Last Sunday, at 9:47 AM, I arrived home. Normally, when I enter a home, I take my shoes off. I didn’t do that this time. Instead, I left a trail of mud behind me. I went for a tour – a trip down memory lane, if you will. Memories rushed my mind like third graders rush the playground for recess. And as I looked around, I noticed how things had changed. It was weird, but it was reality. Six hours later, I left. It was time to go home – my other home. My first time back at Brock University, as an alumnus, was over.
In the days leading up to last Sunday, I was unsure of whether or not I wanted to go back. Don’t get me wrong, I love the place. I wish I had a job there. But all through September, as much as I missed it, I didn’t really feel like going back. I know, that might be hard to comprehend. Picture a kid who just fell off his bike, broke his arm, and has bandages everywhere. Do you think the first thing he wants to do after getting patched up is get back on his bike? Highly unlikely. I felt like that kid, minus the wounds.
I found out that my intramural team had two softball games on Sunday. Knowing that, really started to tip the scale for me. Then I started hearing a commercial on the radio at 3 AM. I go to sleep late. Mainly because I’m awake writing blog posts, thinking of ways to keep my fantasy teams in first place, or watching TV shows (shout out to Freaks & Geeks).
Anyways, the commercial I heard on the radio was for Brock University. What is my school doing on my radio at this time of day? The first time I heard it, I thought I was just making up the words in my head. Then I heard it a second time. I never caught the beginning, but the end mentioned something about a free shuttle from the GTA. Hey, that’s where I’m from! Was this some sort of call from destiny? I don’t know anyone named Destiny. Regardless, I took this commercial as a sign that I should go back. Maybe I just needed another excuse to convince myself that I wanted to go – this was it.
I was dropped off at school like an anonymous package. The moment I stepped on campus, I received a text message from my roommate of the past two years. It was along the lines of, “Let me know when you get here.” I instantly looked around thinking I was under surveillance, or there was a helicopter in the sky with a spotlight on me – as if I was a wanted fugitive. How did he know I was there? Lucky guess? Could he smell me? I didn’t pack deodorant for this trip.
Before meeting with friends, I walked around campus by myself. It was nostalgic, yet eery, at the same time. I walked around for about ten minutes and did not see a single person. Not one. My last night at Brock, back on April 16, I walked around campus by myself at 2 AM. There was no one around at that time, either. So as I was walking around this time, it felt like I had never left. As if the last six months did not exist and I was still on the same walk I started, on a windy night, in April.
I met up with a friend and continued walking around campus. You know, in my four years as a student, I didn’t notice many changes year-to-year. Now, once I’m gone, everything looks different.
There were trees where there never used to be trees. There were red benches, everywhere. I rushed to sit down on one, as if I had been standing forever. Unfortunately, it was harder than I thought it would be. But that was okay. The jackpot of black, leather, chairs outside the gym, was a great consolation. Those were not there last year. And thank goodness. I would have probably found a way to drag one to a lecture hall with me. Man, were they comfortable.
The burgers in the cafeteria were also different. They used to be big and beefy. My friend got one and I asked him where the other half of his burger was. The other half was non-existant. The burger was smaller than a hockey puck. Fortunately for me, I bought a sandwich, made with the usual ciabatta bun I always requested. Though when it came time for toppings, I was perplexed. What do you mean there is no provolone cheese!? I always took pride in knowing that the circular shaped cheese was called, provolone. And now it wasn’t there. Fine, I guess swiss cheese will have to do.
My conspiracy theory is that I was the only one who ever asked for provolone cheese and now that I’m not there, they don’t have it anymore. I graduated and they retired the cheese. I feel honoured. I also wish I were that special.
Finally, it was time for some intramural co-ed softball. Before heading to the field, I did some stretching with some teammates. Outside of hitting some baseballs at the park during the summer, I haven’t done much physical activity since April. Yet I lost weight. Figure that one out, you dieticians.
Anyways, the stretches. I’m not a flexible person. I can cross my legs, touch my toes, and all that hoopla. But man, I felt like a pretzel that was about to snap. As I’m writing this, four days later, my legs are still sore. My legs feel like the base of a tree and a lumberjack has been swinging an axe at them. Moral of the story: don’t do stretches with girls. There is a joke somewhere in that last sentence that I’m not even going to touch right now.
We made our way to the baseball diamonds. The muddy fields were still there. The puddles were still there. The yells of “heads up” were still there. I played first base for both games, rather than pitcher – my position for the last two years.
As a kid, these were my two favourite positions to play. When you’re the pitcher, every single play starts in your hand. You have control, to an extent. When you’re the first basemen, it’s the exact opposite. The play normally ends with you. No matter what the situation, there is always a play at first base. I enjoy being the one facing the pressure of catching a throw from a teammate in order to beat the runner. It’s like being the person responsible for putting together a group project at the end. You either pull it off, or you don’t.
Our second game finished and my time on campus was nearing an end. My teammates had a soccer game to get to, while I had a date with McDonalds for the car ride home. As I had done just six months prior, I said my goodbyes, and left. My visitation time had expired.
Before Sunday, I always thought that walking around campus for the first time, as an alumnus, would make me feel like a student again. It didn’t. The people I saw on campus looked much younger than I, and all of them had the same look on their face. The look that I no longer have – the one that I lost the second I left my final exam in April. An all-encompassing look of stress, anxiety, worry, sleepless nights, exams, assignments, readings, and marks. I could see it all, written on their faces, as if it were a novel.
Then there was me. An alumnus observing all of this from a new perspective. I saw a piece of myself in every person I encountered, especially in the cafeteria. The late lunch on a Sunday. The sweatpants, hoodie, and cap. The sleepy eyes that were in use until 4 or 5 in the morning. They’re going through everything I went through.
As I sat there eating my sandwich, sans provolone cheese, I realized that I was no longer like these individuals. I wasn’t thinking about the work I had to do later that day. I wasn’t thinking about how screwed I was for an exam the next day. I wasn’t calculating how much sleep I would get that night. I was just eating and talking to friends. Nothing else mattered.
Although I was only there for six hours, it was enough. Any longer and I would have felt like an intruder inside my own house.
It’s no longer the place I sleep, but Brock will always be home, even if I don’t remove my shoes upon entering.