Column: A (USB) key to friendship

Ben Breier

I never thought I’d say this, but thank God for computer viruses.

When I first moved into the dorms, there was a worm circulating that could wreck havoc on your computer should it touch your system. After my parents dropped me off, I walked over to Kinko’s and downloaded the virus patch from a computer terminal. I threw the patch onto a USB drive, and thought nothing of it.

By the time everybody else was moving in, I was enjoying my room’s air conditioning and cleanliness — courtesy of early move-in. As kids on the floor began hooking up their computers, they discovered they were unable to get online. Being the nice guy that I am, I wandered around, distributing the patch to those who didn’t have it yet.

The first room I went into belonged to Jason — a sarcastic and shy kid with a mess of dirty blonde curls. After I fixed his computer, we got to talking music, life in suburbia and other random tidbits. Jason became a close friend — along with the other kids who perpetuated that corner of Wright Hall.

Hacky sack and poker in the lobby until 4 in the morning. Weekend house crawls that didn’t end until the sun came up. Linked games of Halo and viewings of “Family Guy” when we should’ve been studying. Music blasting so loud that you could hear it when you got off of the elevator. These things were the lifeblood of our freshman year together. It didn’t look like it was going to end.

Slowly, the group started to pull apart. One friend transferred back home to the University of Toledo, while another switched over to Beaver College to pursue a flight degree. My roommate was temporarily relocated to Ashland University after a series of write-ups.

And then, it was my turn to go. After a series of dramatic theatrics during my sophomore year, I parted ways to pursue other interests and prove to myself that I could socially make it on my own. Although some of the connections were completely severed, I kept tabs on some of those kids – including Jason. We were even in a class last spring semester.

A year later, I was neck-deep in various student media publications. During a late night at the Stater, I got a phone call from my ex-girlfriend. She left a voicemail, and I decided I’d leave it alone until I got home — half expecting a drunken parade of insults.

Instead, I was in for one of the biggest shocks of my life.

The voice mail was in hysterics. Between all of the crying and sniffling, I could make out a few key phrases that sent tingles of terror down my spine — “Jason,” “hospital” and “life support.” were among them.

It was past 2 a.m. I decided to call her back. I asked if she was kidding — if this was all a big joke. She was a bit calmer now — calm enough to explain that Jason had fallen into a coma due to complications that came from his diabetes. He was at the Cleveland Clinic, and they were going to pull him off of life support in a matter of hours.

I sat in my bedroom, staring at shadows and blinking lights. A flood of memories took me back two years into my past. It took until the morning for me to realize what was truly happening.

The following day, I was reunited with my past in a waiting room at the Cleveland Clinic. I knew that I’d meet up with them again, but I never dreamed it was going to be like this. Everybody was taken back in groups to say their good-byes, and we were then escorted off to a private room, where members of Jason’s family came to thank us.

Days after it happened, it still didn’t seem real — I still expected to be able to go over to my room in Wright Hall just like freshman year and hear Rise Against playing from his dorm room, but it wasn’t to be.

There’s something about your freshman year of college — the connections that you form, no matter how innocuous they may seem, will stick with you forever.

Ben Breier is a senior magazine journalism major and the managing editor of the Summer Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].