Of all university lives I’ve had, I think the best one was in my home country.
Still disorientated from the dramatic transfer from high school – where everyone pushes you to study – to university school – where no one cares about whether you’ll study and what will become of you.
With no clue why I’m enrolling.
With lots of other young people around me who would immediately, and in the most natural way, divide each other into “cool” and “not cool” (i.e. arrogant hippies vs. book worms).
With the attitude of a person who thinks she’s all grown up.
With an idealistic view of the world.
With main goal in life – to laugh and, meanwhile, change the world.
A metamorphosing cocoon, in other words (stuck in one phase, not necessarily ever transforming.)
But the best part was that I was happy in my skin like I’ve never, ever, ever been before.
Isn’t it great to be happy in your skin and to believe that you can change the world?
It’s the best.
Almost like an idiot.
Not necessarily Dostoevsky’s.
But above all the happy moments in that university, one in particular is bookmarked in my memory.
Anga’s Škoda and the poetic drunken trips with the university gang.
A gang we were, a literary one.
We liked reading stuff – poetry mainly, but also anything else we could scrape off the dusty shelves of the national library or those of our parents and grandparents.
We defied the monotonous lectures, which, if you missed three you were expelled.
We disliked the fact that some professors openly liked the richer students and expressed their preference in the final grading.
We liked drinking and most of all we liked cramming in Anga’s Škoda and take a hike to the nearby hills (my city is built on 7 hills), climb a rock, lie around, recite or read, drink, contemplate, laugh.
It was the best of times!
Thanks to Anga’s Škoda, of course.
We were about 10 of us – as odd looking as you could imagine.
We’d have done a good Addams Family adaptation.
We had the gorgeous Morticia.
We had Gomez and Pugslely.
Lurch was freakishly identical.
I would have probably fitted well in the role of The Thing – small and always busy doing something, and Anga (whose full name was Angel) was just a guest star from another film.
He reflected in his name – blond, blue-eyed, and gentle.
Anga’s best asset was his dad’s old Škoda, 1986 model.
The colour was light auburn.
In parents’ terms – healthy baby poop.
In male terms – orange.
In realistic terms – rusty and old.
Anyway, that Škoda had one super luxury in it – a radio!
So, after lectures, we’d squeeze all 10 or so ‘family’ members in the car (two near the driver!).
Anga would start the engine and turn the radio on the worst trash music there was.
And, believe me, we have proper trash music that fitted perfectly for the occasion.
Trash it is because it usually glorifies things like ‘white Mercedes’, ‘hot pants’, and ‘bling-bling’, accompanied by a sintezator and two gypsies playing the clarinet.
The meter is always 7/8.
The vocal is either a middle-aged bald man dressed in bordeaux velvet suit and black shirt underneath, or a young hot singer with a blond beehive, silicon breasts, cheeks and lips, acrylic nails and nylon outfit that probably makes noise when she moves.
The good thing about this trashy music is that it’s always very upbeat and in Anga’s Škoda it worked like opium.
We laughed so hard every time that the trip felt surreal.
We’d open all windows of the car and pass by traffic lights and crossings like a gypsy caravan – loud from the music and our hysterics, smoking exhausts from the old engine, and heads or feet sticking out from pretty much everywhere. The poor Škoda was stretched like a woman dilated 10 cm, about to deliver.
We’d reach the final destination, nearly drained from laughter, and shaken – from the bumpy ride.
We’d climb up the top of the hillock, mainly the one that overlooks the old city, and we’d all sit on the grass or on a piece of rock.
Then, either ‘Lurch’ or ‘Gomez’ would get a little book out of their pockets and start reading aloud, while the sun sets within our reach, exactly where the bottle of mint and vodka would be, too.
At other times we’d brainstorm on a film plot of some sort and just ‘fly’ in this Free Zone between childhood and adulthood.
“It was the best of times” as Dickens would say.
One of discovery.
The last few miles before you land to adulthood.
I hope my kids – and their peers – have the chance and interest to explore this Free Zone in the best of ways.