When I got outside, it had of course started pouring rain. How perfect. Hard, cold drops landed all over my body and I felt soaked almost immediately. My car was blocks away and the only shelter in sight was a phone booth on the corner, so I made for it with haste.
Once inside, I closed the door behind me and slumped against it. So there I was: wet, exhausted, disheveled, unemployed, huddled in a phone booth with raindrops beating loudly on the glass. I had absolutely no idea what my next move was. And then I thought of Lee.
That would be Lee J. Lee, hands down the most unusual human being I’ve ever known. We met during my freshman year in college; he was a junior who lived in a single room down the hall from me. He kept pretty much to himself, and while I’d seen him a number of times, we never exchanged a word until about a month into the school year. That was when I happened one evening to be listening to Another Green World by Brian Eno with my door open. Lee, walking by, froze in his tracks. It was his favorite album.
We started talking and quickly discovered that we liked the same music and shared a fondness for recreational mind-bending. Lee went to his room for a minute and returned with a pile of CDs and two hits of acid adorned with the likeness of Ms. Pac-Man. That was the beginning of a long night of conversation and music appreciation interrupted by a five-hour hike around the campus.
Lee was a heavy-duty thinker with a double major in physics and philosophy. I didn’t understand a lot of what he said, his references were maddeningly esoteric, and at times he seemed to contradict himself within the space of a sentence. But it was exciting to be in the presence of a mind so different than any I’d previously been familiar with. His thought process was at once strictly scientific and oddly mystical. He was also wildly funny, spoke with a poetic flair, and could be soulfully quiet for long stretches of time.
After that we spent a lot of time together, expanding our consciousnesses and exploring the mysteries of the universe. The workings of Lee’s mind continued to confound me, but after awhile I was able to decode all but his most cryptic utterances. He was secretive about his background, but after mentioning that he had a trace of a southern drawl, I learned that he was from Georgia. His mother was a native southerner and novelist; his father was a Baptist minister from Korea; and they both had perverse senses of humor, hence his name. Lee was also generous, fearless, and partied harder than anyone I knew while effortlessly maintaining a 4.0 GPA.
I tried to keep up with him, but it was all I could do to keep from flunking out. I didn’t care. I was having the time of my life.