My brother, Marky, agreed to drive me to college. I travelled light and only had one box of stuff in the back of his car. During the journey, we chatted and caught up with what I’d been up to in America. When we arrived in Oxford hours later, he parked and I asked directions to the accommodation office. There was a big queue of students so we got in line for the keys to my room, which took about an hour. When the paperwork was complete, there was yet another queue for directions to the various halls of residence. Marky was neither student-friendly nor the most patient person in the world. As we joined the back of another queue, he wasn’t happy.
“Fuck this” he snapped and, in his indomitable way, barged past the passive students. He got to the front desk, grabbed a folded map of Oxford and walked out of the accommodation office. I followed his lead, smiling. We probably made it to Heyford Hill House before we’d have got to the front of that queue. I unloaded my stuff and we said our goodbyes. He wasn’t fucking about. In less than a minute, he was off, the long drive North ahead.
The first night felt odd because the halls were deserted. My place was in House Five, Flat One, Room Three. I went up a flight of stairs, opened the first door on the left, flicked the light switch and put my box on the floor. The door was spring-loaded and shut itself with a loud clunk. I looked around. A single bed to the left, window, small wardrobe, another window and then a desk. Perfect. I collected a few tins and packets of food and took them downstairs. The first door on the right was the kitchen. It was small, clean, a table and chairs in the middle and the usual selection of cupboards. Some were reserved with bits of paper stuck on doors, so I picked an empty one and put my stuff in. All alone, starting a new life. I smiled. It felt good. I hung around for a bit, enjoying the new start. But I was tired and soon went to bed.
The next morning was a bit livelier as people turned up, ready for the new term. I met most of my new flatmates. There was Dave, who called himself fat, but wasn’t. He had spiky brown hair and was a good laugh. Phillip was next, shaggy-haired, very serious and a self-proclaimed expert in karate, so we “Had all better watch out.” Yawn. Sally arrived next, small, bubbly and a fun girl. A humourless, nameless female from Iceland entered the kitchen and announced she had a batch of whale blubber to share. A mixed bag then. I was in my room and heard a tap at the door. Dave asked if I wanted to go to the pub. I was unpacking my box and asked him the grab the other end. I turned it upside down and poured the contents all over the floor. He looked at me as I kicked my stuff about a bit.
“That’s all unpacked then, let’s go,” I said. Dave smiled and we left for the pub.