The little sign on the door bore only the four words Tom Thomas Richwood, Ohio, which would lead the casual passer-by to believe that this dormitory room was a single.
Supposedly, only one student lived inside. Only one student slept and studied there. Pounding into his brain the facts of modern physics and of calculus. Reading the works of Homer and of Milton and of Goethe to try to find some meaning that his professors would agree was significant. Working, studying, sleeping, perhaps even dreaming.
In reality, there were two. It wasn't really very unusual for a single to house two students, or for a double to house four. For every 10 names listed for the dormitory, probably there were 16 or 17 persons actually living there. On the average. Sometimes one name would suffice for three or four persons, none of them any more alike than distant cousins.
When Tom returned from dinner that Monday night and unlocked the door, he found his roommate already there. T. Buckingham was sitting at the head of the bed on the far end of the narrow room, next to the black window. He was merely sitting there, dressed in some sort of judicial or perhaps liturgical robe, looking steadily at Tom.
Tom glanced at him as he came in, but that was all. He closed the door and opened the closet door next to it, took off his overcoat and hung it up, and then began to prepare to change into his more comfortable study clothes. He was trying to ignore the steady gaze of his roommate at the head of the bed, but he soon decided that course of action would only delay the inevitable. It would have to come sometime.
He still busied himself in the closet, avoiding meeting the gaze of the other, as he threw out with attempted peevishness, Well, what do you want this time?
T. Buckingham said nothing at first. Then, still gazing at the one who was moving hangers of clothes around with no apparent purpose, he asked simply, Did you enjoy yourself tonight?
Yes, I enjoyed myself tonight.
Was Sue nice to you?
She's always nice to me, said Tom with more emphasis than necessary, as he finally brought out the hanger on which were the old clothes he wore to study in his room and laid hanger and clothes on the foot of the bed. He still didn't look at his roommate a few feet away. Sue's a very fine girl. She's friendly and pleasant toward everyone. She's . . . .
Toward everyone? Then not toward you in particular.
Will you be quiet! snapped Tom as he began to undo his tie. T. Buckingham did not move, did not make a sound.
Tom put the tie away and began to change his shirt. But he was on the defensive and couldn't stay quiet for long. So he spoke again, still without looking up. Maybe she . . . maybe she doesn't feel any special affection for me. Yet. But I'm willing to wait. And keep trying. I think she's worth it. He changed his trousers.
The one in the robe waited until Tom had changed completely and had nothing left to occupy himself with. As Tom shut the closet door and turned towards his roommate for the first time, he was met squarely with the question.