By Alexander Van der Biest
Do you remember Quantum Leap? Of course you do. Even though you never watched a single episode in its original language and had to settle for the dubbed German version, the premise of this Wednesday afternoon staple instantly appealed to you. The idea of that unfortunate yet determined Scott Bakula, eternally hopping from one body, time and place to another to solve others’ misfortunes while continuously searching for his own way back home… Well, guess what? I have just leapt into you. Yes, you. Of all people.
And of all the days from your life that I could have chosen to leap into, of course it just had to be today.
It is still summer and yet you are as usual inappropriately dressed for that time of the year and the sleepy Mediterranean town you are about to say goodbye to. Long sleeves, a formal shirt, Caterpillar boots that have rarely left your feet since they expensively walked into your wardrobe three years ago, and a khaki jacket. I am surprised at how slim- no, how thin you are- better not get ill soon when another entirely different climate will creep into your sinuses. I notice something of a lump in your throat, but that is nothing new, now is there? You will surely grow into a better speaker in the future. Your palms are sweaty in a Slim Shady way, so your inappropriate dressing style has nothing to do with it. It is because this is the day you have been waiting for so long.
A day that is actually a forced one, since only you made the decision to celebrate it this early- nearly ten days ahead of when most people are expected to do so. Convince yourself it was the cheapest flight option available and that you just have to be there this early to get settled in when you actually never really bothered to check where you were going to. Some place made out of two syllables that you settled for as the inevitable third option when your first two choices of studying War and Computing and Military History turned out to be too expensive and too unwilling to play ball in your escape scheme, respectively.
You touch your dictionaries, poetry anthologies, history books and graphic novels, and smirk when you notice the holes of those that you have wrongly selected to take with you. Soon, you will add newfound academic heroes to them to the depletion of your bank account and further satisfaction of your intellectual arrogance. Funnily enough, most of those volumes you have so carefully packed are not needed on the road you are about to follow. Yeah. As if you would believe me.
Mentioning that- another smirk when you think of the blue Samsonite suitcase that is waiting for you downstairs. How many times has not it been there for you already? It was not too long ago when that was all you owned, other than tears and a grudge that, unbeknownst to you, has led you to this point. And that cumbersome, already dated desktop PC that, yet unknown to you, will never survive its first set of British stairs, thanks to that careless removal company your parents have hired for that small fortune. And those huge cardboard boxes packed with kitchen utensils, when have you barely just learned to fry an egg and still treat the heat coming from a stove like a four-year-old would. They will follow you soon enough.
But when it comes to luggage, nothing more important than that blue A4 notebook and those dreams you are carrying with you. One, the embodiment of your pseudo-artistic inspirations, something to accompany you on endless rainy nights as a pencil-built shrine to the opposite sex and detours into metaphysics. The other, a desire to excel at studying what you think you already know about but have never really stopped to look at for what it actually really is. Career aspirations? Oh God, heavens no, as long as you can distinguish yourself from those classmates you did not really bother saying goodbye to last May. And to think today so nearly did not happen- if it were not for that Dutch woman whose philanthropy- or loan for your financially strained parents to bear- forced your very first contract signature. Another person to please with good grades, although it is actually all to your own glorification.
The old women are already outside, with their foldable chairs, their all-seeing yet never-looking up eyes, thousand-year old brooms and colorful feather dusters. The only people in the world who can put rust on a plastic bucket. You hear them in the uphill, narrow street below, and know they will be the last people to see you off when you will get into the blue Peugeot Express parked behind the old Ermita. It is a good thing you never bothered to learn their names.
You are no longer smirking. That is one mischievous, unmistakable, smile. What a year you have had! Cried over a short skirt for the first time and mistook another girl’s drunken dancing for interest in you. Discovered Lorca, and after him, the entire generation of 1927. Lunged at your brother’s throat for everyone- especially those see-nothing, know-nothing dinosaurs- to see and gossip about. Came home from school one day to find the world had ended (again). Committed entire passages of Ancient Greek and their translation to memory, every day for 8 months. Spent two days in hell writing diagonally with a cramped wrist to convince a University that you were never going to attend anyways that you were worthy of a place. Bought even more baggy surfer trousers that did not fit your Vangelis-centred music listening habits.
What a ride it has been, what a road lies ahead! I could warn you about tequila, the cost of arrogance and social awkwardness, false fire alarms in halls of residence, leg fractures and green eyes next summer. Or get you off fencing and grabbing dumbbells right away, tell you that real friendships can and will be built, tease your tongue with mixed doner and naan kebabs and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream already. But no, for now, I am going to ask you to listen.
Listen! Something is afoot, and not just in your mini-world anymore, but in the world as a whole. The news is coming up the stairs, the world and parental voices with it. And it is growing ever louder, shaking you even further out your cocoon. So now it is your turn to jump, to race and jump down, one pair of stairs after another. Then stop at the corner and be dumbstruck by what is happening on the television screen. Today is the day we-you-I will fly off to higher education and into adulthood. Today is September, the…