Sunday, June 18th marked the 10th anniversary.
I still remember the phone call. I’d just gotten home from a grueling day at the factory, putting toys in cereal boxes. I was tired, dirty and smelled like Cheerios.
There had been several phone messages waiting for me from his uncle.
I called back and heard the unforgettable news from a quivering voice on the other end: “Your college roommate, Stephen Brown was killed by a drunk driver in a car accident.”
My best friend was dead. Stolen.
Stephen was driving home from a church picnic with his little sister in the passenger seat and three friends in the back seat. They came upon a four-way stop, waited to cross, and proceeded forward.
A drunk driver behind the wheel of a pickup truck T-boned them from the left side. His death was instantaneous.
A moment later, Stephen’s sister, the sole survivor, woke up with him slumped over in her lap.
I remember the funeral… it was so surreal. It looked like a cheap facsimile of him in the box; a stranger.
I carried him out of the church into the hearse and our processional floated to the grave site. We buried him with his favorite hats… one of them I had given him. I was just going through the motions. Nothing was real. I didn’t feel anything.
It wasn’t real until I got back to campus that fall. My first day back, I walked around the college, went to all our favorite spots, played pool and walked by the lake… alone.
I went back to my room and wept, looking forward to when I’d see him again.
I’ve thought about him nearly every single day since that night… perhaps afraid that if I don’t pay him my daily homage I’ll be dishonoring his memory somehow.
He and I used to joke around all the time about what we’d do if the other one died:
“If you die, can I have your CD’s and your stereo?”
…and after you’ve lost your roommate, jokes like that just aren’t funny anymore… and it’s not true that if your roommate dies, you get a 4.0.
The only thing I got was a bunch of memories and landmarks that reminded me of him daily.
Over the years, it’s gotten easier. I can barely remember his face.
The last shadow I can remember is the sound of his laughter.