anthony was this cocky, endearing kid who always had a lacrosse stick in his hands. He was charismatic and smooth and funny. He actually took care of me when I got wasted for the first time—a story I’ve retold quite often through the years.

And Chris—well, Chris was quiet. Sorta brooding, in a James Dean way. In fact, when I’ve thought of Chris through the years, I always have James Dean in my head. This image, to be precise. He just had a bit of quiet confidence to him. Coolness, without barking. Never mean. Never particularly giddy. Came. Went. As life often goes.

By the middle of the year, our triple was a double. Chris moved out, and at the end of 1991 I believe both he and Anthony transferred to other schools.

And that was pretty much that.

•••

I received this e-mail yesterday. Out of the blue.

Anthony and I haven’t stayed in touch much. Chris and I stayed in touch not at all. I believe there was a quick Facebook exchange a decade or so ago, but nothing more. If you think about it, that’s the way so much of life works. For every lifelong friend who sticks, there are a solid 500 Chris Mogers who come, stay for a bit, then leave. The girl you hooked up with in the frat basement. The guys you used to run pickup with. Your favorite barista—who one day doesn’t report to work. The supermarket checkout clerk you chatted up about her future. The barber. The waitress.

Your freshman roommate.

I didn’t really know how to respond to Anthony’s message. So I Googled “Chris Moger,” and found this.

And what struck me, nearly as much as the awful illness, was the sad reality that I really would have liked Chris Moger. He wasn’t James Dean. Or even imitation James Dean. I mean, perhaps he was during a time period when we’re all young and insecure and trying to offer the world a glimpse of something desirable. But the Chris I was introduced to via the Fundraising page was a middle-aged family man. A husband. A dad of three. A guy who lived for his kids, worked hard, wore plaid pajamas come Christmas and probably looked forward to family vacations and relaxed evenings in front of the TV with a beer. He was a kid who became a man, and that man was someone I would have very much enjoyed.

Anthony wrote me this morning …

I am legitimately gutted.

The kid one bed over is gone.

I wish I’d known him.

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