Spring 2011 passed with the screen split in two. On the one hand, Leon 11 was slowly waking up from its Taiwanese slumber and it felt like everyone around me was growing up all at once.
Meanwhile, I was trying to finish my final project. I had the feeling of being trapped in a process from which I was drawing very few conclusions.
My PFC tutor was Concha Lapayese, a woman who seemed to be fascinated by anything but me. I had chosen her because of my strange friendship with her husband, Darío Gazapo, then head of the school’s Projects department. What at first sight seemed like a politically intelligent move, ended up turning into a meaningless tangle.
Two years earlier I had taken the optional course on industrial archaeology taught by Darío and Concha. Everything about their approach was mind-boggling to me. Darío’s tone was much softer than the one he used in his project classes.
On the first day of class they told us about a trip. To the Rhine mining area in Düsseldorf. I was scared to death of flying but I was sick of missing out on trips because of this stupid phobia so I bought the ticket as soon as I left class.
Two weeks went by and, as I had a lot of free elective credits left over, I decided to drop the course to focus on other compulsory subjects that I liked less. As I already had the tickets, I thought it would be interesting to make the trip anyway.
When I got off the plane, I looked among the passengers for my classmates. No one was there. I waited for my suitcase and heard someone shouting: “What are you doing here?
Dario looked at me with his sharp eyes in disbelief.
The trip, he repeated, had finally been organised for teachers only. “It was said on the third day of class, unbelievable,” he insisted. I grabbed my things pitifully. I had assumed that I would spend a few days wandering around Düsseldorf, but Darius had obliged me to stay at his hotel with a kindly, paternal air.
By the second day I had already asked my parents to send me more money. I ate knuckle and drank a lot of beer surrounded by an imposing faculty of professors who, against all odds, tended to vie for my attention.
I remember one night, walking back to the hotel, Dario was absorbed in gazing at the Rhine and a Gehry building in the distance. “Do you mind if we stop for a while?”. I thought he would start theorising about architecture or the university or life… but instead we were silent for almost thirty minutes. The fog was thick and I couldn’t stop thinking about how much he looked like Owen Wilson.
With Concha everything was different. The silences were much more uncomfortable and I was a nuisance with a certain resignation. I wanted to deliver the project as soon as possible so that I could participate in the historic moment that was happening in the studio.
Concha didn’t want me to sign the project and I ended up asking other teachers to do so. The idea of presenting myself in front of the examining board without the signature of the president’s wife seemed really reckless and strange, but I did it.
That session coincided with the last one of the previous plan. There must have been a thousand of us trying to put an end to it all. I remember perfectly the day I went to see the note. It was Friday. I was shaking with fear as I went through each of the infinite names until I came to mine. SC. The only one among the three hundred unfortunates who had that heading. Not an asterisk, not a message, nothing. SC. And there was no one to ask. The caretaker saw me imploding and suggested I come back on Monday for the check-up.
Something broke inside me that Friday afternoon. I had no consolation and the uncertainty was such that my parents decided to go to Madrid on Monday in case I decided to jump into the Manzanares.
The weekend passed between beers and the distant noises of the Pride festivities. Monday came as an accident does. I queued up to check my delivery with the fragility of a newborn bird. My turn came. The members of the tribunal scrutinised me. I avoided Dario’s gaze until he told me: “Take the folder, think about it outside, and decide if you want us to correct you”.
I called my parents, who were on their way to Albacete. Continuing with that absurd production dynamic would have destroyed me, but I felt extremely stupid for having made such an ordeal. After thinking about it a thousand times, I went back to the queue.
“Well?” they asked almost at the same time. I took a breath and left the folder on their table. Juan Carlos Sancho opened it. He took off his glasses and, reading the cover of the report, said to me: “I suspect that you don’t even know what the title of your project means”.
I looked at Darío who smiled slyly at me. I accepted the blows with a polite and repetitive: “I appreciate your point of view but you will understand that I don’t share it. The mockery continued until one of them asked: “Anything to add? And I, feeling like a branch blown by the wind, concluded: “If they wanted to suspend me they could have done it on Friday”.
There was a strange silence. As if I was missing some important piece of information to understand the scene. Suddenly Darío stood up, walked towards me and grabbed my shoulder: “Who said anything about failing me, man, but we thought you’d want more marks…”.
I gave him a hug. I looked at the caretaker who was smiling complacently. I thought about Düsseldorf. I called my parents and went out to meet them on Calle Princesa. My father stopped the car at a bus stop when he saw me running down the pavement. We hugged and jumped in front of the cube square. A bus driver beeped furiously.