The Last Summer

Each year, the month of June arrives and the semester disappears, along with my student loan. I drag myself back to fields and silence and skies dark enough to see stars, increasingly glad with each year for the opportunity to smooth out the bags under my eyes, not eat pasta while sitting on my bed every night and finally give my overdraft the attention it really, really needs. I look forward to forgetting about books, essays and trying to be clever, and the truth is I look forward to putting on a uniform and being a waitress all summer.

I’ve never not been a waitress since I was sixteen, really. The longest break I took was the last four months of my life in Amsterdam and, while I certainly didn’t spend much time pining over stacks of heavy plates and sore feet, the time apart made a long summer spent in kitchens and marquees seem like an almost appealing prospect. Even though I still work in a restaurant for two or three nights a week during term, supervising dinner service at posh summer weddings in castles and baking mountains of cake in a kitchen jammed with excitable chefs is something different.

Catering staff spend summers surviving on four hours’ sleep, Co-op meal deals and cold air through the heater in the car. Sixteen hour days dragging ten chairs across squeaky marquee floors, grinning at vegetarians who don’t want the plate of venison that’s about to slip out of your hand, four hour car journeys home through Scottish sunrises and Radio 1’s painful 3 AM beats, and muscles that ache but somehow also an extra chin from too many left over canapés: it’s all probably not worth it, but there is something exciting about it. I suppose the money makes it bearable, too.

I’m lucky to have been able to work at some outrageous events in lavish locations I never knew existed: sometimes I convince myself filling up champagne glasses is as good as attending, and I don’t have to bother buying a new outfit. Occasionally, I’ve looked up from trays of canapés to see faces that made me blink twice. I also now know exactly how I would want my dinner party for 700 to be, should that unlikely occasion ever arise. But the most valuable thing that I take back to Glasgow in September is a refreshed appreciation for life as a student with my whole year ahead of me.

I am approaching the last year of this little life, and I am currently trying to battle persistent thoughts in the back of my mind echoing some sort of quarter life crisis: what comes after winters writing essays and summers waiting tables?! It will probably also be my last summer doing these silly hours and entertaining social spheres I’ll never belong to, and so I will try to enjoy every last minute of it, because I know I’ll miss it.

Amy McShane

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