By Joan Hyams Schmitz

It’s been a calendar full of days since the boy entered the room, dumping his backpack on the floor as he flopped onto his bed for a power nap. This brief, impromptu trip home served one purpose—a quick trip to the dentist to repair a chipped tooth. Once the incisor was fixed, this student was redeposited on the grounds of the university. Who could have known this would be the last time he graced this space with his physical presence?

The tidy, dust-free room comes complete with a dinky closet and one south-facing window. On sunny winter days, a blackout shade is flung wide open, inviting light and warmth into an otherwise dark, depressed space. The one-time cobalt-blue walls have been slathered in a somber gray, a shade matching the gloom that drapes itself over the house, often coloring the mood of its inhabitants. Two bulky, black-framed photographs that once adorned the walls were never rehung as there’s no desire to decorate this now somber space. A few snapshots of the boy are scattered throughout the room. One, a collage of wallet-sized school photos, reveals the transformation as he morphed from child to young man. Another image captures a proud, smiling father clutching his tow-headed toddler, which was snapped during the elder’s cancer pause.

The furnishings are few—a queen-size bed, a five-drawer dresser, a black-shellacked desk, and a chair on wheels. A well-worn, black-blue-gray-striped comforter cuddles the mattress. The bed sheets have been laundered, washing away any lingering scent of the boy who once lounged, studied, slept, and dreamt between the downy, 600-count threads. A chunky, space-hogging computer rests somewhat sadly and lonely atop the desk. The boy spent oodles of life-snatching hours tapping away at the keyboard, consumed by a League of Legends or Borderlands video game. These rapid-fire clicks confirmed there was life behind the oft closed door. Today, only an eerie quiet seeps from the room. The faint, blue light that once flickered from the base of the monitor has been extinguished. There’s simply no logical reason to keep this massive machine connected to its electrical source.

Thirty miles away in a rural, idyllic college town, the boy spent time in another room located on the third floor of a stone dormitory. This snug, cramped space served as a place where he studied, slept, and hung out; however, unlike his bedroom, these quarters were shared. The boy had coexisted in this room since beginning his sophomore year, save for time spent at home during Thanksgiving and winter break. He returned to this college in late January, anxious to begin his fourth semester.

On March 6, 2018, this particular dorm room was visited by the boy’s father, a lovely soul who resides just beyond the veil. He most likely arrived as the boy slumped to the fake-wood floor, slipping into a diabetic coma. As his son prepared to transition from one life to another, the father patiently waited until the time came to escort him home. Once they reached their otherworldly destination, it’s likely that a huge reunion ensued as the boy was reconnected with grandparents, great-grandparents, and other members of his spirit family. It seems plausible that two childhood friends were also in attendance, having made their own premature transitions in the latter months of 2015.

The boy’s room remains much as it was on that Tuesday afternoon when he scooped up his pack and walked toward the door, intent on a punctual arrival at the dentist’s office. It’s likely that just before heading down the hall, he stopped, turned, and made one final sweeping glance of his space—a quick, OCD inspection confirming he’d gathered all of his meager belongings. As his feet finally crossed the threshold, he had no idea he’d never again return to his room.

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