Screw Your Roommate

I was going through old notes and pictures and other paraphernalia recently and began to tell some old stories of the college days. This one from my sophomore year is one of my favorites.

We held a dance in each residence hall at Fordham each year called the “Screw Your Roommate Dance” which essentially meant that your roommate was supposed to set you up with someone for the dance. Sort of a “Sadie Hawkins meets the devil” kind of thing. If your roommate liked you you’d probably get set up with someone nice, or possibly even your crush. If he or she hated you…well…you might not get set up at all.

So my roommate at the time was Joe Patane who I wrote about the other day. Joe had this penchant for well…procrastinating. He’d wait until the last minute to try and find me a date. But this year was different. Our resident assistant, a great guy named Steve Breton, knew I had a crush on (of all people) his ex-girlfriend. So he suggested that he call her and ask her if she’d go with me. Maria, the ex of Steve, was someone who I indeed had a crush on after meeting her on a retreat the year before. We were friendly, but she was attached to someone so I couldn’t pursue a relationship. Steve didn’t have the best relationship with her, I mean they did break up for a reason, after all.

But nonetheless, she agreed to go with me and Joe was off the hook. For the first time, Joe had actually done something before the last minute. he was quite proud of himself. He’d throw hints at who I was going with for weeks. “Oh man, you are going to be so happy when you open that door!”

So the night of the dance approached. I had no idea who he could possibly have set me up with. The day before the dance a knock came on my door and it was Steve Breton, the aforementioned R.A. He asked to come in and we sat down. At first, I thought I was in trouble and started making a mental list of dorm violations that I could have participated in. While the list was probably numerous, I couldn’t imagine that Steve knew about any of them.

Steve gingerly approached the topic at hand:

“Well you know how Joe’s been bragging that he got you a great date for the dance, right?”

Mike: “Sure. I have no idea who it is though.”

Steve: “Well, I was in on the set-up.”

Mike: “Oh, ok! Thanks!”

Steve: “Ok I’ll just say it. It’s Maria. But don’t get too excited because she just cancelled. She’s got a midterm and she’s got to get studying for it. She’s freaking out about it and look man, I’m really sorry, but she can’t go with you. We tried. Shit, we did more than try she said ‘sure’ but now…NOW she cancels at the last second. I’m so pissed at her!”

Mike: Well, thanks for trying, anyway. Guess I’m just going stag because I can’t imagine who I could ask at this late juncture! No worries, dude! Not your fault.

To make a long story short, my good friend, Steve DiSalvo (now President of Marian University in Wisconsin), invited me over to his residence hall where he introduced me to Melissa Morrissey, a wonderful young woman who I had helped with her freshman scheduling as a Sophomore mentor earlier in the year. Steve just bluntly asked her to go with me and she agreed. And we had a ball. We were just friends, but we had such a great time, much to the relief of my roommate and R.A.

Months later I went on a Peer Retreat on the weekend of my 20th birthday. Steve DiSalvo had invited me directly and truth be told, I’m a minister in the church today because of that moment. We had all received “palanca” letters on the retreat–a letter of support. The word palanca in spanish means “A lift” and that’s what the letters were supposed to provide.

One of my letters was from my aforementioned R.A., Steve Breton.

“I hear you’re on a retreat. Must be cool. Having drinks out poolside, some fat guy diving off the board. I can see it now.

One of the things I really admire about you, Mike, is how you never get too down on things. Like when Maria cancelled on you for the dance, you didn’t worry despite your disappointment. And you went out and got yourself a great date and probably had a better time than the rest of us! You’re really great like that.”

He added a few more personal touches thanking me for friendship and help around the dorm. But my takeaway was always his kindness and his generosity. It’s not everyone that would call up their ex-girlfriend and ask for a favor–and for the likes of ME! That went a long way.

Steve DiSalvo also sent me a brief note the day after that dance that simply said “YOU OWE ME BIG TIME. Hope you had a great time!”

Ah, the jocularity!

The truth is that Fordham was a great place to be in the late 80s and early 90s. I hope that its maintained that “family feel” at the Rose Hill Campus. But it was these special people who have helped me become who I am today and pointed me in the direction of God continually awakening me to who he has called me into being. I pray that the two Steves, Melissa and my roommate, Joe indeed know how special they were and are.

I lost touch with Breton some years ago. DiSalvo and I somehow follow each other around, finding each other on boards and conferences together. Melissa and I are Facebook friends and drop an occasional note to each other. And that dear roommate and I keep tabs through Facebook and email and the occasional visit to New York, California or Buffalo. It’s all good and all grace. Friendship is often like that…even when you’re trying to screw your roommate.

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