I sort of forgot that I was at uni to actually do something. Wandering happily and aimlessly around worked until essays began to mount up, and it came slowly back- oh right, that’s what I was meant to be doing. The bizarre idea occurred to me that there was this free time because, shock horror, it was for work. Add to this epiphany the weird drama that happens when you’re living with people and it’s gotten past the stage where everybody just wants to be polite and get along, and start having general meltdowns because somebody forgot to take the bins out and there’s an unclaimed plate in the kitchen, and the general stress of living at uni, the sudden panic attacks at 3am when you’re trying to finish an essay and somehow convince yourself that it’s going to be awful and will lead to you failing everything, and what do you even want to do if you manage to get this degree, and what actually happens after uni when you’re meant to have gone through some kind of Pokemon evolution and reached your final form and transformed into an adult, and you haven’t called your mum back after she texted you twice at 8am when any normal people would be sleeping, and now she thinks you’re dead- this is usually the point where I have a minor meltdown and take cover with Netflix.
First: the flat drama. It was getting to the end of the first term, everyone was exhausted and even more stressed but because we were still technically in the polite “I don’t want to be rude and have an argument” phase, this translated into passive aggressive kitchen warfare. We have a very unbalanced ratio of clean to not so clean people, with the not so clean people being hugely outnumbered. The clean people, lovely as they are, also appear to have undergone some kind of chef masterclass with Bilbo Baggins and Jamie Oliver, creating these culinary masterpieces with vegetables straight out of the shire, all arranged in order of how many calories they might contain if they ever dared to be unhealthy, and before they sail out with this food art, they spare a moment to look, saying nothing, just look at you, with a face that says “and what have you done today?” and you immediately hunch in shame over your bowl of noodles and question why you ever thought you were brave enough to venture out of your room. If you’ve ever been silently judged by a parent or been a boyfriend in the wrong, you’ll know how much power a look can hold. Things went smoothly for a while with everybody cleaning anything that was left alone for more than two seconds and putting disney princesses to shame with the sheer amount of floor-sweeping. Then things took a turn for the worse, because of a bottle of fairy liquid. Somebody had finished it and hadn’t replaced it. To me this didn’t seem like a call for kitchen war, but it made the clean people very uncomfortable, and (I must have missed something) the empty fairy liquid bottle suddenly took on the significance of a dead body. The first shot had been fired. It was placed in the middle of the kitchen table, making everybody feel guilty- it felt like when you were little and your friend had been put on the time out chair. It remained in this position of high honour and everybody crept around uncertainly until someone decided we should have a meeting and talk about it. We had a meeting. About washing up liquid. Things were (sort of) resolved and after what felt like a council of war, it was agreed that we would carry on exactly as before. The fairy liquid bottle was removed, duly mourned, and the event never discussed again. Things might have carried on like this, with everybody circling each other like terriers with their hackles up, if it wasn’t for one person. This person (now gone) did not wish to participate in the peace treaty of the kitchen. One night, said person got particularly drunk and began a one man campaign to speak his mind about each member of the flat. He began his monologue in the hallway, duvet wrapped securely around him, arms aloft, with impressive flare. This must have been about 4am and the rest of us were torn between annoyance at being kept awake again and irritation that he was speaking loudly enough to be heard but not quite loud enough to hear exactly what was being said. An online chat was quickly established, reports came in from different rooms along the hallway, and one girl who was closest to the duvet criminal took on the role of war-zone correspondent, dutifully relaying every word back. We were content, bristling with righteous indignation and honouring the British tutting tradition- of course not brave enough to venture out for a confrontation. The soliloquy suddenly stopped, and duvet-man and co. seemed to have vanished. We were instantly suspicious. It was ominously quiet, like when you’ve spotted a spider lurking- you look back later to check its movements and it’s disappeared; you’re glad it’s gone, but you’d prefer to know where it was. We eventually learned that duvet-man had gone for good, taking his duvet- and only his duvet- with him. The kitchen war had had its first casualty.