(The title was originally simply, Put a Fork in Me, but then I realised that one casually perusing the blog for the first time may see the blog title, then the post title, and get the completely wrong idea.)
* * *
I felt a kink in my arm and shifted positions slightly.
Still didn’t feel right.
I craned my neck backwards and I shifted onto my elbow as I clenched my left fist.
My heart started to pound a bit harder as the excitement of release rose, you could feel it in the entire room. As I shifted again the furniture creaked.
‘You have five minutes.’ My eyes shifted from my exam to the clock ahead of me for momentary visual confirmation. Four minutes and fifty-seven seconds now. I did quick mental math as to how much time had to be allocated to editing each question. I started with the one that still needed a conclusion.
Shit, spent too much time on that fucking conclusion. I thought as I began scribbling furiously to finish another essay.
My hand is going to fall off. I thought and shook my right hand quickly. Can your wrist literally snap from writing? I wondered whilst simultaneously thinking about what I was writing. I could feel the veins through my arm pulsing and I watched black ink fill the rest of the page.
The pain was so excruciating I could feel it from my fingers to my shoulder. My hand couldn’t keep up with the speed at which my mind dictated the answers, but I was so close. Fucking come on hand. The last sentence was just looming in my mind, waiting to be written. If you do this I’ll become ambidextrous for a year. I swore I could hear the second hand from where I sat across the room from the clock, taunting me. I don’t know if it was my head or my hand throbbing, or both, but everything appeared to be jolting to the beat of my heart. Three more words. Two –
‘Please stop writing.’
My hand defiantly, in a last heroic gesture, quickly scribbled out the last word before collapsing on the desk, still gripping the pen like a fallen warrior grasps to its sword. I limply flopped my hand over, taking the pen from it and staring at the blazing emerald of my veins, shining brightly through my skin. I looked at my left wrist. That arm didn’t appear to be working as hard. I glanced around. People were starting to move. Is that what I should do? I wondered, having lost all comprehension of motor skills. I racked my mind for a brief tutorial on standing up. As I pushed the chair backward it creaked loudly against the floor in a symphony of creaking chairs as the others around me slowly remembered how to exit a room.
We all walked towards the door, having the same daft conversation that everyone has after an exam.
‘How’d you go?’
Complete lie. People know. Then again, sometimes you think it was completely pants and you manage to pull off a low first, or you’ll think that your essays were perfect and you get slammed with a low two-two for essay dumping. I suppose I felt that everything went exactly how I had wanted it to. Minus the fact that I might have broken my wrist.
After collecting my things I left the building and it felt like I was going outside for the first time in a month. I squinted slightly at the bright sky, looking up as opposed to having my face buried in papers as I rushed from one interior study space to another. My mind was blank. I didn’t even flinch when half a bottle of champagne doused my right-hand side. It was one of five bottles being poured on someone next to me, and when one of the five pourers recognised me he came over and gave me a kiss on the cheek.
‘Are you done then?’
‘I am.’ I said, with a hint of elation.
‘Congratulations,’ he said kissing me again before holding the bottle out towards me.
‘Want a sip?’
I shrugged and took the bottle, swigging it back. Champagne tastes like freedom. ‘Ta.’ I said, handing it back.
‘Congratulations again,’ he said, throwing the rest of the bottle at me.
I laughed. ‘Thanks, see you later.’
I walked away from the danger zone where corks were flying and bubbly was spraying and looked up to see Bear, Bromley and Al perched up against a building, unbothered.
Al nodded in my direction. ‘There she is.’
‘Alright, mate?’ Bear asked.
‘Yeah, I am al-right.’ I said, smiling.
‘Congratulations, darling.’ Bromley said leaning over to kiss me on the cheek.
‘Yeah, well done, mate.’ Al said, patting me on the back. He was never really one for affection. Except in bed. I couldn’t help but sporadically recollect the second time we slept together when that night, getting ready for bed he looked at me, weary from a night out, and said, “Is it alright if we just sleep?” before getting into bed and clutching to me like a koala holds to a tree for the entire night. I remember waking up, his hand still entwined with mine and his forehead resting against the back of my head. That moment stands out as more intimate than any time we’ve ever slept together. All this flashed through my mind in the moment his hand was rested on my shoulder before filing itself back away in the depths of my mind.
‘Connn-gratulations.’ Bear said in a long London drawl, giving me an awkward hug. He, like Al, was also not one for affection. Except with his girlfriend, of course. ‘What would you like to do now?’
I pursed my lips as I thought, a characteristic of Dale’s I had somehow picked up and failed to drop. Grey had done it as well, but in a much sterner way.
Bored with how much time I was taking to think, as it had naturally evolved to thoughts of the facial characteristics of my ex-boyfriends, Bear chimed in, interrupting my reflection. ‘Pub?’ I nodded. ‘Come on then, mentalist.’
They asked about the exam and I bored them with the details for a minute before making Al investigate my wrist. He isn’t a medic and is probably the last person you’d want to seek out in the time of a crisis requiring first aid, but he was walking on my right and thus was closest and became examiner by proximity.
‘Mate, it looks fine.’ The Ex had called me “mate” once, which I immediately demanded he never do again. I liked it when Al said it though. We hadn’t exactly been mates prior to seeing each other naked, and if anything the best thing to come of us sleeping together was that it led to our friendship. It subsequently led me to Dale as well.
Looking around I thought it funny that the three people who would come to greet me would be two of Dale’s best friends, and Bromley. For all the heartache, if nothing else Dale had introduced me to some great people, and I’d do it all again for the sake of knowing them.
We walked into the pub, which was small and obscure, tucked away across from one of the colleges. It was relatively empty, probably because midday on a Wednesday isn’t notoriously lash-o’clock.
‘What would you like my dear?’ Bear asked.
I glanced at the taps and behind the bar at the refrigerated options, but everything just looked like shapes and colours. I frowned a bit before moaning, ‘Ugh. Hurts to think.’
‘I’ll have a Becks.’ Al chimed in.
‘Come on,’ Bear said, clutching my shoulder and shaking me a bit.
‘Cider I suppose?’
‘Cider it is. What kind?’
Something clicked in my mind, like having a shot of espresso suddenly and I looked at him and frowned. ‘No.’
‘We’re running out of options here.’
‘That one.’ I said, pointing to the non-Strongbow cider on tap.
‘She’ll have that one,’ he said pointing to the cider. The barmaid looked unimpressed with my decision making process. To be fair, a process of elimination isn’t exactly the most efficient way to choose a drink.
We got our drinks and sank into a large couch.
‘What’s going on tonight then?’ Al asked, sipping his Becks and looking at me.
‘I don’t even know what’s going on in five minutes, so don’t ask me.’
‘JCR?’ Bear offered.
‘Could do.’ I said. ‘What are you up to tonight my love?’ I asked, putting my hand on Bromley’s knee.
‘Oh, you knowww. This and that. Not much really. I’m quite boring, you know. Like an old man.’
‘Want to come hang out at our bar?’
‘Oh that would be lovely.’
I laughed. He really was like an old man, and by man I mean woman. He went to grab his beer and shrieked when it spilled slightly. ‘Ohhh dear!’ We all laughed.
‘Oh, Brommers.’ Bear said.
‘Mmm?’ Bromley hummed in a high pitch, raising his eyebrows.
Bear laughed. ‘Nothing, mate.’
I can’t honestly recall what we talked about since I was operating on limited brain function at that moment. It was as if I had exercised a year’s worth of activity in a couple of hours and it was going into system overload. I did at one point excuse myself to the toilet and managed to get lost, as the signs to the toilets led to only one door which I stood outside wondering if it was the gents or ladies for a couple of minutes before realising, only after cracking it open slightly, that it led to another hallway of choices. One of the more daft moments of my life I’m afraid.
‘Literally just got lost.’ I announced when I got back.
‘Oh, mmm.’ Bromley said, making a mockingly sad face.
‘You got lost … going to the toilet?’ Al asked.
‘Mmhmm.’ I said, sipping my cider.
‘Mate, when was the last time you slept?’ Al said, frowning.
‘I slept from about one-thirty to four this morning.’
‘Bloody hell. How do you do that?’
‘Amphetamines.’ I paused, gauging their reactions. ‘Joking. I don’t know, lots of coffee? I was at a coffee shop across from the exam hall at seven.’
‘You must be exhausted.’
‘No, I’m okay actually. I’ve slept less in my life. I didn’t go to sleep at all before my second exam. Bad choice actually.’
‘I have to sleep.’ Bear said. ‘I just think, fuck it, there’s nothing I’m going to learn in the hours before.’
‘Au contraire, my friend, I learned loads this morning. Literally used most of it on the exam. Mostly names and sources though. I cram in the details at the end.’ I said.
‘Interesting tactic.’ Bear said, finishing off his drink. ‘Another?’
I shrugged. ‘Sure.’ Which became my word of the day. Without any obligation or revision in my life, “Sure, why not?” seemed like an appropriate ethos. It was an excellent choice.
After some more pints and banter we swaggered back across town to college for some food.
‘I’ve got to crack on with some things, but what are you up to later?’ Bear asked us all.
‘JCR?’ I offered.
‘Yeah go on then, see you there around nine or ten?’
‘Sounds good, mate.’ Al said. ‘What are you doing now?’ He asked, turning to me.
‘I’ve got to go see Rosie.’
‘Ah, fair enough. See you at the bar later then?’
‘Cool, babe. See you then.’ Al reverted to “babe” when drunk. I think I prefer “mate”.
I had texted Rosie on the way back to college. But hadn’t heard back. As Al walked away my phone buzzed.
Had to run out for a moment to pick something up that couldn’t wait! Be back soon! Congratulations!! xxxxx
I went and sat at a nearby bench, removing my practical exam-Havianas and replacing them with espadrilles. The heels made my legs look longer, and I no longer cared about practicality.
‘Are you done then, sweetie?’ I heard from behind. I looked to see my cleaner lighting a fag. I loved my cleaner. She couldn’t be older than thirty and we often sat in the kitchen gossiping about people. The key to knowing everything that goes on around the college is knowing the staff – they see everything. Plus, they’re often the best people in college anyway.
‘I am!’ I said, throwing my arms up.
‘Yay! Aw, bless ya. You’ve been working so hard.’
‘I have, haven’t I? I don’t think I’ve ever worked this hard in my life.’
She laughed, ‘Well, it’s over now. Time for a few drinks.’
‘I’ve already had a few drinks.’
She laughed again, ‘Oh of course you have – it’s you!’
‘You know me way too well.’ And she did. When I say the college staff know everything, she definitely knows just about everything I get up to, if because nothing else than the sheer amount of condom wrappers she’s seen in the bin in my room.
‘And I still love ya.’
‘Aw, thanks. I love you too.’
‘Going to any of those summer balls?’
‘I am, yes.’
‘Do you have a dress?’
She laughed. ‘Which will undoubtedly be strewn around your room soon? I swear, with you it’s either on the bed or on the floor, you just shift your piles of clothes depending on whether you need your bed or not.’
‘I’m planning to need my bed quite a lot … in more ways than one.’
She laughed. ‘Oh, you crack me up.’
‘I mean for sleeping and piling my clothes on, of course. I don’t know what you’re thinking of.’ I said with a mischievous smile.
I heard a wolf whistle behind me and turned around. ‘Nice legs,’ a friend of mine from college said, winking. He was holding a box of Fosters. ‘Fancy a drink?’
‘Have you finished?’
‘Wicked. Come with me, a bunch of us are drinking in the garden.’
‘Sure.’ I turned to the cleaner. ‘See you soon.’
‘Bye love.’ She said, putting her cigarette out. ‘Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.’ She called after me and I turned back and winked as she laughed again.
I sat in the garden drinking a beer and chatting to a group of boys who were all acquaintances in college. Rosie finally texted to say she had returned so I excused myself to go see her.
I knocked on the door and she opened it, holding a bottle of champagne. ‘Ta-dahhhh!’ I laughed. ‘You’re done!’ She said, hugging me.
‘Let’s drink!’ She said, smiling big. ‘Would you like to do the honours?’ She asked, handing the bottle to me.
‘You know it’s my favourite thing to do.’ I walked over to the window as I unwrapped the bottle and perched on her windowsill, aiming high. ‘Boom!’ I shouted as the cork popped free. We both ooohed and ahhhed at how far it went, but were slightly disappointed it didn’t hit anyone.
As we sipped our bubbly Rosie smiled and said, ‘I got you something else.’
‘You shouldn’t have!’
‘Oh, it’s no big deal! Here,’ she said, reaching over and opening her refrigerator and pulling out another bottle of wine. She handed it to me.
‘Aw thanks!’ I began looking at the bottle and realised that the label had my name on it and several inside jokes between us and Briony as well. I laughed as I read them all. ‘I love it!’
‘The wine is probably shit to be honest, but yeah, I thought you’d like it.’
‘I love it!’
‘So, what do you want to do this afternoon?’
‘Well, I really want to catch up on Made in Chelsea, but I kind of want to go out as well since it’s so nice outside.’
‘Shall we watch an episode then go out?’
We sat sipping our champagne – well, it may have been sparkling wine, but whatever – and watching what antics Ollie was up to, commenting throughout the whole episode.
Once it finished I said, ‘Right. We’re probably going to have to watch that again tomorrow because I am trollied.’
‘Huzzah!’ She said, throwing her arms up. ‘Shall we venture onwards?’
‘We shall.’ I said, raising my eyebrows and smiling.
To Be Continued …