Friday approaches, and I get out of here. I pack my rucksack, cramming in, amongst other things, a towel, a sheet, and a wine bottle filled with what a Sharpie labels as ‘Bex Mix’. I actually bother to lock my door, and turn my fairy-lights off. (My Anti-Everything housemate describes them as making it “look like you’re in an indie film”. Which apparently is the worst thing that could happen to anyone, ever.)
I say my farewells. I will be back within 24 hours, but leaving Oxford for any time at all is like slipping through a wardrobe into Narnia. And so later I find myself settled in London, at a house party. The sheet and bottle are emptied from my bag. A few Oxonians have joined me, and we nonchalantly toga up. My previously prepared mix seems to have begun to separate. But the first rule of Bex Mix is that one does not question. And so I sip on. The house is filled with Oxford graduates. The Merton stereotype, I learn, is not a new thing. I do very little to help this as the house welcomes more guests, and the air fills with the dust of illegality.
A stranger splutters as I reject his offerings, and demands why on earth not. Now I must begin my regular explanation. “I actually do this thing where I, like, want to see if I can never smoke a cigarette in my life. Or, um, do drugs.” Bemused faces surround me as I mutter about not wanting to prefer another reality/the classic family-cancer-tales. White sheets blur as the crowd stampedes away from crazy-girl-who-doesn’t-take-drugs-or- smoke. That is, apart from one. One sheet clad stranger.
He takes a long drag on his cigarette, and nods his head. “Fair enough.” Huh. As I meet the more inviting glare of this stranger’s eyes, I hear a cry. Great. I reluctantly break off the tension that I probably created in my delusional head anyway, and search for the source of the noise. Because, oh yes, I recognise the sound. Sure enough, dilated pupils of clumsy-Oxonian-friend look up at me from the bottom of the stairs. “I don’t think I can walk.”
I help her to bed to dream of the A&E trip that awaits us. When I return downstairs my friend has outrageously decided to begin cavorting with her boyfriend.
I guess there’s nothing left but to seek the eyes I left earlier. I look at the sea of sheets before me. This may take a while.