Ben Schrodel laments over the fact he is now a third year and will have to face the real world very soon. Who knew Fruity would trigger such a realisation?
It’s Friday night. I’m crossing campus with a practically empty bottle of cheap (but oh so cheerful) wine swinging from my fist and very little in the way of inhibitions. Ahead of me and my merry band of inebriated cronies, the Union is all lit up; a pop art cathedral, bouncing gently with the combined chart-topping might of Fruity’s three clubrooms. At the risk of sounding a little dramatic, I’m having an epiphany of sorts. It’s a fairly terrifying epiphany, covering portentous words such as future and career and even that biggie mortality. I don’t know how many people can claim to have had their most recent Damascus experience staggering around in the queue for LUU’s biggest weekly club night but I will readily place my hand on the noble Jagermeister stag emblem and declare myself one of them.
The catalyst for this sudden existential sledgehammer lay not with the earth shattering realisation that reggae legend Lee “Scratch” Perry is gracing our Union in a few weeks (well, maybe slightly); nor with the fairly heroic quantity of alcohol recently imbibed (also quite possible). Rather, it was to do with the calendar position of the night it- self. If it had been any old Fruity Friday, the type that comes round again every week in a blaze of Facebook ticket re- quests, I’d probably have just danced myself to oblivion and kept my sanity in check (as far as is possible in Stylus anyway). But this Friday was particularly special, a notably fruity Fruity: the hyper-publicised, heavily attended and retina-meltingly alliterative “Fruity Friday: Fresher Frenzy.” Entering LUU, it had veritably blown my mind to realise that this was the anniversary of my first ever night out in Leeds. Two years had elapsed since I first lurched down those stairs into the dark, sticky floored, bass rumbling belly of the Union as a young innocent Fresher and here I was, about to lurch down them again, a bitter and decrepit third year with death in my eyes and nothing to lose. In this moment, these two selves – Fresher me and third year me – seem to overlap and intertwine, experiences and memories falling together. Rather like the ingredients of the ill-advised cocktail I made to kick off pre drinks, the potent blend of past and present forms a feeling that could either be amazement or disgust.
We’re approaching the team of event security. Black t-shirts, giant shoulders and bald heads loom like a mountain ranges against the Union’s boozy glow. What was this like as a Fresher? Ah yes, that’s right – having to bring my pass- port out because I’d forgotten to bring my provisional to Leeds then spending the night absolutely terrified that I’d lose it. That bouncer would have sensed my fear as I proffered the passport with a shaking paw – we are not worthy. He’d have seen it countless times before, the quasi-Biblical ingress of students who have literally just met each other, filing in towards their doom, wondering what the future holds and hoping their photo is a decent representation of their face. On this night, however, the exchange has taken on a rather less interesting tone: one of mutual boredom, casual indif- ference as I stick my ID in the man’s direction and try not to look too drunk. We both know what’s in store, you see. He’s been there, done that, got a job, got a life to lead and I’m nearly there, nervously anticipating that, struggling to decide what to do and where my life will go. Maybe I’ll become a bouncer. Is there any niche in the job market for skinny, bookish, non-confrontational bouncers? As I’m considering it, he hands the ID back to me and ushers me into the Union with something that sounds like a sigh. In some ways, I’d rather he’d just knocked me out.
Melting into the undulating mass of people on the dancefloor, I remember how two years ago I was taken aback by everybody looking the same age as me. In school, you could tell who was older and who was younger. Here, packed to- gether in this bassline battery farm, under the thumping tutelage of DJ Joey Saint, everyone abandons themselves to the same sweaty confidence and you cannot discern the new from the veterans. University is a halfway house, a three year transitional period, and within its walls we are all of one age, drinking to escape, twerking to forget, desperately fleeing the freight train of responsibility which will imminently come smashing into our lives.
At this point, the epiphany’s getting a bit hard to cope with so I drag my friend outside for a smoke. This seems like a decent momentary escape method until we get talking to a Fresher. I’m not even 21 and I suddenly hear myself end- lessly spouting the kind of stereotypical wisdom you might hear from a 70 year old – “savour it, because it goes quickly” as well as the old chestnut “you never get these days back, you know.” Frantically fulfilling cliché after cliché, it is painfully obvious to this First Year that my treasured hangover days sitting around in front of the telly eating cereal are numbered. I have to be a real person now and I’m scared. Discussion turns to clubs in Leeds and my companion reels off the obligatory witticism to the first year: “Halo’s a converted church, you know. If you go there, you’ll be danc- ing on people’s graves.” “Yes,” I want to scream into the Fresher’s face, “dancing on my grave.” Realising that I have turned into a modern day version of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, I reign myself back in. It’s time to find the Rizlas.