This is another item from my puzzle box, which I pick at random, all from different times of my life. As it turns out, this one is fairly recent. I say fairly; there are items in that box which I’ve had since I was born and other items which entered the box, quite literally, yesterday. This swan can be found about a year and three months down my timeline, from the 22nd of September, 2013 – my first day as a university student.
The nostalgia flies when I remember the day I moved into my new flat in University, lugging cardboard boxes and suitcases up the stairs, along with fat desk lamps and cooking supplies that I’d use twice a year, and occasionally a tearful mum who passed out whenever she got too tearful (I’m joking, she’s not that bad). Moving away from home for long periods of time is something all parents get emotional about. I guess most kids get nervous about it too, but for me, I was more excited. I had left my old school and was finally able to make a fresh start, and it felt good. I really should have been matching her for tears that day, but I think the prospect of having a little independence and freedom in my life.
When all the unpacking was done and my room was as neat as it would never ever be again, e found the plastic bag on the desk which contained our Southampton Fresher’s pack: a list of leaflets that no one ever reads, a Fresher’s magazine, a notepad and pen…and a condom. The contraceptive packet lay at the bottom, mercifully hidden in the folds of the magazine, away from my mum’s eye. My flatmate was not so lucky. She’d been told by our Fresher’s representative (the second years who are supposed to help us adjust to Uni life in the first few weeks, i.e. get us drunk) to open the pack in front of her parents. Gullible as she was, she did so, and the condom packet flew onto the desk, to the mortified silence of her father observing the tagline “What happens in Uni stays in Uni.” I think if that had happened to me in front of my mum, I’d have been transferred out of Uni.
All seven of us would meet in the kitchen later, after all our parents had gone, and order four Domino’s pizzas together that Saturday night. I look back at that room and think of how much my opinion of each person would change over the year I knew them, and how at the start I loved them all as we chatted over pizza and drinks. By chance I was still carrying my Fresher’s pack, and we all had a laugh about the contraception. Amongst the many leaflets we looked over in my bag was a greenish-blue card one, explaining the movie night in the common room every Saturday night in our halls. Having decided that we weren’t going to watch a movie on our first Saturday night, my flatmate Luke absent-mindedly took the leaflet and began making a swan at out of it as we ate our pizzas, before handing it back to me, to my bemused silence.
I’m not sure why I kept it. Perhaps it’s due to the inherent pizza-box smell it holds, or simply the fact that it was a gift from a quirky human being. But it stayed on my shelf in my room for the rest of the year I lived with that flat, and it came with me to my house when I left. It took its place in my box when the summer came, as a reminder of a year new beginnings.