Once the most familiar thing

This is the last part of a story I’ve been sharing over the last week, about Livia who on a visit to her old college town of Strand sees that her college, the College of Commerce and Industry is being redeveloped as apartments. It makes her think back to when she was a student there in the 80’s and 90’s and a friend she had, Arman. I’ve shared the first three parts over the last couple of days, and here is a link to part 3 if didn’t read it already:


Livia gazed across the road at the shell of a place which had once been the most familiar thing in the world, studying, life, love… She began to spend more and more time in 2020, as she spent more and more time with Arman. At the end of the summer term, after exams and results and celebrations, when she had to leave the flat she shared with friends as everyone went their different ways for the holiday, she surreptitiously moved in.
Livia sighed and lifted her cup, but it was empty… her life had seemed empty after that summer. She left her jacket on her chair and went to get another coffee.
“I didn’t realise they were pulling the old college down,” she said to the woman behind the counter.
“Turning it into flats, love. I’m glad, it’s stood empty like a ghost for years now, such a shame.”
“That is a shame… I guess it’s better to have people living there and not just more offices and retail opportunities.”
“Won’t be so good for business, love, not as good as when it was the university.” The woman told her that it had been Strand Metropolitan University for donkey’s years, the students were always popping in for breakfast baps and coffee.
Livia returned to her seat. She drifted through her memories, sitting with Arman by the full length window, watching the sun go down over the sea, watching storm clouds blow in on a summer storm, watching the light die from the sky and twinkles of illumination from the buildings below. From the small bedroom they would sometimes be awake as the sun rose, casting a different light across the walls; it was a good summer so most days started with glory.
However, it was one evening when Arman told her what she had been waiting to hear; she was often alone in the evening when he went out to be with Kurdish friends, and gradually began to realise that these meetings were not just social. He would return quiet, withdrawn from her, introspective and thoughtful… and he began to have bad dreams. She could only guess what they might be, she never asked because she didn’t want him to tell her.
Livia finished her coffee and left Burt’s, calling a goodbye to the friendly woman. She stood again looking at the old college, soon to be Vision, homes for now, homes for the future.
“It’s like a ghost,” said a voice making her jump, and it was the old man with the dreadlocks. “Were you happy there, girl?” he asked.
“Yes, I was happy, I thought it was the beginning of my future.”
“So what happened?” he was looking up at the shell, looking up to the top, to the top floor, the twentieth floor.
“Saddam Hussein happened,” she replied.
“Ah,” the man sighed and his shoulders slumped as he looked at the gutter. “The Gulf War. I was there and now I’m here.”
I’m going home, Arman had said, I have to go home to my people.
And he had left, and he had left her. She stayed for a while in 2020, and then she left.


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