Freshers’ week starts awkwardly, all careful bravado and friendliness. Make a good impression, not too loud. Be polite, not too quiet. Get involved, don’t be an idiot. Please don’t be an idiot.
You find you feet with each night out. You stop having to think twice about people’s names and everyone realises they’ve got an accent. You learn what everyone’s studying and people are mocked accordingly (as an English student, I was rightly harangued).
Everyone’s drunk: on being away from home, on the slight hum of financial independence, on scary responsibility, and literally. Suddenly, you dread holidays away from people who were strangers just months before.
You sense which friendships will stick, the ones which – over the years – will require no run-up when diving back into them. The case of the wonderful lanky gentleman was just one such case.
We wasted time in the library getting scandalously little work done, staying there overnight to finish overdue coursework before getting waylaid again by games of cricket in the abandoned corridors at 3am. We ordered so much takeaway the delivery drivers knew us by name.
Every time you left your room unattended, he’d flip your mattress. He’d play a 12-hour YouTube video of a turkey gobbling outside your every time you got lucky on a night out. He’d hijack your laptops to Google things like ‘deepest part of the River Trent to sink a body’ whilst on the uni network.
His concerning cache of fancy dress included a bald cap and a t-shirt made for four-year-olds with a smiley face on it which stretched into a frowny face when yanked over his 6’4” frame. I’ve seen him use a sausage as a knife and eat a ‘pizza-burger burger’ (a burger between two pizzas, for those wondering).
Not many uni friendships last, reliant as they are on proximity, adolescence, and joblessness. But my friendship with him has. He came to visit recently, the first time we’d seen each other in 18 months, and it was wonderful.
He’ll probably hate that I’ve written about him. Tough. Shouldn’t have flipped that mattress, mate.