Just three lads walking down the street. Just three lads in their suits, walking down the street, carrying packs of beer. Tinnies. Just three lads in the warm air, walking through the Meadows as the sun hasn’t quite set but is weak enough to look straight at. The anticipation is always the best part. Their parents back at the hotel rooms they rented for the weekend, tired from the journey and from the photos. Three lads walking through the Meadows, couldn’t be less tired, how could you be tired on a night like this? A layer of mist hovers over the grass from so many barbecues. A few pink leaves lie on the ground, leftovers from the cherry blossom all those weeks ago, they have somehow resisted the rain. The lads remember walking beneath those trees on the way to their final exams, the leaves illuminating the sky pink above them. They remember too the late-night kebabs consumed alone on this path in the dark, the football matches on the grass just off to the right, the Meadows Marathon, when Joe couldn’t walk for a week. The 1am walks home from the library, the barbecues of their own, the walk to class tens, hundreds of times, the exams. Here they are, three lads in their suits, they’ve done it, they’ve only gone and done it. What now – tonight, tonight is the only future that exists. Not tomorrow morning, when they will finish up the boxes and move them down to their parents’ cars, not next week when they will get an email and they’ll have lost the deposit because of the dart holes in the wall, not two years from now when they will lie in bed at the same time, the three of them, wondering whether they should send the others a message, and they don’t, they say they’ll do it tomorrow like they always do and they never do. Tonight they are brothers and they don’t even think about the fact that it might be the last time. The sticky floors, the 4am songs, the hangovers, the local, the breakfast burritos, the stories about girls, the thin walls, the breakups, the essays, the panic attacks, the furniture found in the street and carried three miles home, the £7 haircuts, the cleaning brinkmanship, the nights, the nights, together and apart, the nights, the phone calls home, the films, the binge watching, the playlists, the noise complaints, the refusal to turn on the radiators in winter, the kitchen conversations, the stress, the hugs, the congratulations, the goodbyes and the welcome backs, the hour before a night out when they take turns in the shower and each prepare in their own rooms, music, shirt, aftershave, Facebook, different shirt, then the meeting at the door to leave, the trips downstairs to the Sainsbury’s, no alcohol after 10pm, the games, the laughs, the jealousy, the admiration, the love, the love, all of that is not quite in the rear-view mirror, not yet, for the moment it is all there, hanging in the atmosphere, they see it all as they walk momentarily in silence through the Meadows, the firsts, the lasts, they are living them all at once. Who’s coming out, they ask, is everyone coming out. They are everyone, this is everything, it’s the biggest night of the year, of four years, of a lifetime. The beers weigh heavy in their hands, the plastic bags strain under the weight of all those beers of the past and the present, the rum, never again. They’ve just graduated, they have their whole lives ahead of them, but for the moment it feels like they have their whole lives behind them and in this night, something is ending tonight, it is inescapable, but it is going to be a good night. Of course, it won’t be the best, not everybody will be there, others will leave early, they need to be up at 7am, their parents want to beat the traffic. But in that moment it is the best, there is no proving otherwise. It’s the best. The best.
Martin Greenacre is from the UK, but currently works as a journalist in Paris, France. His fiction has appeared in Ellipsis Zine, Here Comes Everyone and Goat’s Milk Magazine. You can find him on Twitter @MartinGreenacre