Having farewell outings with friends always smacks a little of hypocrisy for an antisocial chap like me – I keep to myself all year (while keeping fairly updated on the Big Bang Theory front, etc) and all of a sudden I’m leaving (for only two months, if I’m coming back in Dec) and I feel the sudden need to reconnect with people I see no more than twice a year. The further irony is that I only feel like I’ll miss these people after I meet up, not so much before. So I guess the Nash equilibrium is: stay at home and whine about there not being enough episodes of everything.
Someone (probably one of the girls in my batch who are by now annoyingly mature and war-weary) mentioned that it never really strikes you until a couple of days before departure that you’re really leaving – and then it looms huge and brooding and eternal. Today I had my last home-cooked meal with the family. My father whipped up some dishes: slightly fancier than usual, but otherwise it might as well been just another dinner at home, something I always had to get out of the way before I could watch TV/sleep/do homework. At the end of it I took a look around the house and suddenly felt something welling up, agonising and infinite. Forget the customary countdown from a year, a month, a week – I’ve two nights left in my own bed and I’m only just beginning to realise why people count down, tenderly controlling the speed of departure and the direction of flight. They dare to want to remember the things they’re leaving behind: the chatter of the boring predictable Channel 8 show issuing from the living room, the harsh scraping sounds of the dining table chairs when we shuffle in our seats, the wry banter at dinner. They dare to see that even the most prosaic things begin to take on painfully inimitable beauty when they’re being left behind, and they dare to set it aside in constantly renewed expectation of a newer, fresher sort of good.
I don’t think I dare to, and I don’t think I will before I leave. I leave everything to the last minute and I don’t expect nostalgia to be any different. Maybe it’ll happen at the departure gates as I hand my boarding pass over to those security blokes for inspection – the point of no turning back (except maybe for a quick blinked glance). Maybe in my seat on the plane, flipping through the flight magazine or getting started on The Trial (my aptly chosen companion for more reasons than one). Or maybe even in my room in college, just me and my feverish recollections of C S Lewis’ most comforting thoughts (God can make complex good out of simple evil – and anyway studying at Oxford hardly bears resemblance to any great evil, until you consider the number of essays I’ll be doing there every week).
I offer to do the dishes when we’re done, for the last time.