It was the summer of 2004 and I was walking down the crowded History corridor on the top floor of my university (the only corridor related to History – it was a squashed department, as my tutor was continuously telling anyone who would listen). Perhaps “walking” is not the accurate verb – nobody could call what I was doing walking. A more appropriate description would be a sort of ungainly quickstep to avoid the hustle and bustle.
It had also been my last lecture/seminar of the week – on a Friday morning, so I had the rest of the weekend off – and I was considering my options for lunch. I was to-ing and fro-ing between cheese and onion sandwiches or chips’n’cheese from the on-campus pizza place… but, before a decision could be made, my 1337 crowd-dodging skills failed me, and I walked headlong into Sherri.
Sherri, to her credit, didn’t seem to mind that I had walked into her. She never seemed to mind too much about anything, really. But her bright and breezy demeanour was precisely what endeared her to me; it made a change from the neo-Gothic blackness of what my relations were going through at the time (and the ambiguous indifference of the people in hall with me).
“Oh! Sorry,” I said, for want of something to say.
“It’s okay, it’s okay!” she sparkled, flashing me a huge smile with lots of teeth.
There was a pause which seemed far too long.
I hadn’t meant to say her name before walking off. The fact remains, however, that I did… and now I had to think of something to say. She was looking expectant, so…
Sherri, I have a crush on you. No, that was too direct. I wasn’t even sure that I did have a crush on her. I was clutching my History notebook at the time, and that still had my ex-girlfriend’s name on the back, in permanent marker (and it never came off, either). I could have said I fancy you, but that was far too ’90s. I even considered something odd like, hey, I had a dream where we were kissing, isn’t that funny? but that just sounded creepy when it popped into my head.
Whatever I was going to say, the fact remained that I had, in fact, rehearsed the scenario of exchanging more than simple pleasantries with Sherri more than a few times in my own head, and coincidentally, the bit of the corridor in which we were standing (blocking the doorway) was the precise location we had envisioned it.
“I like you,” I’d say. “In that way. But I don’t want that to change anything. I just wanted you to know.” I’d walk off, and there would be a few minutes of walking down the stairs and through the campus from different angles. In the end, Sherri would run after me, and catch me off-guard with a kiss.
I mean, obviously that wasn’t going to happen. Nobody had a crush on me. The fact that anyone at all would want to kiss me was beyond the reach of human understanding. Sherri, whatever else she might have been, was completely unattainable, just like all the others.
“Are you going to be taking the History module on World War I next year?” was what I eventually got around to asking. It was a fair question – I was going to be taking it despite the fact that I was doing an English degree – and I would have liked to see her again, for fairly obvious reasons.
“Oh… no, I don’t think so,” she answered. “I haven’t decided yet.”
“Right, well, yes, of course,” I said, although what I meant to say was something like, That’s a shame, because I have a crush on you and I want to work with you again next year. I didn’t say that, of course.
We parted ways, and I walked down the staircase and back towards hall, via the pizza place so I could, having made that one decision, get my chips’n’cheese. Sherri didn’t chase after me and catch me off-guard with a kiss. I spent the rest of the day in my room, singing, wanking, cursing, and trying to wash my ex’s name off the back of my notebook.
I never saw her again.