It’s strange how people create whole worlds out of nothing. Kids can turn plants and bushes into war zones; adults carve out intricate patterns from millions of haphazard dots in the night sky. Even I, never renowned for the flamboyance of my inner world, manage to do it once in a while. I was on the third or fourth floor and was running as fast as I could. On a treadmill. I had to complete 5 kilometres in order to get paid for taking part in the experiment. My mind was beginning to swim. I tried counting breaths. I tried counting windows in the block opposite. I tried to name all the colours of the t-shirts the students in the courtyard below were wearing. But my brain circuits were scrambling – neurons firing and decaying in apparently haphazard patterns rendering a fluid stream of consciousness impossible. Occasionally panic would grip me – some overactive hormone sending warning signals to my body, tightening my breath, urging me to flee danger. Normally of course I would never exert myself to this level. I would stop, like any sensible person. I have never understood what demons drive people to exercise beyond their comfort zones, even to the point of vomiting. Maybe this is why banks and law firms like employing rowers – because they’re fucking mental and won’t buckle under the pressure. Sadly I couldn’t really buckle. Ian was standing next to me – this was his experiment, his PhD, his future. Well, maybe I was not that important but I did feel a certain responsibility to him. He was a very nice guy.
This is of course something of a digression. The point is that I focused my chaotic attention on a couple sitting a few feet apart on a wall. For some reason my attention remained on them. They were stationary amidst all the bustle of students trying to find their way around the campus. Is campus an American word? They were neither sat close enough to each other to suggest they were acquainted nor far enough apart to suggest that they definitely were not. The girl sat motionless with her head slightly bowed. Naturally she wore Ugg boots but despite this she looked utterly lovely. The boy was also utterly lovely. I realised that I desperately wanted them to be together. I wanted them to look up at each other, smile and hold hands as they waited. I wondered what they were waiting for. They seemed to be the only people waiting. If they didn’t know each other why were they waiting so near each other? There was plenty of wall space available or benches or even some lawn. The guy was more active than the girl. She just remained with her head slightly bowed and if I remember rightly she may have been holding a plastic bag that was dangling between her Ugg boots. She didn’t swing the bag back and forth rhythmically as people often do when sat in this position. She just remained still, staring at something, probably the ground, although she could have been admiring her Ugg boots or even inspecting the unseen contents of her plastic bag, if she was in fact holding one. But as I mentioned, the guy was more active. Often when guys are sat on walls waiting for something as presumably he was, they try and look like they are at ease with waiting and adopt a certain nonchalant demeanour that in fact just reeks of insecurity. Or they are constantly looking around, surveying the passing crowd for possible friends, or prey. But he just looked interested in what was going on around him. He also checked his watch every so often, if he was wearing one. I imagined that he kept subtly trying to check out the girl sat next to him – and he was doing it in a very innocent, endearing way. I really wanted him to say something to her. I think they would have been good together.
I was informed that I had run 4km. I was gripped by what was unravelling before me. I felt very emotionally involved in this scene. I felt convinced that he was going to act. And then she looked up as if someone had called to her and she got up off the wall and was suddenly surrounded by three girls all wearing Ugg boots. She started laughing and began walking away. I wanted to leap off the treadmill, tear open the window and scream at her: ‘NO! Don’t leave! He’s in love with you!’. But then I noticed that the boy had not even acknowledged her departure.
I threw up all over the floor in front of the treadmill.