I feel overdramatically sad. It’s as if someone has scrubbed my soul with a steel pot scourer. I’m alone in House 79.01. My boys have gone.
But we did good goodbyes. And for almost the first time in my life, I’m pleased with how goodbyes went.
It didn’t look like the goodbyes would go at all well for a while. Three different attempts had been made at a final dinner for everyone together and each had failed, due to money, differing tastes, impetuousness, being nineteen years old, and the general impossibility of getting the fourteen of us to agree to anything. In fact, there wasn’t a single occasion all year when all 14 of us were in one room at one time.
The goodbyes started on Monday with the interviews, like I wrote about in my last post. On Wednesday afternoon, I finished my last interview, and knowing that I had my chapters handed in, I left college and came home at 4:00 – something I almost never did during the year.
It was a beautiful sunny day and the boys were lying out on the grass with some of their best girl friends, recovering from hangovers. I threw myself down on the ground next to them. And joined in.
There were cans of cider, there was application of sunscreen, there was application of aftersun, there was intertwining of boy’s legs with girls’ legs, there were references to friends I didn’t know and to bands I’d never heard of, there were Mars ice-creams, there was laughter and there was fake yoga.
I could have stayed there forever.
But at 7:00 I jumped up to leave. I had to go to the theatre. I was meeting two friends and we were going to see The King and I. Now, I love all musicals, but The King and I has a very special place in my heart. When I was about 10 or 11, my brother was in a school version of the show. My Dad filmed it with a video camera and we made one copy. I became obsessed with The King and I, watching that video every day for about thirty days in a row. Eventually, the video tape broke I was watching it so often. A few weeks later, my parents bought the film version it for me, and I watched that over and over as well. I’ve seen amateur versions of it, but never a professional stage show, so I was very excited. However, I’d stayed with the boys too long – traffic was bad, and I wasn’t going to make it to the show on time. My friend texted me to say that she was leaving the ticket at the box office for me. The show was starting at 7:30. At 7:20 I abandoned my car on the side of the street, without even checking if I’d have to pay for parking, and I started running to the theatre. I missed the opening number, but saw the rest of the show. There are sad songs in the show, songs like “Something Wonderful” and “I Have Dreamed”. And I was feeling emotional with all the goodbyes that had happened and that were about to happen. I could have cried at one of these soppy songs.
Instead I got upset when Mrs Anna starts singing “Getting To Know You” to the schoolchildren. That’s right, a silly happy-clappy song about a teacher getting to know her students sent me into floods of tears. I can’t think why.
I got home. The boys were on the way to drunk. They had had the biggest chicken Caesar salad ever and were on their way out, leaving the kitchen strewn with nearly-empty bottles of Captain Morgan’s, empty cans of cider, and enough chopped tomatoes and mushrooms to feed a small African nation for a week. Only the boys who were flying out that night stayed behind. One of them had a cup of tea and a chat with me. Then he hugged me goodbye. And I held it together. I got into my room and had a quick cry. His room is (was – *sniff*) next to mine, and I had got used to him playing music at a ludicrously high volume, only objecting when it was Damien Rice. About half an hour after I had said goodbye to him, as I lay sadly in my bed, he started playing Akon’s “Lonely” at full blast. “Lonely. I am so lonely. I have nobody to call my own. Lonely. I am so lonely.” That set me off sobbing again, unsurprisingly. I was just drifting off to sleep a little while later when I heard a knock on my door. And there stood another one of the boys who was flying off that night. He was just out of the shower, wearing a pair of shorts and a towel. I got another hug goodbye. And a big kiss. On the cheek. I still can’t get over just how accepting these boys are of me. In every way. I am incredibly lucky.
The next morning, I got up and went out to get breakfast. Given how late the boys had been up, I didn’t expect to see them. But there they all were, lying on the grass, recovering from hangovers. I plonked myself down on the grass too. There was more fun, but it was a bit more muted than the previous afternoon. They were sprawled out and some were half-asleep. Again, I could have stayed forever, but I needed some headspace (and breakfast). I went to eat and visited a friend, where I sat in a considerably quieter garden.
When I got back, the boys were cleaning the kitchen. Or at least, the core group of boys was. They filled bag after bag after bag with rubbish. The volume of rubbish was genuinely incredible. I chattered away inanely to them.
For the past month or so, there has been the foulest smell coming from the fridge on the right. The kind of smell that makes you wish you’d never been born. The kind of smell that makes you wish for death’s sweet release. Two of the boys manfully emptied and cleaned the fridges. It was decided that the source of the smell was a plate of some kind of chicken dinner from five or six weeks ago. It was also decided that it wasn’t worth trying to salvage the plate itself. That went into the bin along with the putrid dinner.
Unfortunately, the good went with the bad. When some of the other flatmates, who I don’t know as well, came to the kitchen, they discovered that their food had been disposed of.
There were words.
It was nearly 10:00pm when I got back. The boys were on their way to drunk, getting ready for another night out. As they left, freshly deodoranted, I felt like their parent for the very first time since I moved in. I wanted to tell them not to stay out too late, to wake me when they got in, and for God’s sake not get too drunk. Instead, I just said “Good night”.
I went to my room and watched the latest episode of Glee, which was a huge mistake. It’s the final episode of the series and all the main characters are leaving for a bright future, leaving their teacher and choirmates bereft. I cried. Of course. Hating myself for identifying with Mr Shu, possibly TV’s most annoying character.
I was woken many times last night. I think I heard a girl vomiting. I definitely heard boys shouting. There was singing outside my window. And then from before 7:00, the Erasmus student from the room opposite mine started packing up noisily.
I dragged myself out of bed and made my way into Rathmines and got a breakfast. When I got back, Hall was bustling. Everywhere you looked, there were parents, parents who generally looked as if it was the last place on earth they wanted to be. Their children looked, almost without exception, hungover, bedraggled and either grumpy or full-on upset. Passing the modern blocks, the noise of a hundred hoovers boomed out, everyone hoping not to lose a penny of their deposits. But the most depressing site was the bins. They were overflowing, with whiskey bottles, kitchen utensils, duvets, laundry baskets, radios. It didn’t look so different from pictures you see on the news in the aftermath of a flood, a hurricane or a war.
My boys got up slowly. They were very hungover. They packed their bags, and took on the kitchen for the second time. This time, piles of crockery, pots and pans were collected to give to charity. They did a damn good job.
Four boys were left. Four who I happen to love. I wasn’t dealing very well with the prospective goodbye. One of them asked me if I was OK with defrosting the freezer and I started crying.
Then it was time for the first of those four to leave. He gave one excellent hug. I began to suspect I wasn’t the only one who was teary.
Then it came time for the other three to leave. The house was cleared. They took their bags outside.
Two of their best girl friends came to say goodbye. I stood back while they said their goodbyes. I was to give a lift to two of the boys. When one of them started saying goodbye to the other boy, who was getting the bus, I broke down. This time, I definitely wasn’t the only one. Everyone was crying. Two of the boys turned to me accusingly. I had done this to them. They weren’t the types to cry before they met me.
They went to hand in their keys. The three boys came back without the girls. There was more chat. I hugged the one who was getting the bus. And the other two had an emotional goodbye with him while I got the car started.
So many tears.
I dropped the other two boys off, one by one. More hugs, more tears.
When it was just me and the last boy, he sat next to me silently, face drenched with tears, but eventually we managed to start talking again.
As I left him in town I gave him my last hug of today, and I really started breaking down. We had a lovely goodbye.
He is a wonderful young man, and as I was shaking with tears while saying goodbye to him, he said to me, “I hope you find a man who’ll text you back.”
This nineteen-year-old boy, who could be friends with anyone he wants to be, cares about what happens to me.
It’s been an honour to live with these guys, to be allowed into their worlds, to get to know them, and even to say goodbye to them.
In the video for “Gotta Be You”, all the members of One Direction get different modes of transport and travel around looking wistful and sad. That’s what I imagine my boys are doing now. Travelling home wistfully and sadly.