This brings the story to Eric Matamba. If you ask Eric, he would probably tell you that one his earliest memories of me, is in the football locker room during our JV year, after a practice in September; I told him I made music and asked him if he would listen to it and tell me what he thought. But if I am being honest, I don’t remember that moment, though I do have many more fond memories of our moments spent together, (like the time he gave a speech, crying at his graduation party, calling me “family” among all his other family members and close friends that he had grown up with). Or the time I texted him the summer between our Sophomore and Junior year, begging him to come back to North High to do IB because he had told me he was thinking of going back South to be with his friends. Eric would tell you this was probably a crucial moment in the destiny of our relationship because if not for that text, to know that he would have at least one person to battle through the next two years with, there would have been no reassurance to convince him to stay enrolled at North.
Over the next two years, we were friends, who shared deep thoughts, and minimal revelations to one another, but it was just a preview of true friendship. During our Senior year, we had our first class together every morning. It was a class similar to “homeroom.” We would share our lives with one another as well as our other senior classmates, and that included college applications, acceptances, and rejections. I applied to some of the top engineering schools in the country, including Georgia Institute of Technology, which was my top school, University of Maryland College Park, Princeton University, Cornell University, Johns Hopkins University, and Drexel University. I was absolutely sure I wanted to major in engineering; it best fit my life path. I knew from the time I was young; I wanted to design and push innovation in the automotive industry, engineering was the perfect degree to support that dream. Eric, on the other hand, wanted to pursue biology, because of a great interest he had in medicine, but that he would later come to find out was the result of an unaddressed desire of his parents. And the school we had in common, Drexel University.
Now to be clear, I did not want to go to Drexel; my Mom was insistent on visiting a few colleges before applying so that I would have an idea of whether I would be happy in that environment. I loved Georgia Tech, and I loved Johns Hopkins, but I got rejected from Hopkins after applying for a “more competitive” early decision, and I got deferred from Georgia Tech until the following year. In fact, the only school I received a fall acceptance letter from was Drexel. The University of Maryland had offered me a study abroad option for the first term of freshman year, but I didn’t want to go that route because I was unsure how I would adapt after moving back. I had a best friend growing up who moved to France in his teen years and was never the same after moving back to the states, taking on the responsibility of the Westernized University life. I was also still struggling, heavily, with self-esteem, and moving away seemed really frightening to me. So, Drexel it was. Shortly after I made my decision, Eric told me he was really set on going to George Washington University, but Drexel was still in consideration. He proposed we should room together, but I had heard from many people that if you room with one of your friends, by the end of that year, if you make it that long, you won’t be friends anymore. So, I delayed my response but encouraged him to go to Drexel. I thought it would be cool if I had at least one good friend there to make socializing a little easier if it was difficult. I tried the roommate matching platform Drexel offered but didn’t seem to be connecting with anyone I deemed “cool enough” to live with; so, I told Eric we could room together and maybe go with the three roommate dorms. We ultimately decided to just keep it as the two of us, in case the other person was too different from our living standards. We were both clean, tidy, and respectful of each other and our belongings.
We received our time ticket for dorm registration the week I was going to the Dominican Republic. This would be my first time out of the country. I was looking forward to it but had no expectations of what it would be like since I had nothing to compare it to. And so, as the academic year came to a close, and I MacGyvered my way through to graduation into senior week, this would initiate the end of my life as I knew it.