To an Aesthete Dying Young

A National Book Award–winning writer pays tribute to a Yale roommate who killed himself last year.

Andrew Solomon in Yale Alumni Magazine:

In February 1982, in the middle of my freshman year, I was invited to a party by the most glamorous sophomore I had ever met (now one of my closest friends), and I was wildly excited about it. It was in that perfect proportion for a social event: a third of the people were people I actually knew; a third were people I had seen around and wished I knew; a third were people I had never seen because they inhabited a stratosphere too exalted to have been visible to me, some of them even juniors and seniors. The party was in a dorm room in Pierson. Spandau Ballet, Pat Benatar, the Human League singing “Don’t You Want Me Baby,” which nowadays feel to me as sweetly nostalgic as “Dixie,” were at that time fresh as the morning dew. People were dressed in clothing that might in 2010 be coming back into fashion for the fifth time, but that was then just coming into fashion for the first time—even though much of it had been cleverly selected at the Salvation Army. In those days, the drinking age was still 18, and so there were drinks, and there were some people doing cocaine in the bathroom, because it was, after all, the 1980s. I would not have been more thrilled and dazzled to have been invited to the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer one year earlier. People were witty and funny, having a truly good time, dancing well, laughing. Some were sitting around in the disco half-light of the room itself, others in the glaring fluorescence of the stairway, and some in little knots in the moon-drenched courtyard. I had hated high school and had always felt marginal there, and now here I was with all these amazing people, and I was having one of the best times of my life. It’s hard to remember the full cast of that party, but I tried it as an exercise recently and realized that I am still good friends with more than 20 of the people who were there, and am Facebook friends with at least another 25. I always say that Yale was the beginning of the self that I have been ever since, that I was someone else in elementary and high school, someone I barely remember, but that at Yale, I started to be me, and that party has always stuck in my mind as the moment when the shift became official.

More here.