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Senior Column: Breaking up is hard to do

Last night I had to do one of the hardest things of my life.

No, it wasn't finally paying my OIT bill or trying to figure out the intricacies of Curriculum 2000.

I finally broke up with The Chronicle last night.

My roommate knew it was going to be an emotional evening when I threw on some flip-flops and stuffed some napkins in my pocket.

"So this is the big night, huh?" she smiled faintly and continued typing furiously on Instant Messenger.

"Yeah." I moved reluctantly to the door, hoping she would stop me from doing what I had to do.

"Have fun," she responded, eyes still trained on her computer screen. I sneaked a peak over her shoulder to discover her now entranced by a fresh game of Snood.

Left to my own devices, I trudged along, my feet growing heavier with each step. In the shortest amount of time ever, I found myself at the bins outside Alpine where I picked up my date for the last time.

I yanked the best-looking Chronicle left in the bin and quickly perused him. We exchanged pleasantries.

"Hey," I said, careful not to get newsprint on my fingers.

"Hey yourself," he replied, rustling his sports section with indignation. He knew what was coming and apparently wasn't going to make this easy for me.

"So you want to get something to eat?" I tried to break the tension.

"I guess." He definitely wasn't showing any enthusiasm.

"Oak Room?" I gestured toward the DukeCard office.

"Whatever."

We walked in silence, The Chronicle folded neatly under my arm. When we first started going out, I was very self-conscious and often shoved him haphazardly into my bag whenever other people passed by. The years had bred familiarity, though, and I walked proudly, if a bit hesitantly, up the steps to the Oak Room.

Not for the first time, I was struck by the Oak Room's complete transformation since our first date here four years ago. I was a bright-eyed freshman, with only 18 years of life experience to his 94 volumes. Back then, the Oak Room served hamburgers and those dinner rolls you asked for by name. Now the servers were nice to us and asked if we wanted to see the wine list.

I emphatically nodded.

We perused our menus for a few minutes in silence.

"I don't know why we even come to this place," he spoke on his own initiative for the first time. "Beth Iams and Martin Barna gave it a terrible review back in January."

"It's a good place to talk," I gestured to the empty tables surrounding us.

I stared at him purposefully and he stared back, headlines drawn together.

I decided this was as good a time as any. My friend Kelly told me that it was best if I broke it off clean.

"You know, we've had a good four years together. We've had some laughs and some good times. But I'm a senior now and in a few weeks, I have to be moving on. I just think it's best if we see other...." I poured it all out quickly, languishing on the last line.

He just stared at me, as if he couldn't believe this was happening. He must have known this was the reason I'd asked him out tonight, but the actual words must have come as a shock.

"But I don't want to see other writers, and I don't want you seeing other papers either," he stammered.

"Look, I don't even know anything about sportswriting," I argued. "You can do so much better without me. I spend more time on the Internet Movie Database than on espn.com. I come late to men's basketball games that I'm supposed to be covering. I don't know any arcane sports trivia or the names of the NFL expansion teams. You know why I like watching tennis? Because you can't get the teams confused!"

By this time, my voice had risen a few octaves and the waitstaff were huddled by the doorway, pointing at us and whispering.

He had started to cry then, page one buried in his napkin. He silently sobbed for a few minutes before glancing back up at me. I did a doubletake--he looked terrible, text all smeared, headlines running into bylines. His graphics looked great, though, colorful and sharp. Rosalyn Tang must have helped him get ready.

"It's not you, it's me." I laid one hand on the University section.

He rustled as if to pull away, but then let my hand stay there. I began rubbing the sports section we had so many good times working on together.

"That's what everyone says," he cried. "I know you just want me for my crossword. You don't care at all about my wants or needs! You use me for a few years and then you all just walk out on me."

He was getting pretty worked up by now, so I pulled out one of the napkins I thought to bring and began wiping away some of his smeared ink.

"Hey, you remember that road trip we took to Atlanta to cover the men's Georgia Tech game? How I only got five hours of sleep and then wrote both the game story and the commentary?"

He looked up a bit at that so I continued. "And when I first started covering wrestling? How I knew nothing about it, but went every Friday night freshman year anyway? Or all those Sunday afternoons we spent up at 301 Flowers together, trying to come up with a good lead for all those field hockey stories?"

At that, he started bawling again and I couldn't figure out what I had done wrong.

"What is it? What's wrong?" I asked. "I'll come back and visit. I swear."

"It's not that," he replied, dabbing at the comics with another napkin. "It's just that.... Who's going to cover field hockey and crew when you're gone?"

Christina Petersen is a Trinity senior and staff writer for The Chronicle.

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