When I talked to Will Wegner ’23, he was in his friend’s New York apartment, wearing a red Wisconsin Badgers sweatshirt and surrounded by fairy lights dangling from the ceiling. Wegner and his friend were on a self-imposed songwriting retreat, trying to crank out 14 songs in 14 days for a play that the two of them co-wrote. In the end, they wrote around 20 songs. It’s a retreat that could only happen because Wegner, a theater and performance studies major, decided to take the semester off. And because Wegner has what his roommate Simon Rabinowitz ’23 calls “Will energy.”
This energy was palpable in our conversation, which breathlessly bounded from one plan to another. Their initial gap semester plan involved the two of them alone in a cabin in northern Wisconsin — of this idea, Wegner speculated that “maybe we’ll go crazy and kill each other.” Then, they jumped from their “ultimate” plan — staying at the Rabinowitz family’s newly bought lake house in Pennsylvania — to a surprise plan, a quarantine love story with Claire Medina, Rabinowitz’s girlfriend’s roommate. The current plan? A writing retreat in New York, some time in Philadelphia, Christmas in Washington, D.C. with his newfound partner’s family, and then Wegner and Medina driving to his hometown in Wisconsin for New Years’.
It’s the love story that he focused on the most.
Rabinowitz’s girlfriend, Sam Pancoe, is a student at the University of Pennsylvania and is currently taking online classes in her Philadelphia apartment, along with her two roommates. Prior to moving into his parents’ new Pennsylvania house, Rabinowitz spent several weeks with Pancoe in her apartment. So when Wegner drove down from Wisconsin to Philadelphia — “He brought me cheese curds,” Rabinowitz recalled — to begin the process of moving everything into the lake house, it only made sense that Wegner would have some interaction with Pancoe and her roommates.
That “interaction” first happened on Sept. 3, when Rabinowitz asked Pancoe if Wegner could come and eat outside with them. However, it started pouring, and because they were a quarantine pod of sorts already, the three decided to eat inside the apartment with Pancoe’s roommates. It was during the dinner that Wegner first met Pancoe’s roommate Medina, at which point he texted Rabinowitz that he thought Medina was cute. Medina sent a similar message about Wegner to Pancoe at the same time.
After Wegner left in his car to go to the lake house, Rabinowitz and Pancoe decided that they had to intervene. Rabinowitz called Wegner’s cell and told him to drive back to the apartment. Wegner thought Rabinowitz was joking. Rabinowitz acknowledged that this is exactly the type of prank he would pull.
“Everyone is still in the living room for Will’s second appearance, trying not to laugh,” Pancoe recalled, noting that hookups in their apartment normally happen with strangers, not the roommates of boyfriends.
Wegner and Medina ultimately spent the night together, which turned into texting, calling and, ultimately, dating. Pancoe’s roommates and Rabinowitz had a betting pool regarding how long it would take until they said “I love you” to each other. The consensus was around three weeks, but it took a bit longer than that, so no one won.
Throughout our conversation, Medina referred to their relationship as an “absurd situation.” Not only did they fall in love with their roommate’s boyfriend’s roommate, but they did so during a pandemic, making Wegner one of the only people that Medina has seen in person besides their roommates.
This sentiment was echoed by Pancoe, who added, “I don’t really know what to call him. Simon’s roommate, also dating my roommate.” After a quick pause, she continued: “Will’s great, though.”
It’s a weird time to date, and an even weirder time in which to fall in love — both Wegner and Medina used “weird” multiple times to describe the past few months. But Wegner also considered their pairing to be “preordained,” creating what felt like a “natural rectangle” of relationships with Rabinowitz and Pancoe.
Medina once told Wegner, he recalled, that “even if it weren’t for COVID and these arbitrary circumstances, there still would have been a way for us to find each other.”
Rabinowitz felt similarly, in that it was a pairing that was completely unsurprising once it happened. He described them both as “pedantic,” but in a good way, and especially focused on “intricacies.”
“No one was expecting them to date,” Pancoe said, “but they have a lot in common and I think that they’re happy.” She added, “It’s nice to see that.”
For Medina and Wegner, the future isn’t completely clear. Medina noted that COVID-19 will likely be around for quite some time, and their current long-distance setup is working well, especially since they’re both on the East Coast at the moment.
Wegner added that he is also trying to live in the moment and not think too much ahead, but he hopes that they’ll stay together for a long time.
“[This relationship is] the only good or reasonable thing that has happened to me [during the pandemic],” he said. “Something we’ve both needed.”
Madison Hahamy | email@example.com