Friday, 19 April 2013

Blushed Away

I've got to do better with names, and I've really got to be better around people. Especially if those people have names.

It's the first Monday of my final term at university- the beginning of the end- and I've just walked to a lecture and seen a helpful notice on the door telling me and my fellow classmates that the location of our lecture has been moved. I look inside and, sure enough, there is a completely different class in the room we usually occupy on a Monday, learning something incredibly tedious, I assume, because two of the people in there looked asleep. One looked as if he was checking his own pulse, just to make sure he was still alive. 

I set off to walk to our new location, and suddenly recognise a fellow lecture-goer. I assume he's going to the same lecture as me, because he looks familiar, even if I can't quite remember his name. Instinctively, I tell him the breaking news, and he believes me (why wouldn't he?). We start to head off together, and I smile at him, glad I have a travelling companion now, and he grimaces, probably wondering why I'm smiling so creepily at him. If only he knew of the journey ahead. This young fellow shall be Samwise Gamgee to my Frodo Baggins, and we shall find this new location of learning together! But before we have walked 10 paces, another student walks past us. I definitely recognise him, and so does my Sam. He's another classmate! I could start my own fellowship at the rate I'm picking up students! I tell my Sam the good news.
"I think I recognise that guy, he's in our class, isn't he?"
"Yeah, he definitely is" he says.
"Yeah. Daniel, I think his name is?" 
My Sam stops suddenly, and looks at me. "I don't think his name is Daniel." 
I stop myself suddenly.

I don't think his name is Daniel either. 

I think Sam's name is Daniel. 

The same Daniel I've been studying History, in a class of less than 10, with for nearly 12 weeks now. The same Daniel who's taken time to remember my name, because he's definitely said it before to me. The same Daniel who is now faced with a journey and a lecture alongside me, a man who can't remember his name properly. But I've got a bigger problem now; I need to grab not-Daniel's attention before he walks all the way to the wrong room, eventually sees us in the right room, and thinks "why didn't those pricks just tell me when we passed on the stairs?!"

After about 5 or 6 hours worth of silence and thinking what to say to not-Daniel, the real Daniel eventually tells him, and the three of us make our way. I stay deadly silent, and let them talk about their weekend- at this point, any hint of my mouth opening could lead to more awkward moments, which I'm quite keen to avoid, having accumulated so many in such a short time at University.

Difficult situations are never too far away from me, and they always seems so easy to come by. All it takes is one seemingly helpful and random act of kindness and one unsuspecting attractive housemate, and you go from being a brilliant roomie who's making sure your housemate's clothes are dry and folded next to her door, to a pervert who's touching every bit of underwear she owns while she's out at a lecture and feeling it between your fingers for no apparent reason, other than you're sick and depraved. With hindsight, I should have bought my own drying rack when I moved in. Or just left her clothes alone, and definitely not checked them for dryness. I don't think even I would have believed myself if I heard it. Still, it could have been worse, she could have still been wearing it.

But my guilt for my housemate who put up with my awkwardness (and there is guilt, trust me- nobody should have to go through that much silence for a year) pales into insignificance compared to that towards a girl I only know by association with a mutual friend from night out, who in turn was a mutual friend as she was dating my housemate. This mutual mutual friend of mine worked at the same place I did at the time. With the thinnest foundations known to man, I challenged with myself not only to converse with this woman, but also entertain her for the bus ride home, and keep a tally of how entertained she is by my conversational wit and charm. Smiles and nods of agreement count as a point. Laughter counts as two. Spontaneous lovemaking (a popular term with students, I'm sure) counts as 50. Glances at a phone count as minus a point. Long silences are minus three. Contemplation of suicide by either participant is minus ten. The bus eventually arrived at her stop, and I, ignoring both the fact that we're quite far off my actual stop, and I was scoring at about -17, decided to jump off as well. We carried on chatting for a little bit, and eventually it is time for us to part ways at a crossroads. She has to go right because she doesn't really want me knowing which exact house on the street she lives on, and I have to go left because I'm in real danger of getting lost now, still miles away from my own house. She moves to shake my hand, and I go for a hug, just like nobody has ever done in the history of talking to somebody when they're sober. She's trapped. It is just me hugging her, for an excruciatingly long time. Through the voices in my head bellowing "LET GO! LET GO OF HER FOR GOD'S SAKE! LET GO OF HER NOW!", I genuinely heard her utter the words "Okay, so this is happening". I let go, and say nothing. Neither of us say anything. We don't say anything until we met again by luck (good or bad) a year later. 

I should've learned how to be a BNOC (pronounced "bee-knock", it means a Big Name On Campus. The tragic thing is I haven't even made that up, it's an actual thing people say here), like my housemates are now, in first year. Everywhere they go, they know somebody. Someone in the gym, in the library, in the shops, at the bar, on their way to the toilets, on the way back, next to them in the urinals, and they talk so well. They must store up things to say like solar energy, only using topics sparingly when they need to. I'm convinced they've got a checklist of every subject, every social group, every sports society, and honestly work their way through knowing at least one person from every demographic imaginable. Whereas when I recognise someone walking in the opposite direction FAR too early, and I have to avert my eyes until an appropriate time, when I can look up and say "Alr-ight?" in a spluttering, squeaky voice completely removed from my own, and forcing me to walk past them at such a rate of knots I nip the chance of any further conversation right in the bud. 

Maybe even that one word, which has served me so well for most of my university life, is too much. Maybe it's best I just stay silent, even when spoken to. Maybe my social life expectancy was 19, and I'm just operating on borrowed time from now until my merciful doom, limping from one weak joke to another, strung together by a pitiful anecdote about being caught feeling half-wet bra in my hands by an attractive housemate.

Or have you heard that one already?

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