Monday, April 30, 2007

This is not goodbye

"I was walking with a ghost."
- Tegan and Sara

The last thing I told them: “This is not goodbye.” And slammed the car door; and crossed the street; and took the tram to a see my friends at a night I had called a semi-goodbye drink, an evening disguised as a thank-god-it’s-Thursday drink, an
I-am-in-complete-denial-about-my-departure-tomorrow-morning-already-from-my-city-my-spot-in-this-world-god-i-am-so-sad-i-cant-deal-with-this drink.

For an entire summer, we had sat outside on the stairs and smoked. There had been the three of us, and night, and an empty economics faculty. Many, many nights of working had seemed one long night, one long night of running programs on multiple computers and watching black screens with white letters. Green letters if things went well. Red if things went wrong.

On green letter nights, we worked, we took ten-minute breaks, we took our coffees back to our desks. On red letter nights, we sat outside on the stairs and smoked. Discussed the state of the world. Felt like we were trapped in time, would never be able to escape our secret late-night universe of working and paper-writing. We were critical of everyone else, fitted the world into our views, felt everything was wrong and we were not missing out on anything by hiding away in work, self-directed, self-imposed, paced with the speed of a snake, slippery and uneven.

We were ghosts to the day-people, and they were annoyance to us. Nobody knew of our late-night presence although we had keys, and access to all the offices, and used the beamer for movie sessions. Although there was one professor who moved through our space past our coffee machine without greeting, a ghost in a parallel surreality, wearing Hawai shirts, to his office where meter-high stacks of papers were piled along the books filled with walls, leaving only a slim path to his desk.

We would drive home late, in the dark, take the long route by the lake to smell the water and see the city lights reflected.

I was the first to escape, to finish my work (which was about one-tenth of their work. One friend finished his work weeks later, the other is almost there, taking his time.) I had started with reds, ended with greens (and blues, and yellows). I had spent one night reading the green letter results, intermittently phoning a friend in a different city, and in that night had written something down and submitted it. I kept coming back for a while, kept haunting the faculty, kept staring at the stars from the stairs at the centre of the U-formed building. One afternoon, after a Ph.D. defense, we talked to a Nobel Prize winning economist. We dropped him of at his hotel, we drove by the lake some more.

Then, I had to go and check in with reality. And slammed the car door.