c/o Sam Jarrett

1993: I first met Jarrett Seals, my freshman roommate at Wesleyan (Butterfield A when it was the last dorm on campus with shared hall phones), in typical fashion. Moving a car full of carelessly packed books, CDs, and clothes into our dorm room, parents hovering anxiously, posing for farewell pictures. We were at the threshold of a new world of experiences. Excited, nervous, and yes, a little scared. When I look at those pictures, I can still see it in our eyes.

I’m from Poughkeepsie, NY, 90 miles north of New York City and home of IBM and Vassar, which many in town viewed as a little too queer and elite. It’s not a suburb exactly, but not quite the kind of city one imagines when thinking of cities. I had a happy and pretty ordinary upbringing. An early life obsessed with insects and frogs, which gave way to soccer and video games. AP classes, tennis, band, year book, hosting exchange students, model rockets, all that shit. For me, Wesleyan was going to be a wonderful place to play ultimate, study physics, and bloom late.

Jarrett was a black club kid from New York City, in those days typically dressed hoop earrings, baggy shorts, striped socks, and platform shoes. He was totally open and hungry for experience. He was worldly. He had learned Spanish growing up, learned Portuguese during a three week trip, and would go on to learn Italian at Wesleyan. It is hard to believe now, but he was the first openly gay person I had ever met. He quickly formed a crew of like minded shady bitches: the House of Shade. Arts, fashion, style, dance, and snaps for days. He was going to be a fashion designer.

Even as I squarely enforced a no smoking policy in our room, I loved that we were roommates. This was what I imagined Wesleyan was all about. A model of harmonious diversity right in my room! I was diving into life on campus with a fearless and over the top live-in role model. He called me out for my disinterested fashion sense; I held my own throwing shade at his friends.

Still he was restless. I remember a Thursday part way through our first semester, I was up studying when he came home. Frisky and tipsy. “Sam I had the best time… I had some pot. I had some vodka. I had some sex in the attic!” His first action in college. He had discovered Eclectic.

That night turned into many more. Did you know you can snort heroin? I didn’t. Eventually he found having a roommate an inconvenience and transferred into his own room, leaving me with a coveted single occupancy double. We remained friends but drifted apart, his studies took him to Rome our junior year and he came back mentally done with college. The world awaited! We hugged at graduation. He got a Fulbright to work at the Guggenheim in Venice. Then I heard rumors he was back in NYC. That we was addicted to drugs.

In June of 2003, I learned that he was dead. 28 years old. Overdose of heroin. He was one of the most passionate, alive, fearless people I ever met. How? Why? What if…?

When I heard about the bad Molly on campus, the students in critical condition, a flood of memories of Jarrett washed over me. I cried. I mourned his loss again. Way too young. Way too soon. What on earth would he be doing now? Something that I could not do. Something that I would admire.

Take care of yourselves. Take care of each other. Have fun, explore, experiment, but be safe. The world needs you. You are loved and admired, even by people you no longer really know.

Borgeson is a member of the Class of 1997.

  • k.d. lang;s mangina

    Extremely well put and touching. Thank you for writing this.

    • k.d. lang’s mangina

      I loved that this comment got downvoted. A sincere, heartfelt comment, and someone gave it a downvote. Ahh, reminds me of being back on campus.

  • wow

    Thank you for this. Beautiful.

  • Robert Humphries

    Sad and we’ll written.

  • Ravi Davis

    I don’t really like this. It should be named “Echoes from the Periphery”.

  • Catherine Catalá Lasanta

    There was so much more to him than this and the sweeping generalizations come off as direspectful.

    • k.d. lang’s mangina

      Are you guys fucking serious? The author pretty much poured his heart into it, putting the emotion he felt (and still feels) over his roommate/friend’s overdose death into words as both a memorial and a warning, and a bunch of people attack him for it. Are you people ever happy? Can anyone ever do anything right? Can’t something just exist as it appears–as an act with good intentions? You are incorrigible.

      • Anonymous

        It’s OK. We all know each other and this isn’t trolling. It makes sense to me that anyone who was close to Jarrett would want to see him remembered as they remember him and certainly not as a stereotype or cliche. I tried to do this, but I hope the solution here is for other people to share other memories.

  • Anonymous

    Sam, I’m sure you meant well by with this, but Jarrett deserves more than this” “Have fun, explore, experiment, but be safe.”

  • Anonymous

    I hope it was clear that the point of this piece was to underscore that even though I didn’t know Jarrett as well as many people, some of whom have commented to underscore that fact here, I was deeply moved by his death and still remember him fondly. I greatly admired him in life – as his full larger than life 3-dimensional self. I was not trying to elevate or embellish my relationship with him or to draw him as a caricature. I’m surprised it reads to some as empty clichés and sweeping generalizations – it is drawn exclusively from specific memories and experiences – but I am sorry if I’ve offended anyone who knew him well.

    I would love to be directed to a profile of him or a tribute to him that better captures his spirit. Apart from a brief memorial by his mother, I was unable to find one on my own.

    • k.d. lang’s mangina

      This was a terrific memorial and warning. Watching people attack you for writing this makes me pull my hair out. Some people are never happy and have a very real victimization fetish.

  • Ann Ginsburg

    Let me tell all of you something….I knew the real Jarrett. And this was a nice tribute and all but I am here to tell you that that man was a genius. I GREW UP with him. Y’all met him in college which is cute and all but the truth is I watched him transform into his persona(s). No tribute can do him justice. And let someone have something to say back to me…I challenge you;) I was the first one who went to Bigala meetings with him, we chilled on the piers, went to balls, clubs, we were the originals. He will forever be missed, never forgotten, and no one will hold a candle to him. No one has yet and even though he wasn’t famous yet if someone had intervened and gotten him off drugs the world would know who he was by now. TRUST.

    • Ann Ginsburg

      Bigala was at Vassar, I meant BIGLYNY…at 5am they all blend into one. Bottom line: no one can or will replace him. And he shall be forever missed and in the hearts of those who knew him and loved him for who he was (not some notion of what they thought he was). He was deep, complex, and too intelligent for his own good. But not intelligent enough to get the help he so badly needed. It is the world’s loss and I feel for his mother more than I can express in words. May he finally be at peace.

  • Ravi Davis

    Ann-Ravi here. Thanks for all the memories. We all shared great times between Wesleyan and Vassar with Jarrett, Amit, Becca et al. You were just fortunate to meet him ealier…so don’t come for the rest of us!!