So it’s finally reading week. Look at you go! You’re so excited you can hardly concentrate through your last class. Maybe you have a train to catch or a flight or a bus waiting for you. Maybe you’re hitching a ride with friends, or maybe like me, you’re fortunate enough to have your mum drive three hours to pick you up because she refuses to pay $40 for a bus ticket but will gladly drop that on gas.
You finally get home and it’s as if you never left. Your pet attacks you and you almost start to cry (or maybe you actually cry). Your mom has made your bed and it smells like the laundry detergent your family uses and not whatever’s on sale at the nearest grocery store.
You look in the fridge and it's filled with all the things you used to eat regularly like string cheese, fresh fruit and chocolate milk. The cupboards have cookies, fruit rollups and cashews (such luxuries you cannot afford nor can’t find in the cafeteria).
You’re so happy to be here, to be back, to be with your sister or brother or dog or cat or salamander whatever it is, you’re no longer alone.
You and your sibling play your game system and watch some Netflix and your mum makes your favourite home-cooked meal. Dad gets home from work and wraps you into a big bear hug. You all eat as a family and catch up on the latest family drama. They tell you how proud they are and how it's so nice to have their child home again.
You have the best sleep of your life wrapped in your comforters and in a comfortable bed and wake up to the smell of bacon and eggs. The weekend passes as fast as you’d expect. The week is filled with reading, cleaning and Netflix. Of course, you study and hang with old friends here and there but it feels so good to be home you forget about the new life you’ve started to build at school.
It’s Thursday, your sibling says how much all the teachers are missing you and how they’d appreciate a visit so you go, not expecting a fuss, not expecting to stay long.
You walk into your old school, for me it was the smell. The smell of paint and children. It brought me right back and it was like nothing had changed because aside from some new wall hangings, it hadn’t. I was fortunate enough to go to a very small school, borderline private and everyone knew everybody. You know who was sleeping with who, who everyone liked and who was ditching class. Even the teachers knew.
You walk in and your favourite teacher comes up to you and you are surprised that she hugs you. You talk with her and she tells you how she’s missed you. You gossip and tell her how much your roommate is bugging you. When the lunch bell rings you find your sister and in my case (because she’s my best friend) I sit with her. Her best friend gives you a hug and (because she was my best friend too) she starts to cry and tell you how much she’s missed you.
You walk over to the girl who was one of your close friends but was a grade younger so she didn’t graduate with you. You give her a huge hug and she's so happy to see you. You stand by your old lockers and catch up with her. People walking by wave to you and then you see him. It’s the same him you remember. He’s grown a lot taller and he’s started to dress better. He comes up to your friend and asks if she’s ready to go eat. He looks and you and you struggle to meet his eyes.
“Hey,” he says.
“Hi,” you say back.
He goes to say something but your sister and her friend pull you aside to the cafeteria. You sit down and eat and tell them all about your adventures. They catch you up on all the latest high school drama. You laugh and try not to think about how good he’s looking and how badly you wish you could go see him.
Your friend starts to tell a story and you zone out and start to think of him again and the first time you met.
He was the rebound lover. I mean I shouldn’t say that. But he was the first guy you loved after your grade 11 breakup with the older guy you swore you’d spend the rest of your life with. He was your senior year shooting star. There a minute, then gone. He was younger than you but at the time it didn’t matter because you liked that he wasn’t stressing about university like you were. You liked that you didn’t have classes with him so you weren’t forced to ask how he was doing with his chemistry lab because you were struggling and you needed reassurance. No. He was carefree. You loved him not because of the good things he reminded you of but for the bad things he made you forget.
It didn’t end well. Maybe when it ended, you hooked up with all his friends to forget him, maybe you went to every party to drink the thought of him away. Maybe you cried every night in your room because he started seeing someone his own speed and it crushed you to see him with someone else. Maybe you did all of the above.
I’ll tell you one thing though. When you head home from your old high school and say goodbye to all the teachers and friends you once had, please don't notice how he’s alone in the computer lab working on a project. Don't go up to him and ask what he’s doing. Because he’ll show you all the techniques he’s learned and all the neat things he can program. Please don’t notice how you’re so close to him you can smell the cologne that used to drive you crazy. When he looks at you and tells you how good it was to see you, something inside of you will ache. He’ll bring you into a hug and you’ll hold him so tight you fear you’ll never let go. But you do. You’ll do all of these things and when you leave the lab you think how ironic it is that this time, you’re the one walking away but somehow your heart still hurts.
When you get home, your mom will ask how it was to see everyone again. Be honest and tell her the truth.
With a heavy heart and teary eyes please remember that you are a first-year university student, still holding on.