I packed up my room today at university, which I’ve lived in for almost a year. There was a type of melancholy, a sort of serene wistfulness that I felt pulling my belongings out of the room to put them into the suitcase which has taken me to and from so many places—between parents’ houses, friends’ sofas, more than one university—and now away from the little sanctuary I have been living in. To take my clothes from the closet, my books from the shelves, felt as though I were ripping them out from the roots, wrenching them out like a baby from its mother’s womb, crying, not quite yet ready.
But I know it is time to leave this place. This room is special to me, though it’s unassuming—four whitewashed walls, the type of beige speckled carpet that only companies on a budget would ever commit the faux pas of buying. The heavy curtains with their broad, graceless brush-strokes of anemic mauve and some sort of reddish cream. Hefty, triple glazed windows which look like they belong in a factory, which I tried to make look pretty with my succulents in tan plant pots and sparkly fairy lights. And there is the bed, wide, rammed into the corner so that it is impossible to fully pull the sheet across, stuck between the desk and the wardrobe, with chalky blue covers.
But here is where my friends and I watched countless episodes of Love Island, where we read the news, where I tried to learn the Ukulele and failed miserably. It is where we laughed when we ambled down Mill Road on a Tuesday morning and came back with an antique table which we have no room for, when we stayed here and watched trashy TV and debated it as though it were Shakespeare. And here is where we cried when the thought of being apart made it hard to look each other in the eye, where we said “I’m here for you” and really meant it in the way that makes you feel like there’s a safety net around you at all times, embracing you.
So I sit in the center of this room, on that stained carpet, back against the pleather armchair, surrounded by my belongings before I shoehorn them into a suitcase. I was always a quick packer, used to travelling between my parents’ houses and, wanting to spend every second I could with them rather than staring into my suitcase, I would topple all my clothes into a bag that would cascade out at some point. But now I’m taking my time. We’re listening to Hamilton and we are singing it together, never quite hitting the right notes or always knowing the right combination of words but enjoying it all the same. And I am sad in a way, but also I am not, because leaving the room this time does not mean leaving the people I love. It always did before. It seemed that, wherever I went, someone was always absent. The room holds many memories and joyful moments but so do I, and so do the people who brought life into this room. Even though the room will be empty, and some other tenant will make their own memories here on the vomit carpet and the stuffed-in bed, there will always be a part of it that is ours, and it will be a part that doesn’t remain here but that will come with us—to Washington, to New York, to Boston and London and wherever else we go, because none of us will be left behind.