I have a bad habit of glamorising memories so I’ll just keep this one semi short and kind of sweet, unlike the first couple of days that unravelled.
As if pathetic fallacy wasn’t cliché enough, we rolled up to Warwick in the pouring rain. The car was overcrowded by my family members, persistent road rage and all of my worldly possessions. And it weighed a ton. Literally. My mom and my sister were holding boxes and dumbbells on their laps. The actual, physical car was apparently so heavy that my dad, drama queen that he is, was in a flux that the wheels would start skidding out of control or something. Before leaving he passed around a Madonna icon of the Virgin Mary. We had to kiss it and do the cross. I only air kissed it though since I didn’t want to get a lipstick print on Mary.
Long story short, we were resilient enough to lug in every irrelevant thing I had brought to make me feel more at home in this claustrophobic campus bubble, palm tree plants and all. In what felt like milliseconds, car doors were slammed shut and I was left alone in the midst of a messy room with messy thoughts and even messier makeup. My face had become so flushed that I had to apply three layers of pressed powder to conceal the aggressive blush that spontaneously decided to sweep over my cheeks. My instincts (also known as OCD) were telling me to take pleasure in organising my room, to make it all cute like the sanctuary I’ve always wanted. But the entire flat was curiously quiet.
And just as I was laying out dainty crystal perfume bottles on the window sill, I heard a tentative knock on my door.
So, the wannabe social guy from Austria tried to break the ice by introducing us all to each other, in a way reminiscent of a cringe teacher that wants to be liked by all the popular kids. My flatmates, the ‘anti-social climbers’, crept back to the confines of their en suites. Little did I know I would never see one of them again.
Not because he died or anything freaky like that but because he only entered the premises of the kitchen once a month to microwave a burger. Priorities. What can I say?
I was left confused. Like… what do I do now? I had genuinely thought I was ‘the shy one’ before interacting with some of the people here. The two guys who I thought would be the classic ‘lad’ types were the burger guy and ‘the posh one’, who I surprisingly ended up befriending later on. The international guy had told us all to meet for pre-drinks in the kitchen at six pm. We all privately thought this was really bizarre but were too polite to voice these concerns.
The kitchen hummed with silence, the flick of a beer can, and the occasional attempt at small talk. Any effort I was making was literally getting me nowhere with this crowd so I settled on nursing a beer I was never going to drink and meditating on how crippling weird I must be to get absolutely zero response from these people.
Lonely and alone, I decided to text back this second year who had found me through Facebook and consequently ‘hit me up’ after I joined the Freshers’ group chat which he was for some reason a part of (the reason became transparent as the night went on). We had started texting a few weeks prior because we were from the same area and had many mutual friends, progressing from Messenger to Whatsapp. Through our pen pal relationship, he had painted himself as the ‘older brother/buddy’ figure that drip-fed me advice and information on the inner workings of the campus, from accommodations to clubbing. Yes, every so often he would playfully hint at hanging out together and watching movies but the innocence with which he insinuated this was so G rated it was practically cherubic. Either that or I really can’t take a hint once I friend-zone someone. I felt like I was texting Barnie or Mr. Rogers or something. Or, at the very least, someone who wasn’t some sort of freshers’ predator.
So, ‘Barnie’, as his alias will henceforth be known, said he would bring over the five pound Freshers’ t-shirt that he had promised me. Instead he came with a bottle of wine. As first encounters go, it was even more awkward than the others so far because I didn’t know what button to press to open the doors. For five full minutes he was plastered behind the plate glass door miming directions to me. Kind of wish he would’ve stayed there though.
When I finally saw him ‘in the flesh’, so to speak, he came on full force, completely abandoning the ‘Mr. Nice Guy’ persona. My vulnerability was easier to read than a stop sign and he took full advantage of this discomfort, physically prodding me from my stiff position on the chair. Like some kind of creepy psychotherapist, he urged me to ‘chill’ by forcing me to spread my arms and legs out on the bed like ‘a starfish’ (cringe). He kept making up weird games to play, like quizzing me on Lord of The Rings trivia and basically persuading me to sit on his lap, his face a hair’s breath away from mine.
“How far have you gone, what have you done, who was your last boyfriend?”
On the way to his flat (so I could get the t shirt which he deliberately forgot yet used as an excuse to come over), he eased into fervently quizzing me on my former dates along with my past sexual experience and prowess. He delved into the explicit rapid fire like some prepubescent teenager. He’d mix things up a bit every other sentence with a throwaway comment on my ass and how he bets guys grind on me in the club.
Even though I became exceptionally closed off and completely turned off, I felt like I had to endure because I had envisioned him as my first ‘friend’ in Warwick. This was absolutely tragi-comic looking back. You hear about quintessential uni ‘fuckboys’ all the time but I was blind to the fact that I would be bombarded with their Messiah, not only on my first night at this place but in the first ever hour of being left to fend for myself.
While he was talking about how he wished there was a hot girl like me in his accommodation (his female flatmates were “Asian and nerdy”, what a sexist, racist bigot) he turned the lock to his room. It was tiny, cluttered, and, to my absolute horror, filled with rows of strange, strange food.
Most noticeably, there were three identical rows of chicken eggs (no carton in sight) in place of where you’d expect textbooks to be. I felt like I was living in a movie- of the horror variety. I had complained so much about how boring my life was prior to university that karma had handed me a new one. I was in the lair of a sexually frustrated psycho freak. I felt like doing the cross again.
When he took off his shoes I was basically a couple inches taller than him and then he began taking his jeans off spontaneously; he shrunk in my eyes even more. He told me to close my eyes and turn around so I looked at him bemusedly.
Are you and this for real? Farewell honey. But he assured me it was so he can have some privacy, ironically after he chose to expose himself to me. Freaked out was an understatement but, in awkward situations, I apparently resort to uneasily laughing and saying “don’t be embarrassed it’s not a big deal.” I just wanted to escape, with or without the shirt. Yet, as fate would have it, I had absolutely no idea how to get back to my place so was forced to allow him to escort me. Don’t worry, I’ve learned not to tolerate creepy men anymore.
Even though I was pretty unresponsive at this point, he yearned to push his luck. He wanted to come back to my room because he’d “forgotten his wine” which he assured me he would return at another time, as if I cared! In other words, he saw I wasn’t down to associate with him ‘romantically’ (or do anything) so he didn’t want to waste the resource, I presume. Begrudgingly, I let him in even though half my mind, the constantly paranoid one, was concerned that my flat mates would judge me (my need for social desirability took issue with the impression that I would make on people I had spoken two words to).
I was running three hours late for the ambiguous ‘six PM pre drinks’ so had no choice but to let him watch me get ready. Needless to say, he continued to be creepy by sniffing my neck, blatantly trying to kiss it, and wanting to ‘inspect my makeup’ by staring at my lips up close and extremely personal. I almost had him out the door before he made a last minute request- could he take a shower at mine afterwards? He had no hot water. It was a human right for Christ’s sake!
My brain didn’t even process that last question (it’s an absolutely certain no from me) but I humoured him just to quicken his exit. I’m way too nice with strangers and I identify as a people pleaser, an issue that has to be eradicated immediately. But, alas, I had triumphed. The creep was dealt with. His salaciousness was no more.
Somehow we managed to drag ourselves to the venue together, in a timid impersonation of what we thought a ‘normal’ flat should act like. That sums up the rest of our time in that place. Some of us tried to bring us all closer like some dysfunctional, estranged family while the latter resisted through awkward murmurs and constrained ‘see ya laters’. The group chat was drier than their sense of humour.
The foreign guy, who had made us pre-drink so early, humiliatingly stood us all up. That was the first and only time I’d been stood up, what a bench mark. At least we were all in it together.
Not only did we wait for an hour in the freezing cold but I didn’t feel like myself at all wearing a cheap t-shirt, that I now use as a recycled pyjama top, to a club. My high maintenance self wouldn’t wear that to Tesco. But I went to such great lengths to retrieve it from Barnie’s lair that I felt like I owed it to the universe for saving me from that weird egg room.
Flourescent neon lights and somewhat terrible music blared from every direction as the heels of my boots kept sticking to the tacky floor. My flatmates were awkwardly hanging at the bar; all but two were pretty much ignoring me. I had never been the most assertive at parties or social situations in high school but I forced myself to dance to get them to follow suit. The music was terrible, I was completely sober and I just wanted to go back to my room and extract myself from this dull environment. As I would many times, I pledged to never go back to ‘The Copper Rooms’ again.
Follow up on the freshers’ predator:
After a whole year at university, I never heard from or saw him again at any point, neither in real life nor on Facebook. I went on a coffee date with this guy on his course once, the president of The Cocktail Society, who informed me that the creep really was unorthodox (although ironically he was actually Christian Orthodox). He had spammed the society with emails to get more guest speakers. Guest speakers for a Cocktail Society? Riveting.
The creep had also told me that he was in my accommodation and, not knowing that second years can’t utilise on-campus flats, I had naively believed him. Now I’m just dazed and confused. Did he even go here? There is no trace of him…
I woke up genuinely lost and had one of those ‘what happened last night?’ epiphanies. I don’t remember what I had for breakfast nor do I remember what I ate or lived on for the entire week. I went to a societies’ fair with my flatmate and a girl who I would never talk to again.
The silver lining was the poster fair which I ‘went ham’ on. I was so desperate to cover the blank white walls in my room. In their monotony, they made me feel like I was an insane person imprisoned in one of those padded white cells. Needless to say, in an adrenaline rush, I bought eight posters before I was stopped abruptly by this guy who found me through a London/Warwick group chat. He proceeded to inform me that he wanted to “buss a whine” (he was adamant) and asked me if my gender queer friend was my boyfriend…
I felt the immense joy of putting up posters using blue tack. I infamously even had a poster up in my bathroom, a Picasso or something. I am extra.
After the sun set, I went to this random accommodation that I would never return to with two of the flatmates I had made maximum effort with. It was freezing cold and we cursed how late our university starts compared to the light breeze provided by a September term.
We went out to the most anti-climactic event where I ran into the poster fair guy and was sweet-talked into sneaking a drink into the club. I managed to clamour away before he started ‘grinding’ on me.
I had no routine and was struggling to ground myself because, in the schema of my existence, I felt the fervent need to always have a plan and know what I was going to do next. There was no such comfort here and, induced by strains of delusory over-thinking, my senses filtered what was actually happening into a myriad of reasons to feel insecure. The chatter bouncing off the heads of people clustered together was transformed from small talk to sentimental banter. I felt like I stood out in solitude from the groups of people walking together because my flat weren’t an automatic ‘in’ to go to places with.
My solution was to be overly friendly and the complete opposite of my actual self at least semi-permanently. My strongest game is to adapt to any type of person or situation, almost mirroring their attitude and personality. This ensured that I was effortlessly accepted as a friend by random people who I no longer even speak to now.
University is like a sieve- all the friends you thought you had are plucked out from the group you had gathered when you can no longer be bothered to keep up a façade. And, in my case, as a true Gemini, I had charmed a number of different people by stroking their ego with what they thought was their mirror image.
In exploit of this opportunity, I was overly nice to strangers. When someone who studied a similar subject as me asked me for directions, we walked to our lecture together. We hit it off so well that we spent the rest of the day listening to music and I even skipped my department’s ‘welcome party’. When evening rolled around we went to that night’s event and, to no one’s surprise, it could only have been described as lame. He kept buying me drinks and, having barely any tolerance for alcohol, I was starting to feel woozy- like I was in a video game or something. It was my first time being properly drunk. So, we went back to my flat and fell half asleep in the kitchen beanbags and I woke up with his face heading towards mine and his hands on my chest.
I brushed it off with a ‘where am I’ kind of remark, not thinking too much of it, until I later learned that he had done the same thing to one of my friends on the first night. He played the innocent, friendly, nice guy card but she woke up to him kissing her.
Erm. This isn’t sleeping beauty. This is crossing lines and skipping over boundaries that I thought were pretty clear in the normal world. Sexual harassment is a huge problem at university.
My advice: don’t be a slave to social graces or pander to fit in because that will only slow the process of finding like-minded people; sometimes ones so in tune to your vibes that you think you conjured them up as figments of your imagination and made a blog with them.
All images are sourced from Instagram and public film stills.