April through June was perhaps the most miserable I’ve ever seen my friends.
Earl, who is generally one of the happier people I know, looked as if someone had just killed his puppy all the time.
Russ walked around with a vacant look on his face, and got into a strange sleeping pattern in which he slept all day and studied all evening, because he couldn’t ‘handle sunlight.’
Al wore the same outfit for days on end, put on half a stone, and started smoking. Well, started smoking again.
Everyone I know pretty much exhibited at least one (but usually all) of the above characteristics. I was never driven to smoking, but I had the urge for the first time ever.
I was sat in the dining hall one evening, buried in notes as I mindlessly poked my food around on the plate. I had conceded that the food in hall wasn’t actually as bad as I thought, and I didn’t have time to make my own food, so it sufficed. ‘Alright?’ Russ said wearily, sitting across from me.
‘Ugh.’ My replies to people had been reduced to guttural sounds.
‘Tell me about it.’ He said, digging into his food.
‘What’s that?’ I said, nodding towards a book he had with him.
‘String theory.’ He said sombrely.
‘Ouch.’ I said, wincing.
He looked up as if about to cry. ‘I have to read this for tomorrow.’
‘But that’s your last exam isn’t it?’
‘Yeah, and thank fuck for that. When’s your next one?’
‘Tomorrow. Hence,’ I held up the notes I had been clutching in one hand.
‘I wish.’ I groaned. ‘Second to last?’ I said as a question, thinking to myself how many I had already taken before nodding to myself that it was my second to last exam of the year.
‘When’s the last one?’
‘Five days after tomorrow’s.’
‘That’s well late.’
‘Tell me about it.’
‘But that means you can go out tomorrow after our exams!’
‘I do need a break.’
‘Of course you do, every time I see you you’re buried in notes and work.’
‘Fuck it. I’m definitely up for going out tomorrow.’
‘Yeahhhh.’ He tried to say enthusiastically, but it came off as sounding quite sad instead.
‘I’ve got to get back to the library, love.’ I said, collecting my things.
‘Good luck tomorrow.’
‘Ta, you too.’
‘See you afterwards.’
‘You will indeed.’ I said, winking at him.
And he did. After what was quite a successful exam (or at least so I thought), I felt a break was definitely needed, being five days and only one exam away from literal freedom.
I stood in the city centre, brain dead from the exam. I pulled my phone out and it took me about two minutes to remember Russ’ name. I may have literally searched my phone for “Russ” – which of course isn’t his actual name. I closed my eyes and felt as if I was going to momentarily pass out from exhaustion as the phone rang.
‘Hello, hello.’ He greeted cheerfully.
‘Alright, love? How was it?’
‘It was.’ He said, sounding defeated. Then going back to being cheery he asked, ‘How’d you go?’
‘Fine. Just fucking glad it’s over. Where are you?’
‘Really? Thought you’d be at a pub by now.’
‘On my way, had to come back here to down a bottle of champers with Cam.’
‘Naturally. Where are we going?’
‘I don’t care. Pub. Any pub.’ I looked around and told him where I was and a pub that was near. ‘Fine, great. See you there.’ He said.
Russ, Cam and five of our friends showed up about fifteen minutes later as I was finishing my first pint. ‘Hello, darling.’ Cam said, kissing me hello. ‘On it already?’ He said, laughing as I downed the remnants of the pint. ‘Legend.’
‘Had to catch up, didn’t I?’
‘Lad.’ He laughed.
‘How was it?’ I said, shaking Russ’ arm.
‘Ugh. I don’t want to talk about it.’
‘Understood. What do you want to drink?’
I came back with a pint of lager, as it was only two in the afternoon and Russ was already wasted. I was pretty sure the pint of vodka was meant ironically, but when another friend came with a pint of gin and tonic and placed it in front of Russ I began to consider the possibility that he was serious.
Everyone, bar myself and Cam – who didn’t have exams – was finished for the year, and thus partying like it was 1999. To be fair, I don’t think any of us were old enough in 1999 to party as Prince had intended us to, so now was as good of time as any to do so. Inhibition was at an all-time low and every time anyone got up from their seat they seemed to return with a round of drinks for everyone.
As I sat with three pints of cider in front of me I looked up and caught Russ’ eye. He smiled at me like the Cheshire cat before finishing off another pint.
‘Should we go sit outside? I want a fag.’ Cam announced.
I looked around the table at all the full pint glasses and shot glasses. ‘Well, you’ll need a tray.’
‘You mean you’ll need a tray.’
‘Do I look like a fucking waitress to you?’
He laughed. ‘Oi!’ He yelled to our friend at the bar. ‘Grab a tray, mate!’
Our friend, who I literally hadn’t seen since the first term came walking up with a tray and five pints. ‘Here we are.’ He said, winking at me.
‘Mate we’re going outside for a smoke.’ Cam said, cigarette already hanging from his mouth, bouncing up and down as he spoke.
‘Sounds good.’ The mate, who we shall call Briard (Bri for short – pronounced Bry like Fry, simply because he has the same colour hair as that dog breed based on the pictures I found googling “dog breeds”), piled as many drinks as he could onto the tray and carried them out.
Armed with two pints each, Cam and I walked outside, following Bri and his tray of drinks. Russ was sitting outside, still grinning like a fool, but now with brightly coloured Ray Ban sunnies on.
‘Alright treacle?’ I asked, coming over and kissing him on the cheek as I placed the pints down.
He grabbed my face and planted a big kiss on me, commencing it with ‘MUAH!’ Then sitting back and placing his hands behind his head before saying, ‘I am fucking fantastic, darling.’
I laughed. ‘Good.’ I looked around the table but all the chairs were taken. Bri was sat nearest to me and he held his arms out as to gesture for me to sit in his lap. I shrugged and sat down, grabbing my pint once my weight was carefully balanced equally between my feet and his right leg.
There was a loud group of American tourists behind us and one said, in the tone of speaking but the volume of yelling, ‘Oh. My. God. I heart this place!’
Fag hanging from his mouth, Cam glanced at her. ‘Oh my God.’ He mumbled, the cigarette bouncing up and down again, but dropping ash everywhere now. He looked me in the eyes.
‘You know how I feel about people using the word “heart” as a verb.’ I said and glared.
‘Darling, I literally heart you.’ He said, taking a drag and then smiling big.
‘OH EM GEEEEEEE!’ I mocked. ‘I, like, totes heart you too hunny bunny!’
Because the Americans were too busy talking over each other and coming up with other absurd lexicons of speech, they missed the banter. One of them stood up and walked into the pub. ‘Oh my dear lord, I would smash that.’ Cam said.
I frowned, ‘While we’re getting particular about grammar, as I usually do – ’
‘Of course.’ Cam said.
‘How, out of alllll the possible ways to say “I would like to have intercourse with that girl”, did “smash” become the preferred verb?’ Cam shrugged. ‘I mean, do you honestly think anyone wants anything to be smashed down there? If I said, “Cam, I want to smash you”, you would probably cross your legs for protection.’
‘It’s just a word.’ Russ shrugged.
‘Smashing should be left to builders. Oh, and another one – “I want to hit that” – what,’ I paused, ‘the fuck?’ I said, emphasising it with hand gestures. ‘I don’t want to be hit or smashed. If you said, “I would like to have 30-45 minutes of foreplay and then really show that a good time” then I’d venture to guess most girls would be on board.’ They laughed. ‘But unless a safety word has been agreed upon, there should be no hitting nor smashing.’
‘Here, here!’ Bri said, holding up his pint glass and we all clinked.
‘To 30-45 minutes of foreplay followed by a good time!’ Cam yelled.
‘Ya, darling!’ I said, sipping what had to be my fifth pint of the afternoon.
As we drank and laughed and got dehydrated from sitting in the sun we got louder and eventually invited the yanks over for a drink. The boys were too busy chatting up the one Cam wanted to show a good time to, and failed to notice Bri casually running his hand gently and subtly up and down a two-inch track of the side of my leg. Something about casual and light contact really turns me on. I gently bounced my other leg against his as we spoke and at one point he said, ‘You are so beautiful.’ I leaned down to kiss him quickly. He laughed and squeezed me around the waist, kissing my shoulder, as I was then sat sideways in his lap.
I glanced at Russ, who quite frankly was the one I had intended to try and pull that afternoon, but in his state he would have been absolutely useless. He was sleeping with his head resting on the side of the table we were sat at. I saw Cam lean over and put his arm around him. ‘You alright, mate?’ He said, shaking Russ. Russ groaned and shooed Cam away groggily with his left arm. We laughed and went back to talking.
About two minutes later I heard Cam shout, ‘Aw, mate!’ as he stood up quickly. I glanced under the table to find that Russ had taken a tactical chunder in the middle of the pub.
‘We should go.’ I said, looking at Cam.
‘Uh, yeah.’ He said, lifting Russ up.
‘I’m fine, I’m fine.’ Russ slurred.
‘Yeah, alright mate.’ Cam said, wiping Russ’ mouth.
‘You guys make a really cute couple.’ I said/slurred, laughing.
Cam rolled his eyes. ‘Come on, mate.’ He said, under slight strain as he dragged Russ out.
‘Hey, it’s your turn. I carried him home last time. Watch out, he likes to run into traffic.’
‘I doubt he’ll be running anywhere.’
The others were all laughing and downing their pints. ‘Should we get Russ some food?’ One of them offered.
‘Yeah, mate.’ Cam yelled as he dragged Russ out.
I made a motion to get up and Bri wrapped his arm around my waist, kissing me quickly. ‘We should go.’
I thought for a second. I hadn’t slept with anyone since Russ and that had been over a month earlier. I had still been upset about Dale, but in a more hopeless manner than before. I shrugged. ‘Sure.’
He kissed me again and I got up. He grabbed my hand and pulled me towards the opposite exit from the others. ‘Come on.’
We laughed as we speed walked through town, stopping every minute or so to have a cheeky snog in the afternoon sun. Once we got back to mine we pushed through the doors of the building and ran down my hall, laughing. I heard a door open and saw Goodge stick his head out as Bri went into my room.
‘Who’s that?’ He asked, frowning.
‘None of your business!’ I said sticking my tongue out.
‘Well, keep it down, will ya? I’m working on a figurine model.’
‘Nerd alert!’ I yelled. Then winked and said, ‘Love youuuu.’
‘Yeah, yeah.’ He said, slamming his door.
I closed the door behind me and locked it, turning back to see Bri stripping. He tripped as he took off his left shoe and fell on the floor. I laughed at him lying on his back, laughing. ‘Owww.’ He moaned. I got on the floor and straddled him before bending over to kiss him. ‘So, 30-45 minutes of this, huh?’ Bri said when I had pulled away for air.
‘Fuck it, what we did at the pub can count as foreplay.’ I said, sitting up and taking my shirt off.
He laughed and we got up and onto the bed. In hindsight I wish we had stayed on the floor because, most likely due to all the running, Bri was all sweaty and my bedding smelled like his deodorant afterward.
It was still the middle of the afternoon and the sun flooded through my room. It had a kind of perfume advert romance to it, minus the fact that it smelled like Nivea for Men everywhere. We were laughing most of the time and just generally having a good, carefree time. Bri had finished his exams that day and I was pretending for the day that I had finished and as we kissed and fooled around I realised that it’s not only the constant revision that kills me during exams, but the lack of any sort of physical encounters, sexual or otherwise. I had been having the same fucking conversation repeatedly for over a month.
‘When are your exams?’
‘[Date of exams here}. Yours?’
‘Same. When do you finish?’
‘Blah blah fucking blah.’ I was so bored with life. Being with Bri was the first time I could remember having fun in ages.
After having sex twice we were lying on our backs next to each other. We rolled our heads lazily to the side to look at each other. ‘Again?’ I asked smiling.
He laughed and rolled over to kiss me sweetly before pulling away and saying, ‘There’s absolutely no way I could have sex again. That was great though.’
An unfortunate circumstance of the male physiology is that it’s rare that they can keep up with the endurance of a female when it comes to sex. Not that I haven’t known men who could go all night, but more often than not they just haven’t practised enough, or at least boys my age haven’t. Also, it isn’t to say that all women necessarily have an endurance kind of sex drive, but I do and thus this is a pressing issue in my life.
We got up and put our clothes back on. ‘JCR?’ He asked.
‘Yeah!’ I said, over enthusiastically, still a bit dizzy from all the touching and face to face contact I had been craving for so long. I was also drunk, so that could have had something to do with it.
We walked out into college as the others came walking from the entrance. ‘Well, well, well.’ Cam smirked. ‘What have you been doing?’ He said, lighting a fag.
‘I wasn’t hungry and had to change my clothes. I was still wearing my gross exam outfit.’ I said.
‘I had to come back to get some money.’ Bri lied.
‘Yeah RIGHT.’ Cam said, laughing.
I was hoping Russ was too drunk to notice what was going on, and he probably was, as he was still swaying side to side slightly with a huge grin on his face. ‘We had Chinese food.’ He slurred.
‘I know, you said you were going there and I said I hate Chinese.’
‘Did you?’ Cam said, a skeptical look on his face, frowning and smiling at me at the same time.
We had fooled no one, but I continued with the compulsive lying that sometimes occurs as a result of extreme inebriation. ‘I did, yes. And now I’ve changed, see?’
‘Might want to go back and brush your hair.’ Cam said, winking.
I blinked and opened my mouth to speak but paused for a second. ‘You wouldn’t know hair fashion if it bit you in the arse. I like it this way. Let’s go.’
He laughed, still completely unconvinced, and somehow seemingly more sober than all of us. ‘Whatever you say, darling.’ He said, putting his arm around me and messing my hair up more by running his hand around the top of my head like I was a dog.
‘Probably an improvement.’ I said as we walked in.
‘Definitely an improvement.’ He said, kissing me on the head.
What proceeded to happen is a bit of a blur, but I am confident that it involved no further drinking on my part. It did involve a lot of drunk conversations with people I hadn’t seen in months. Someone who lived near me in my first year, whom I hadn’t seen since, confessed his undying love for me, concluding with, ‘So, do you want to have sex?’
“Sorry, mate – just did.” Didn’t seem like an appropriate response so I politely declined. Even if I hadn’t just been with Bri, this other guy really wasn’t my type and I wasn’t 100% confident that he hadn’t tried that line on someone else that evening.
At one point I lost my purse, and though it had minimal cash in it, I insisted that everyone search for it with me. As I crawled around the floor I saw a familiar pair of sneakers just in front of me. ‘Shit.’ I whispered before looking up. ‘Heya, you alright?’ I asked, smiling.
‘Yeah …’ Dale paused. ‘Are you alright?’
‘I’ve lost my purse.’ I said, sitting up on my knees and slumping back to rest on the back of my feet.
‘In here?’ Dale asked, looking around.
‘I think so.’
‘Where in here?’
‘Umm.’ I said, looking around and thinking. ‘Around here.’ I said, spreading my arms out in front of me and making an invisible semi-circle in front of myself to indicate the area of room directly in front of me.
‘It’s not over here!’ Foster yelled.
‘Thanks anyway!’ I yelled back.
Dale was busy looking behind a door and under tables and I stood up to go search a couch. ‘Found it!’ I shouted after digging in between the cushions.
‘Wahey!’ Russ yelled. I think I saw Dale roll his eyes, but whatever.
I bought everyone a drink who had helped me. I ordered Dale’s favourite beer and walked over to hand it to him. ‘Thanks for helping me look for my purse.’
He smiled. ‘Anytime.’
The song “Talk” by Coldplay came on. Fuck off Coldplay. I thought. Always inconveniently providing an appropriate, if not depressing, soundtrack to my life. Drunkenly talking to Dale usually ended in me sobbing and him apologising “for upsetting me” – never because he had been a complete dickhead to me – so I decided to avoid that broken record of a conversation and went to find Russ.
‘You slept with Bri, didn’t you?’ Russ asked.
I feigned shock. ‘What? No!’
‘Yes you did.’ He said, smiling.
‘I didn’t. But I would’ve slept with you if you hadn’t chundered all over our floor space.’ I said, giving him a sympathetic look.
He laughed and half leaned, half fell, towards me to kiss me. It was the lingering peck kind of kiss that we always have. I was confident that Dale had seen us do it about a week earlier as well, but I had ceased to care what Dale thought of me or what he perceived to be happening in my life as soon as he told me he had no intention of getting back together with me.
Bri lingered somewhere in the room, but I don’t think I actually spoke to him once we got to the JCR. I spent most of my night playing games with Foster before he finally said, ‘Alright – I’m exhausted. I’m going to walk you home now, you mentalist.’
‘Okay.’ I said, a bit loudly.
For whatever reason Dale walked out with us and at the crossroads between my room and his he said an awkward goodbye before turning and walking away as quickly as possible and I sat and moaned at Foster who nodded sympathetically at my unfortunate habit of dating complete dickheads and said, ‘I know’ ever so often before kissing me goodbye.
I stumbled into my room and fell into bed. It smelled like Nivea and was quite suffocating so I got up and pulled off all of the sheets before passing out on the coversheet of the mattress.
The next morning the light I had happily basked in the day before intruded my room, waking me up early. I groaned and flopped over onto my back to see what time it was. I picked my phone up and had numerous missed texts and calls from those who had ventured out of college and into the night scene. Most of them were to the effect of:
I put the phone down and got up and went to shower. I stood in the shower, the hot water washing away the last of my inhibitions as I began thinking about all the shit I had to do before my next exam. I walked out into the hallway in my towel and heard a door creak open.
‘Heyyyyy.’ Goodge said.
‘Hiiii friend.’ I said.
‘You look rough.’
‘You got a right pounding yesterday didn’t you?’
I paused. ‘No, I had 30-45 minutes of foreplay before having a really good time.’
Goodge shrugged. ‘Whatever.’ And closed his door.
‘It’ll catch on.’ I said out loud to no one in particular.