Gap Years

by Sian Cummins

For whatever reason, the Accommodation Office have put me in a flat with people who are a year older than me. That is, they finished their A-Levels over a year ago, not a few surreal, short weeks like me. That is, they have all had ‘gap years’. All seven girls that I share with (sure I put down ‘mixed flat’, but hey) are twenty, or nearly. I just wanted to get on with it after college; the leaving home, the degree, the drinking and the sexual lunacy, enough of an adventure I would have thought. But clearly this lot didn’t think so.

It’s been fine so far. Enjoying the course and the people. The place is OK as well, considering it’s the cheapest self-catering and the room’s really small. They’re mostly nice girls, not really my type of people, but inoffensive and I’ve got friends on the course. It’s just the way they bang on and on about their years ‘out’. Not Linda the girl from Belfast, she just worked in the civil service, though she does treat me like I’m a lot more than a year younger, which is laughable really. It’s mostly the two with the identical pictures on their pinboards, Cathy and Louise. The flat below me, all boys, one of the mums gave one of them enough frozen dinners to last every night of term, anyway, one of them told me there’s one the same in his flat. All smug and tanned, just because they went time travelling on their gap years. Both have the same pictures, posed in exactly the same way, same shots of themselves in front of the half-built Empire State Building, same gang of gormless backpackers at Victoria’s coronation. If you ask me it’s a cliché and they only ever go to English speaking eras anyway, but they think it makes them deadly experienced and serious. Isn’t it a bit sick, going to poke around London in the Blitz? But they’re like, it’s humbling and it gives you a real sense of your own mortality and how lucky you are, etcetera. Anyway, the tourist trails don’t take you within five days of an actual raid and nowhere where there’s dead bodies. Oh well, whatever does it for you I guess. We get on OK when they concentrate on the present for five minutes. We had a great piss-up the other night. It could be worse – this guy I know from the Met lives in a private house and it’s haunted, I mean OVERRUN with ghosts and the landlord refuses to do anything about it.

Sian Cummins lives in Manchester, in a writers’ haven with a blocked toilet.

  1. #1 by chris killen on February 21, 2008 - 11:10 am

    i can’t believe how long our toilet’s been blocked. i don’t think our plumber even exists. when i call him all i hear on the other end of the line is a small wisping, shuffling sound.

    nice story, by the way.

  2. #2 by Anonymous on March 6, 2008 - 12:55 pm

    Like your story, the idea sort of creeps on you, even if it’s only a few lines short. Subtle! But I felt I was ready for more, maybe next time!

    Dalia R. Youssef

  3. #3 by E A M Harris on August 26, 2012 - 11:26 am

    I really enjoyed this. The way you introduce the time travel bit so suddenly is great. I would love to know more about the ghosts though – it almost sounds like the start of another story.

  4. #4 by Mavis Moog on March 5, 2013 - 12:13 am

    Loved this story, how it creeps up on you. The voice is authentic, too. Hope you get the toilet unblocked soon.

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