In 2008 I went to university, for the second time, in order to do a course which involved a lot of science. I’m not really a scientist at all – more of an artist, if anything – and, although I liked my friends doing said course, I didn’t really enjoy myself. I stuck it out long enough to get the degree, though.
At the end of the first week I found myself in a crowded lecture hall full of people as confused as I. I wanted my girlfriend, I wanted my bed, and after a week which was just a succession of “don’t”s, I wanted an actual lecture. The afternoon beforehand had consisted almost entirely of a talk about how badly we could fail, which one of my coursemates summarised: “well, she sure told us.”
Folders were handed out. On my left was a tall, pretty, and incredibly thin girl who I didn’t know yet. She seemed friendly, and smiled a lot, so we got talking. We also seemed to be quite similar, insofar as we both raised our hands when the lecturer out front asked who cried easily. (I was the only boy to raise my hand. None of the other boys on the course were particularly macho, but still…)
I didn’t clock quite how similar we were until much later.
For the next month or so, I found myself to be avoiding her. To this day, I’m not entirely sure why – we had vibed quite well in that first lecture. As I told my mother at one point:
She’s tall and thin, and she’s very pretty, and I seem to be avoiding her.a very confused ilb
I think maybe part of me felt a little intimidated by her. Perhaps even a little unworthy. Maybe she smiled too much. Maybe, infatuated as I was with my girlfriend, here was someone incredibly attractive who I wasn’t attracted to, and that threw me off.
She waved at me once in the corridor, and I jumped.
We started talking again when I noticed her mentioning a computer game on Facebook. I sat next to her again, deliberately this time, and without even saying hello (I knew her name; I was never quite sure if she knew mine), I launched into the spiel before losing my bottle to do so.
“Hey, you. I saw you posting something on Facebook about Superfrog?”
“Superfrog!” she said with enthusiasm. “I love that game! All those little passages you can open up and things to collect! I haven’t played it for ages!”
“I played it yesterday,” I said truthfully, “after you mentioned it…”
“Ooh! You have it? Could you give me a copy?”
By the end of the day, she had copies of Superfrog in every format. I am nothing if not thorough.
As our agonising degree wore on, more of the class bonded, mostly through our collective misery. Nobody seemed to be having a good time, and by the end, we were all utterly convinced that, should anyone ask for advice, our first thing to say would be: “don’t go where I went.” (I used this very piece of advice later on, when Robinson asked. He took it, went elsewhere and is now working in the industry.) I chanced across my Superfrog friend a few times throughout my various travels, and when I realised we had the same tutor, make sure to stick around after consultation sessions in case she was the next one up. She wasn’t enjoying herself either.
At the very end of the course – once most people had finished and moved on – I, who had had three weeks’ sick leave and hadn’t done all the hours, was still on placement. It was a very lonely existence – none of my fellow students were around, even those who were meant to now be working in the same building, and even some of the staff I’d gotten to know were leaving.
I took a breather at one point, going down to get some resources from a corner office, when I noticed my Superfrog friend – still in her student garb – ambling around the corner.
I looked at her.
She looked at me.
And then, without preamble, she gave me a big, warm, reassuring hug.
It got me through the day.