Finally! I’ve reached the end of the 52 week writing challenge. Naturally, the prompt was “a story titled the end.” It’s been a challenge indeed to keep up doing this the whole year through, but it’s been worthwhile. I hadn’t realized how many stories I was capable of creating on the fly. This last piece is more of a reflection on my college graduation and how I’d felt at that time, almost 4 years ago now. Enjoy!
I looked around one last time at the now mostly empty apartment. Legolas had been folded into one of Caitlin’s bins. James Dean was rolled up in a stack of other posters with a rubber band keeping them together. Only Lida’s mugs remained in the cabinet next to the fridge above the stove.
The furniture the rooms came with remained, but my guitar and cheap Target bookshelf had been packed and sent off to my car and the Goodwill store, respectively. Caitlin had erased her notes from the full length mirror upstairs and saved her messy, highlighted and handwritten notes in her agendas in a box downstairs.
We’d done this all before in the three years previous, but this time we wouldn’t be coming back to Campus Crossings. There’d be no more fighting for the parking spot right in front of our door between the two asshole trucks who tried to block me out. No more stopping at the front office to catch the next shuttle to class in the early morning. No more late night walks from Peg Pointe a few blocks up the road after an evening of pizza, movies and board games. No more quick trips to the Walgreens across the street to pick up emergency ice cream for those nights one or more of us came home crying.
It was meant to be an ending. An opportunity to start something new. The whole cliché of every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end. It wasn’t just an end this time though. See, when high school ended, we knew we’d be together again in college. This time was different. This was the end, because we didn’t know if we’d be together again.
Three of us had graduated. One was going to grad school. Two remained behind to finish in Orlando. Two of us moved back to SoFlo to start the job hunt with humanities degrees. We were scattered to the winds, and it was terrifying.
I hadn’t ever known a life without constant companionship, but here I was stepping into a world where I had no idea if my best friends and I could survive the biggest challenge of all: growing up. Sure, over the years there’d been the fair share of tiffs. Throwing shoes at Lida so she’d stop leaving them in the doorway. Complaining about dishes being left in the sink. Reprimanding Char’Lee for letting a stranger into our apartment. We’d made it through all that.
We’d made it through heartbreaks, rejection letters, anxiety attacks and nights we just had too much. But we’d always done that all together, side by side, shoulder to shoulder, hand in hand. Could we still do it with 300 miles between us?
I didn’t have much choice though. I’d have to find out the hard way, by bringing the last bin to my car and stepping over the threshold one last time. One last hug before setting myself up behind the wheel of my car. One last drive down Rouse to remember the weirdly wide, brick speed bumps that would scrape the bottom of my bumper if I took them too fast.
The end of college wasn’t an end. It was the end. Not in a dramatic “my life is over” kind of way, but more of a “my life will never be the same again.” It’ll never be that easy again. It was officially, the real end of childhood. And as sad or scary as that sounds, it’s for the best. It’s the best end.
*Edit: Made a mistake in the story. It was a Walgreens, not a CVS. Change made 1/3/17.