Welcome to our university’s Halls of Residence.
I know the communal bathroom has had a paper sign on the door reading Caution – Cleaning in Progress for the past 24 hours.
Yes, I’m aware there has been no cleaning of any kind in there: I don’t know when it will happen, either. There is so much mould in the shower it’s starting to resemble a highschool biology experiment and whatever material the bath tub is made of, it’s peeling off. I think the drain’s blocked because too much hair got in it, so don’t run the tap too long, okay?
You guessed it, I’m back in student halls: where the kitchen stinks of scorched food, dishes never washed and various Chinese specialty dishes and the bed rooms are the shape and size of a box. The rooms are too brightly lit and the walls are an interesting shade of yellow that appears to tint all the furniture in it a sickly shade of green.
I’m getting the creeping feeling that I myself, being a third-year student and therefore on the way out of the undergraduate programme, got allocated to the Flat of Losers this year.
And no, it wasn’t just the bathroom.
I began to suspect something when I met one of my flatmates from downstairs. We got to talking in the kitchen, and it turned out the boy with the checkered shirt and the floppy blond hair that kept falling into his eyes as he spoke was an English student and an aspiring writer. I was delighted, and immediately asked him what he was working on.
“Oh, I don’t actually write much,” he said. “But I’ve got all these ideas for novels, long ones.” We were silent a moment. I have never had an idea for a novel in my life; I love the punch of a short story. He told me he loved Aldous Huxley and Allen Ginsberg, and about the time he got invited to a party at a pent house in London and spent all night meditating on the roof top.
He asked me whether I had read the Book of the Dead, a spiritual text from ancient Egypt. It was okay if I hadn’t, he said. “Not many people have.”
The Chinese girl across from me never talks to anyone, unless it’s my turn to take the garbage out. But I know she washes her rice cooker in our laundry room, because I found greyish clumps of the stuff in the sink the last time I went to dry my clothes.
You can usually find the flat’s Italian exchange student in the kitchen, watching films with his fuzzy haired English friend. The Italian’s a nice guy, with big dark eyes that give him a constant look of mild confusion, as if he can’t believe the situation his foreign adventure has landed him in, either. His friend mainly communicates with people by recommending films; he prefers to avoid too much eye contact. I assume he likes me well enough, because I got to borrow one of his dvds.
The black girl next door is pretty with big rows of white teeth that are entirely visible when she laughs. I asked her where she’s from, and she rolled her dark eyes until the whites showed and said “you mean like where my parents live? London.”
I wonder which of us will crack first — and clean that bathroom.