Selling Illusion

Saturday, May 07, 2005


In my four years of abode in Cardiff, I was exposed to an extensive range of new tastes and experiences, to such a degree that the University life shaped the person that I am today. One of the chief fundamentals that underscored my life over there started way back in the first few weeks as a Fresher, settling into the University Halls of Residence and having the nerve racking experience that all have in meeting an entirely new cast of characters and trying, sometimes unsuccessfully, to be as interesting and funny as possible. The first forays into exploring the city life and the Union soaked up the choice of conversation for a good few hours. But the sponge was beginning to dry. A bridge needed to be formed between ‘me’ and ‘flatmates’, and quickly.

The bar was closing for the night, the last snatches of alcohol were being supped, and it was a forty five minute walk home.

My social skills were exiting my body in waves of sweat, despite the early autumn temperature residing in the ‘cool and breezy’ area. My tongue was dry, my mind blank. I had played the ‘drunken Irish fool’ card long enough, coasting me through most of the evening, but withdrawing my hand with the sobering realisation that my accent has been misplaced by those around me, noting with some despair the number of my new colleagues who commented how good it was to find ‘an American who wanted to study in the United Kingdom’ as last orders were called.

Ever had those uncomfortable moments when you’re in the company of a group of strangers? I’m sure you’ve had it at least once in your life, maybe in a similar predicament such as mine. It doesn’t matter that the rest of the crowd are probably as nervous as you are. Never for one minute enters your head, and if so, only for a moment of fancy that quickly fades.

But lucky for me, I stumbled across a conversational goldmine.

One that saw me cunningly side stepping any need to diversify my vocabulary for the rest of that first night, only injecting the occasional comment of a simple ‘no’ or ‘never’.

As we stumbled into the cold night, the last few bars of an unknown song drifting from the Union bar’s music system slipped outside with us. It settled onto the now silent group around me. With a sudden great relief, evident in their voices, my friends started to talk at once, pouncing onto this new topic of conversation like a pack or ravenous wolves. Multiple cries of “what music do you listen to?” and “Don’t tell me you like him as well, do you?” rang through the night around us. The fella beside me, a fine fellow by the name of Jon, turned and uttered the question to which for thirty seconds I had been secretly wincing over, awaiting the eventual onslaught.

“What sort of stuff do you listen to Gil?”

My answer brought a horrified silence from beside me.

My confession? My shame?

I hadn’t listened to a damn bit of music in my life.

How could this have happened? I hear you cry. How could such a travesty occur, and how is it even possible in this day and age? Well, just trust me on this one; this little fish had managed to slip the net somehow. And no, to answer that question at the back, I wasn’t raised at a Monastery.

My companion, gods bless him, didn’t point and start screaming “Witch, Witch! Burn her! Burn her!” in a blatant attempt to show his disgust and to spot check how many Monty Python fans were among us. His eyes took on a sinister shine, and an odd light lit up behind them. I could see cog wheels turn inside his mind. I suddenly understood how a gerbil felt in the hands of a scientist wielding a rather large syringe full of a dubious looking blue fluid.

The word passed back along the line of my sin, my dirty little secret. I became slightly worried. It was dark, I was in a new city, I knew no one, and the locals were looking at me as if I’d just unceremoniously gulped a pint of my own urine. I quivered as unfamiliar hands descended onto my body, grasping my clothes, pulling me up.

I was borne into the night, carried by the mob to some unknown destination.

Fear rode with me.


Post a Comment

<< Home