Back in the fall of 1990, I was a freshman at Columbia. Somehow I joined the Parliamentary Debate team (a team I really shouldn't have joined - I didn't fit in at all). We went to a debate tournament at Brown University. I went along as a judge, primarily because I couldn't find a debate partner. That team was so preoccupied with winning that they couldn't be bothered to try to teach me anything. Ah well.
Anyway, while I was there I met another student who was going to judge rounds. His name was Robert Scott Martin (Rob) and he was a junior at Brown. He had beautiful blue eyes, golden hair, and a great smile. He was also a nice guy. We traded phone numbers at the end of the weekend and I went back to Columbia. We talked every now and then, and finally made plans for him to come visit me for a weekend. At the time I lived in the outside room of a walk-through double. My roommate (not the most considerate of creatures) would walk through to her room, her PRIVATE room, whenever, so it isn't like anything bad could have happened. Nonetheless, I chickened out. I canceled on him. I don't know what I was afraid would happen, but I canceled. We continued to talk on the phone and email for the rest of the year.
We went to our respective homes for the summer. At the beginning of my sophomore year I called Brown directory assistance (Brown information? whatever you want to call it) and got Rob's new number. We talk throughout the year, and I really grew to care for him. Before he graduated, we traded home phone numbers.
My junior year was his first year in grad school. He was going to grad school back home in Illinois. We tried to talk, but he never seemed to have the time. He was supposed to come visit me over his Spring Break that year. We agreed to celebrate Valentine's Day together then, as memory serves. We did trade calls and cards on Valentine's Day itself. His card was so sweet. I still remember some of the words.
For whatever reason, he canceled his trip. I know he said he was busy with schoolwork, but when I canceled, I claimed I needed to go home for family obligations. I wonder if schoolwork was his real reason.
Rob became worse and worse about returning calls, and certainly didn't make any. On his birthday in 1993, the fall of my senior year, I called him. I left him a message wishing him a happy birthday, but warning him that I was done. I wasn't going to call anymore. I was tired of chasing. He could call me, because I wasn't going to call again.
Fast forward to May, 1994. I was a few days away from graduating, and decided to call him. The phone number was disconnected, "for further information, call..." I called, fuming. That SOB moved and didn't even bother to call. I called, and asked to speak to Rob Martin. The voice on the other end of the phone (I later found out it was Rob's roomie, Brian, who I had never spoken to) asked me if I was sitting down, and then told me that "Rob is no longer with us." Rob took a study break to get something to eat and choked to death. In early December. I had spent five months thinking he didn't call because he didn't care, and found out he didn't call because he was dead.
Today is his birthday, and I'm just thinking about him. More later, maybe.