Sometimes the past isn’t as far away as we think. We can get there on the memory of a scent, or a word, or the way the light comes through the clouds, hazy, and distant, and shattered. Sometimes things happen, purely by chance, which send us flying back through years of living, back to the world of before ——-
Recently, in an attempt to restore a semblance of order to my life, I was sorting through some boxes of old books and papers, things I was sure I’d gotten rid of years ago, when I found, hidden beneath the spiders, (dead), and the dust, (plentiful), an assignment I wrote in 3rd year English for a module entitled Literature and Modern Ireland. What is it that made me reluctant to part with this? Was it perhaps because I’d been so sure this assignment was destined to fail, as I had no idea what I was talking about, but instead was awarded a 73? No. I think I kept it because of the memory, because somewhere in the darkness of my unconscious, I knew I’d need to live this time over.
Larry and I spent the entire first year of our BA being terrified , slinking around the campus, waiting for someone to come along and tell us there had been a mistake, and we didn’t belong at UCC at all, so could we please leave without further ado. (I think a lot of the mature student population have a similar experience. The second year is easier, guys!).
I signed up for Literature and Modern Ireland because one of the lecturers in particular was exceptionally brilliant, and also because Larry was taking it, and back then, there was safety in numbers.
This essay could very well have been the final one for this module, I don’t remember, but I do remember the despair I felt at having to write it. I will never be a historian, and I think politics flicks the ‘off’ switch in my head. Suffice it to say that I didn’t hold much hope. There were tears!
“All the writers of this period seem to have felt compelled in their work to take up a position in relation to issues of national politics” Comment in relation to at least two of the writers studied. (I discussed the work of Sean O’ Casey and W B Yeats).
Back in 2007, it was necessary to present yourself at the English Dept. office in order to have your essay returned to you. (Maybe that’s still the case. I miss how very civilized the English Dept. always was). Larry and I went together, this day, for moral support, you know. Certain as I was of my pathetic failure, I remember asking Larry if he’d handle the collection of said miserable essay by explaining how I was ill and couldn’t get there. I didn’t want the girls in the office to see my disappointment, my shame. I didn’t want to look at the thing ever again.
I was touched by the kind comments written at the end of my essay: “elegantly written”, “very well researched”, I mean, who goes to that trouble any more? I thought it was so…so…just lovely.
And I remember Larry laughing, saying in that soft, comforting way of his that we were both gifted creatures, and could make a valid argument out of anything…rocket science wasn’t beyond us, just give us the reading list and we’d have a paper on the desk in three days.
Larry’s not around anymore, and I’m so sad that I can’t ring him up and say ‘Do you remember that time…’, and listen to him laugh at how silly we were to take it all so seriously.
Rest well, my friend