First college formal

Julia Lasica

Sitting at my first college formal of term, I found myself amid buzzing chatter; around me, smiles and laughter teemed cacophonously along the rows and rows of people, all of whom seemed to have endless topics to talk about. Struggling to understand how all these people had so much to say for themselves, how they had accomplished so much in the summer just passed, how they were so interesting and driven, I sat mute. A close friend sitting next to me tried to tempt me into conversation, asking me, tragically, what my favourite colour was. Apparently, I didn’t even have a good enough answer for that. Taking the easy way out, I excused myself and quickly left the hall.

As I fixed lights to my bike and peddled away, I wasn’t quite sure what I was planning on doing. I cycled to Grantchester. The road along which I passed was pitch black and my feeble bike light barely pierced the darkness as hedges rose up around me. Flowers stood motionless and tall in the village itself, sound muffled by the thick, cold blanket of autumn. It didn’t hold the same charm of the humid, long afternoons of summer, when I had stepped through the greenery hanging heavy into the narrow walkways. I cycled back to Cambridge, slightly nauseous from the feeling that I had encountered a place, which I believed I had known so well, cloaked in an unfamiliar, unwelcome disguise.

I then thought of the meadows opposite the Granta, and of the way that the lights, strung over the pub, reflected on the water below. Walking down to the very edge of the bank opposite the pub, I sat and looked. I took in the dimness of the road, and how it snaked into the Granta’s brightness, how the sounds of the conversations were contained in that small establishment, drifting only as a hum to where I sat. My body became heavy with calm. I watched figures walk across the pub in the reflection on the water. Their silhouettes would obscure patches of the shifting light, crossing the water as they headed out. I put my knees to my chin, hugging my legs, and saw that at my feet, a little flower was bowing its head. Its petals trailed softly on the surface of the water, radiating out little streaks of light, criss-crossing between the stars and clouds reflected from the sky above. The pack of career leaflets sitting in my bottom desk drawer, the feelings of unworthiness and a lack of achievements, all the books which had piled up on my desk over summer, faded away.

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