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The Place


on my way out of the training room early one Friday afternoon and headed down to the girl’s dorm to see a
friend, when I suddenly found myself thinking of my roommate from the year before. Ronan was a year ahead
of me in school, and he turned out to be one of my best friends. We’d been through a lot together, and when he
left, it created a space in my life that would not be filled easily.
I hadn’t seen or spoken to Ronan since May of the previous year, when he returned home to Wisconsin. That
was the funny thing about college. When people left, one rarely heard from them again. It reminded me a great
deal of high school in that regard. I could only imagine he had moved on to bigger and better thingsnew
responsibilities, a job, and perhaps even a family. There were no computers with e-mail back then, and letters
took a long time to write.
To actually get a phone call was a gamble at best since one was always in class or on the field.
As I walked along the concrete sidewalk, I had the strangest sensation Ronan had returned. We all know
those feelings. They stop you from whatever it is you’re doing and force you to pause and take notice. I stood
there for a moment, recalling some of the outrageous things we had done together. Moments later I found
myself smiling before continuing with my walk. Yet the feeling of his presence would not go away. It was
stronger than anything I’d felt in some time.
I remembered back to the day Bob almost drowned and the voice that kept that from happening. I stopped
again and looked around, trying to dispel the feeling that something special was taking place, when I noticed a
tall, lean figure standing next to the iron railing at the back of Reynolda Hall. The figure was looking directly at
me. It was Ronan. I broke into a run up the stairs and embraced him.
“What are you doing here?” I asked, excited to see him. I held him by the shoulders, not quite believing he
was there. I stood back and looked at him. He had lost weightnot that he was ever that heavy.
He smiled that big-toothed grin of his and replied, “I needed to get away, so I thought I’d come down for a
visit.”
“So what are you doing, now that school’s over?” I asked, expecting him to tell me about some great job he
had, making lots of money.
“I work construction back in Milwaukee,” he replied, with a hint of unhappiness. “It pays okay, but I don’t
like it much.”
I knew what that was all about. I had worked construction since my thirteenth birthday, mostly during
summers all through high school. If it wasn’t for the band, I think I would have been bored to death. Even the
thought of it made me tired, but I sensed it wasn’t just the job that had him depressed.
“In order to be able to find a job, I needed a car, so I bought one,” he said. “I can’t wait to get it paid off so I
can find a real job.”
I was puzzled. Here was one of my best friends out of school, yet feeling trapped by car payments and who
knew what else.
“I thought you’d be doing great and having a ball,” I said, waiting for some kind of excitement to surface.
“Life after college isn’t all it’s cracked up to be,” he said. “I started living at home because I had nowhere
else to go. With no job and no money, I was stuck. It was okay for a week or so, and then my parents started
pushing me to get a job so I could help with the mortgage,” he continued. “They didn’t much care what kind of
jobjust one that made money.”
“Bummer,” I replied, quickly finding myself hoping college would last forever.
“I had to get transportation in order to look for work, so I bought a car. My father co-signed for me,” he said.
“Worst mistake I ever made. Now, when I get a few days behind in the payments, he gets all bent out of shape,
asking me when I’m going to send a check. It’s not like I ever missed a payment or anything,” he said
dejectedly. “It’s just different than what I thought it would be.”
“I understand,” I replied, not having a clue what he was talking about, but knowing how easy it was to get
sucked into the expectations of society. My father taught me all too well about responsibility and accountability,
not that I listened a whole lot.
Perhaps that was one of the reasons I was more like my mother than my father. She had the artistic
personality in the family, not that she had much of a chance to explore it. But she also had the patience of a
saint, unlike my father!
“So what do you want to do?” I asked, changing the subject before I became totally depressed. “Obviously
you’re here to get away from all that, so let’s do it!” Before he could reply, I said excitedly, “Let’s hit the tavern
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