Sunday, 20 March 2016
The First Day: a mini-story (2013)
An erratic trickle of chicks is gently nudged out of the nest, farewelling our parents with faux-affectionate haste. Venturing into the common room, we cluster around any links and associations possible, leaning amid the panic-frenzy on a familiar face here, propped up by a friendly demeanour there. Feigned interest has never been so widespread or so heartening. Someone with brains/muscles/breasts like those, listening to me!…the ecstatic hearts squeal, forgetting that they are nodding in admiration over tales of squash games to which they would not normally lend half an ear.
(…a desiccated tutor watches from a second-floor window. I imagine how such days seem to him. We all exaggerate our past fictions, over-excite our past excitements. He’s probably thinking wistfully of his own post-coital cigarette forty-five years ago; to him it was the sweetest taste, but in reality it made him cough like a stalling engine…)
Each new conversation, introduction, tried-and-tested query – each is a continual broadening of the horizon, a ceaseless stream of opportunities for reinvention. As such I find it passes in a meet-and-greet blur. Later I will snatch at memories of dinner that made so much sense at the time. Later I will run over the events thoroughly as a rolling pin seeks out the corner of pastry, glugging into my head images of the bar, of amenable pool-cue quarrels, of urinals messying themselves, of liquid courage spooling out of taps, burrowing into bloodstreams with its unique means of consolation, coaxing, reinvigorating, plying with silken fingers. We plunged, deeply and thickly into a subterranean menagerie. We nervously eyed the rate at which others drank and then after a certain point chose not to care. We dipped our toes into the dancefloor’s uncharted waters; as a single crew we set sail, flailing, falling, drowning.
To resurface forces the brain to judder awake. I fumble for the key to room sixty-three. From the next room a girl cries, softly. I pause to listen, but – it is distressingly inevitable – I do not knock on room sixty-two. It is a thing too cripplingly bizarre to hear the sorrow of a stranger.
The union has been and gone; every night ends with secession. The drinking contestants and snog machines fade away into their own separate crannies, and we wake alone to day two, the mist rising above the spires and the river, each lonely room making preparations for uniting once again.