It is a strange and infuriating fact that life does not get any simpler as you get older. I had thought, rather foolishly, that I had left all the insecurities, dramas and ill-advised, alcoholic revelries of my first year firmly behind me as I entered my second. Of course, I was mistaken. After a couple of Quaddies, I was accosted by the captain of a highly inebriated women’s football team who was, incidentally, wielding a rather hefty, bright blue permanent pen. I was swept along by this group of sporty renegades in the fiery pits of Klute (I mean Hell), and it all went downhill from there.
Hangover aside, I found the next morning that I had been at some stage that night brutally attacked with that oh-so-bright, oh-so-permanent marker. They had been merciless: my left forearm was adorned with an incongruous and badly-drawn phallus that oddly resembled a prawn. It had butterfly wings, too. My right arm was covered from shoulder to wrist with more comic – and similarly obscene – doodles, which proved impossible to wash off. My luckless friend, however, was fated to wander about the crowded floors of Europe’s “worst” nightclub with whiskers on her cheeks and a penis on her chin. My relief at my face having been spared a similar fate was indescribable.
All my best laid plans of reading and injecting some order into my chaotic life had gone awry. I woke up, registered the blue stains on what had been pristine, white sheets and groaned as I realised that much of the artwork from the previous night had transferred onto my face as I slept. I crawled across the landing to the bathroom, driven by some hope that the manufacturers of the Pen of Doom had not been literal when they termed their product “Permanent”.
As a student of History, I have often had to deal with the prejudice and resentment of my scientist peers. I have been labelled (perhaps not that unfairly) a “lazy, good for nothing” arts student. They see my life through the green lenses of jealousy and condemn me for having free mornings and pretty relaxed afternoons involving one, sometimes two lectures. My protests and attempts to defend myself – usually: “I pay the same tuition fees for a handful of lectures and a library: I’m the one getting screwed over!” – have always fallen on deaf, jealous ears.
The irony as I scraped back my hair during a frantic rush out of the house, still chewing my breakfast, was painfully apparent. I had finally decided, well past midday, to pry myself from the comfort of my bed in order to avoid missing a lecture that had already begun. At quarter past four. The phallic imagery had stained my skin so badly that not even a kitchen scourer could remove the damage. I ran, bleeding in places, to Elvet Riverside, hoping that I would somehow be able to sneak in unobserved through the rear entrance of the lecture theatre.
As I had spent most of my day in bed with a large glass of water and a copy of Heat magazine, I was unaware that there had been a room change. I strolled into a room, feeling quite smug at having made it there in record time – before the lecturer, too – and seated myself at the back, completely oblivious to the strange looks I was receiving from the students already in their seats. As I reached my destination, however, I realised that the person sitting next to me had opened a textbook and had started reading. It was all in Arabic. I began to feel uneasy. I was expecting a class on the history of the Middle East, but was unaware that fluency in Arabic was a prerequisite.
My unease turned to blind panic as a man who was definitely not my lecturer strolled in, ready to begin. I looked about wildly, trying to plan my escape, but to no avail. There was only the one door, and it was all the way at the front beside the tutor’s desk. I was trapped, but I reasoned that it was only an introductory lecture I was missing and that there was no reason why I couldn’t sit this out. I might even learn something. That was until the tutor scanned the room, frowning slightly, and announced “there is at least one person in the room who is definitely not an Arabic finalist. Would they please identify themselves?”
I nearly died from shame. I was surrounded by smirking finalists who were all enjoying my humiliation. I stood up, red-faced, and left, cursing myself for having not read my e-mails. I eventually located the correct room and strolled in, pretending to be nonchalant when really I was cringing inside. My scientist friends will never find out about this – if they do, I’ll never be able to live this down.