Your name is Matt Hunter. You are twenty years old. You grew up
in an upper-middle-class suburb in northern New Jersey, not far
from Manhattan. You live on the poorer side of town, but it's a
pretty wealthy town. Your parents work hard and love you
unconditionally. You are a middle child. You have an older brother
whom you worship, and a younger sister whom you tolerate.
Like every kid in your town, you grow up worrying about your
future and what college you will get into. You work hard enough and
get good, if not spectacular, grades. Your average is an A minus.
You don't make the top ten percent but you're close. You have decent
extracurricular activities, including a stint as treasurer of the
school. You are a letterman for both the football and basketball
team--good enough to play Division III but not for a financial
scholarship. You are a bit of a wiseass and naturally charming. In
terms of popularity, you hover right below the top echelon. When you
take your SATs, your high scores surprise your guidance counselor.
You shoot for the Ivy Leagues, but they are just a little out of
your reach. Harvard and Yale reject you outright. Penn and Columbia
waitlist you. You end up going to Bowdoin, a small elite college in
Brunswick, Maine. You love it there. The class sizes are small. You
make friends. You don't have a steady girlfriend, but you probably
don't want one anyway. In your sophomore year, you start on the
varsity football team as a defensive back. You play JV basketball
right off the bat, and now that the senior point guard has
graduated, you have a serious chance of getting valuable minutes.
It is then, heading back to campus between the first and second
semester of your junior year, that you kill someone.
You have a wonderfully hectic holiday break with your family, but
basketball practice beckons. You kiss your mother and father
good-bye and drive back to campus with your best friend and
roommate, Duff. Duff is from Westchester, New York. He is squat with
thick legs. He plays right tackle on the football team and sits the
bench for basketball. He is the biggest drinker on campus--Duff never
loses a chugging contest.
Duff wants to stop at UMass in Amherst, Massachusetts, on the way
up. A high school buddy of his is a member of a wild frat there.
They are having a huge party.
You're not enthusiastic, but you're no party pooper. You are more
comfortable with smaller gatherings where you pretty much know
everyone. Bowdoin has about 1,600 students. UMass has nearly 40,000.
It is early January and freezing cold. There is snow on the ground.
You see your breath as you walk into the frat house.
You and Duff throw your coats on the pile. You will think about
that a lot over the years, that casual toss of the coats. If you'd
kept the coat on, if you'd left it in the car, if you'd put it
anyplace else . . .
But none of that happened.
The party is okay. It is wild, yes, but it feels to you like a
forced wild. Duff's friend wants you both to spend the night in his
room. You agree. You drink a fair amount--this is a college party,
after all--though not nearly as much as Duff. The party winds down.
At some point you both go to get your coats. Duff is holding his
beer. He picks up his coat and swings it over his shoulder.
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