Sometimes we miss the strangest things about people. I have only been a junior for one month and I already lament the loss of my sophomore roommate Andrew Schmadel. Don’t worry; he’s not dead — just studying in Scotland for the semester. While my current living situation is going swimmingly, I miss the distinctly motherly presence my friend Andrew had in my life. In short, I miss my Schmommy.
p. Were I more superficial, I would mourn the absence of Schmadel’s 21-inch computer monitor. On rainy days when he was in physics lab, I would skip class, pull down the shades and watch old film trailers on his computer. When he came into the room, tears would be welling up in my eyes because I had watched the trailer for David Lynch’s “The Elephant Man” 17 times.
p. “Are you okay, James?” Schmadel would ask me.
p. “I’m fine, this trailer is just so sad.”
p. I still pine for Schmadel’s beautiful computer monitor, but that is not what made his friendship so valuable to me. What I miss most is his ability to find fault in everything I did. The way I made my bed, the way I popped my popcorn, even the way I watered my plant — all of these things were fair game for Schmadel’s critical eye. It got to the point where I might leave the room to make popcorn, afraid I would be critiqued for burning my bag.
p. One experience stands out in my mind as indicative of our roommate relationship. I had just written a short paper for an English class and wanted someone to look over my essay. I asked him to take a look. Schmadel glanced over the paper for several minutes as I bit my lip. “What do you think?” I asked.
His eyes shot at me and he responded, “James, I can’t believe you’re an English major.”
p. My fingers tingled as my heart began to race; I feared that the shock of this statement would give me a heart attack. “What do you mean?” I asked.
p. “Well, it’s your style. It’s so typical, and the things you say are so contrived. Are you really majoring in English?” I never told Schmadel before, but that might have been the most humiliating moment of my life. It was only the two of us in our cavernous Jamestown attic room, yet I felt more embarrassed than the time my voice cracked while I was giving a speech in sixth grade or the time I accidentally called my kindergarten teacher “Mommy” during class.
p. For a long time I resented Schmadel for calling me a terrible writer. While he lacked tact, the things he said weren’t completely unfounded. I am not the strongest writer and never will be. I struggle with clarity and originality in every Confusion Corner column that I write. Friends should be considerate of each other, but a good friend should be the first person to point out our defects, albeit in a more respectful way.
p. Through his incessant nagging of my every fault, Schmadel did what every decent friend should do: He tried to make me a better person. I know for a fact that had Professor Xavier been a more critical friend of Magneto, then the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants would never have been formed, and countless human and mutant lives could have been spared. Complacent friends can be blamed for the fall of great men like King Lear, Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston. Why did no one tell King Lear that Goneril and Regan were bad news? Why did no one warn Whitney Houston that Bobby Brown and crack are two of the world’s most destructive substances?
p. I should thank Schmadel for keeping me in line while I was 300 miles from my own mother. One other memory stands out in my mind. Andrew and I were having some friends over to our room to watch a movie on his glorious computer monitor. I forgot to make my bed from the night before, but when I came into the room I found my blankets neatly folded. I looked up at Schmadel who violently pushed his vacuum cleaner along the carpet. “We have company coming over in a couple of minutes,” he said. “Could you put some sodas in the fridge?” I smiled, and carefully placed the cans of Diet Pepsi and Sierra Mist beside tins of prebaked biscotti and fat-free yogurt. Everything was in its right place.
p. __James Damon is a Confusion Corner columnist. He’s planning a trip to Scottland over fall break.__