The first thing that strikes you is how small these college dormitory rooms are. Maybe twelve feet across by sixteen long. Two desks, two dressers, two beds gobbling up the square footage. One long partitioned closet along the back wall, a window along the front wall. Concrete block walls that I remember, even now, stored up the heat of September and the cold of February and radiated it out at you through the long nights. How did we live in such close proximity to each other in such spare rooms?
We seem cartoonishly large in these narrow confines, conscious of using up too much oxygen. Scott cranks open one of the tall side windows that flank the broad center window. He sits back down and we grin at each other like fools. Mike is here, a Cellar Dwellar from before my time. We’re trespassing, of course, but Bob let us in. He has worked for the university since the day he graduated from it. Later, Bob’s son Bobby, who will graduate from Rutgers next year, will stop by. It’s the Saturday before Memorial Day 2010, a few months shy of thirty years since I first arrived here at Livingston College.
We’re sitting in Room 3701, Bob and Scott’s old basement room. This is the room where we hung out all the time, the communal hub of our Cellar Dwellar lives. (Yes, that’s how we spelled it, -ar not -er.) Indeed, we spent so much time here that it was not all that uncommon to enter the room and find three or four people there watching TV, none of whom had seen Bob or Scott, or knew where they were. The door to 3701 was always open; somebody was always there.