Crazy Diamond (start of 3rd chapter)
By Jude O'Flynn
They’ve herded us into halls of residence according to the alphabet, but it seems bizarre that one letter in a surname can determine who your friends are likely to be. I’m presuming that I’ll at least make acquaintances while I’m here. I decide to visit the communal kitchen, which is littered with empty bottles, mysterious stains, and the incongruous juxtaposition of a savaged ciabatta and a tin of spaghetti hoops. ’Incongruous juxtaposition’ – I’m going to use that in a seminar, if I ever go to one.
Someone is opening the door – a female!
‘Hello,’ she says.
We both look at the kitchen carnage.
‘It was like this when I got here,’ I say, way too defensively, sounding like I’ve just done a poo in the fridge.
‘I’m Louise. I think we’re next door to each other. Are you enjoying it so far?’
‘Well, if this mess is anything to go by, I certainly am!’ The most ridiculous thing I could have said, having just denied all responsibility. Thankfully, Louise is undeterred.
‘What are you studying?’
‘English Lit. You?’
‘Oh…Wow.’ I don’t know what Theology is but I can’t confess my ignorance – this is Cambridge! If I don’t know what the subjects are, I should probably just quit now.
‘Yes, through God’s grace, I have the opportunity to study it here.’
I understand ‘thank God’ and ‘praise the Lord’ (said sarcastically) and ‘Jesus Christ, what’s that smell?’ but not ‘through God’s grace’.
‘Well, I suppose I’d better make myself some breakfast,’ she says, and I’m grateful for the polite way that she ends my first proper conversation with a female since I got here, as I was so way out of my depth that I was suffering from the bends. Talking of which, it’s a shame there isn’t a Bachelor of Arts in Radiohead Studies, as I really would have been able to get away with zero studying. I wonder if George is still listening to the new album? As I leave the kitchen there’s a horrific wailing sound: not a fire alarm, more like a child abandoned in an industrial estate surrounded by starving wolves. About thirty doors open simultaneously and there is much scratching of hungover heads.
‘What’s going on? …What’s that noise? …It’s not even midday!’
I walk towards the confused crowd. A guy in a Bermuda shirt and luminous yellow shorts is doing the calm down thing.
‘It’s fine everyone. I’ll check it out, no problem.’
He’s having to shout his reassurance because of the wailing and now the crying of a girl who, between tears, keeps saying, ‘I don’t like it here.’ Our calm leader swivels round and strides up to the end of the corridor where the terrifying human siren appears to be emanating from. He presses an ear against a door, gives the thumbs-up to us, breathes deeply, and knocks on the door. No answer. Another knock, slightly more forceful. Another thumbs-up. Another knock. And another and another and now he’s properly banging on it like a bailiff and as he leans in to bang again the door opens and he falls into the room. Now the wailing is accompanied by people shouting: our leader and George.
‘You’ve no right to be in my room!’
‘You opened the door…finally!’
‘To stop you thumping it!’
‘You need to turn that off!’
‘I can’t hear you!’
And at that point, our leader does the return journey into the corridor, landing on his backside, and the door slams shut. And the wailing continues.
‘I want to go home, I want to go home…’
We’ve been here less than 24 hours. A guy with a Northern Irish accent suggests that we call the police but a girl wearing jodhpurs says neigh and refers to an enigmatic collective known as ‘The Porters’.
‘I’ll go to plodge and ask them to get rid of that freak.’
Plodge? What on earth is she talking about? She’s a fine one to talk about freaks. Indeed, she is rather fine, especially in those tight trousers.
‘Are you alright, Rory?’ someone asks our leader, who has sauntered back to the huddled mass.
‘Yeah, but he isn’t. What an absolute nutter!’
‘Natasha’s gone to plodge to sort him out,’ says someone in very small pyjamas. If I hear that word one more time, I might freak out. ‘Come into my room, I’ll make you a drink.’ She tugs Rory’s hand and they disappear. While the crowd disperses Belfast Boy looks at me.
‘Go back to your room, it’s being dealt with,’ and I swear that he aims a little kick at my shin as he walks past. The noise is really doing my head in now, so I go to George’s door, feeling slightly sick at the thought of Rory sipping from Pyjama Girl’s cup. I’m banging the door now, as much in grief as the original impatience to get George to turn the bloody thing off. The door swings open and he stands poised to connect a large photo frame with my skull.