How different moving-out day was from the sunny, late August afternoon of moving-in day. We drove into the city in two cars and found two empty parking spaces right outside Andrew’s dorm.
Frank, one of my daughter’s closest friends that I see as one of “my children,” was there waiting for us.
Our friend Terri got out of her car with the brand new boxes she had bought the night before, in case we needed them. I carried the two empty laundry hampers that used to be Andrew’s and Florentina’s. Hugh held a bucket in one hand and an already made up box in the other. While Freddie disappeared to find coffee, we followed Florentina through the glass doors of the dorm’s main entrance. After explaining our business to a face none of us had seen before, we were allowed to go upstairs.
My general state of being these days is akin to that of travel sickness, I feel nauseous all the time and I can be sick all over the place without warning. Riding the elevator to Andrew’s floor was no different. A flood of tears was held inside of me by the layer of skin covering my body. I could feel this flood swishing, swirling and rushing to my eyes in search of an easy way out.
Out of the elevator I followed the others to Andrew’s apartment; as the two rooms, bathroom and kitchenette suites are called.
I hadn’t done it before, but this time I climbed onto Andrew’s bed and lay there for a few minutes. It was comfortable, peaceful. The sheet covering the mattress smelled of him.
From the bed I could see the same view he had seen.
Standing by the window, Florentina pointed out Palladium for me. That’s where Andrew ate most of his meal-plan meals. I knew it was close by, but I hadn’t realized how close. Next to it was the Trader Joe’s where Andrew bought the big bags of kettle corn he liked.
Florentina sat on the other bed in the room. Andrew had covered it with his favorite throws and used it as a sofa. That’s where she and Tigger used to sit and chat when she went over for tea.
Hugh stood for a while looking out of the window.
And then it was time to pack. Hugh, Frank, Terri and Freddie got busy in the bedroom, and I moved to the kitchen area. With both Andrew and his suite mate having meal plans, theirs wasn’t a fully equipped kitchen. Still, Andrew had his few essentials with him. The small olive oil bottle I had given him, his tea selection; Earl Grey, Yogi Liquorice, Darjeeling and Lapsang Suchong. His teapot and cups. The two white espresso cups…
“Mummy do you mind if I take two of the espresso cups?” he had asked me one weekend when he’d come home. I remember wrapping them up for him, the little cups with their little saucer, and packet of the espresso coffee that I had brought back from Italy a few weeks earlier, when I had presented him with his own little espresso maker.
His face lit up when I gave it to him. Unlike my old one, this brand new coffee maker was all shiny, and Andrew loved shiny things.
Next to his coffee and tea essentials, was his fondue pot with the twelve thin-long-fondue-forks. I remember when we first got it for him; he invited a couple of his friends for a fondue dinner followed by a chocolate fondue dessert. I can’t even count how many chocolate fondues have come out of that pot since, how many gatherings it has enlivened.
In another cupboard he had a large open bag of Cheetos and one of pretzels. He had taped them close with sticky tape to keep them from becoming stale; imagining him doing that, more than the abandoned snacks, brought on fresh tears.
In the freezer he had a half eaten container of Ben & Jerry’s Whirling Peace ice cream; I’d never heard of that flavor, but how poignant the name seemed now.
With Frank in charge, the packing in the bedroom-study was done by the time I’d finished in the kitchen. Only the sheets and egg nest remained on his bed, Terri and I took them off. It wasn’t until the last minute that Florentina agreed to let us take down the posters of Nightwish, Andrew’s favorite heavy-metal-opera band that he had pinned to the walls. Frank rolled them up and took them out.
I looked around and saw Andrew’s Ice Breakers on his desk.
He always carried them with him. Whenever he took one for himself, he would offer them around:
“To share or not to share?” he would laugh, holding out the container.
If you are an Ice Breakers afficionado you’ll know, otherwise let me explain. Ice Breakers mints come in a blue round container, with two openings. On the large one it says: to share and on the small one… you’ve guessed, it says: not to share.
It was over those Ice Breakers that we had shared our last laughs, the last time that the five of us had all been together. The last time that Hugh, his younger brother and I ever saw him. For nine days later, Andrew was dead.
The room was empty now. Terri, Frank and Freddie started taking everything downstairs. Florentina, Hugh and I gazed out of the window a while longer, looked around the room to make sure that nothing had been left behind. Then, holding hands, we prayed; my husband and Florentina crying over the words of the Lord’s Prayer, I, praying in my heart that somehow, I could get my son back.
Then we left. Closing the door I realized that this would be my last time walking out of that dorm, and for a moment I wondered what my son’s thoughts were when he walked out of his dorm for the last time in the early hours of Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009.