We slept in the same dorm room. It was a comfortable little structure, with wooden beams across the open ceiling, supporting the aluminium roof, which was red with rust and housing small birds. There were four double-decker beds on each long side of the wall, and one window fronted with grills. The walls were light blue. So was the door and the one window, as was the wont in high school dormitories. She slept on the left side near the exit, I slept further in, on the right, near the window. She was built squat, with a cheery smile and an open face. Fairly along in physical development. Unlike some of us who looked like we never even heard of that bus. But we didn’t become friends until Form 3.

I was painfully bad at social interactions. It was very difficult for me to carry on a typical one on one with just about anyone. I had crippling social anxiety. One that you couldn’t hide it felt like a built-in warning on my head. I was so quiet even I wondered what was wrong with me. She, on the other hand, was something of a loud mouth. She never ran out of things to say she spoke a mile a minute. As I watched from the side, I used to sigh and think about how I could never feel any pressure to go back and forth in conversation with her. Not with a mouth like that. My role would be to listen. And I had that skill in spades. Could do that without even thinking.

High school is an…interesting time for young people growing. You discover many new and wonderful things about yourself. Or so they say. Whoever ‘they’ are. I would not call mine a drag, but it wasn’t a party either. With my social skills about as honed as a wet blanket, I was in limbo. I felt that I was merely there because I was. Like, there were no highlights to speak of. ‘Cept maybe sports. That was good for a time. I had to go through an ‘elimination process’ before I found what I was good at. The basketball team straight up drew a line that said only 5’7s and over, could play. The hockey team asked me to punt for them once, and only once. The soccer team tried me for goalie, big help I was. I wasn’t holding out much hope for the racket games, but it turned out I had a mean swing arm. For the record, we never made it past provincials. Except tennis. Tennis went till Nationals. She was on the Tennis team for a time.

I had a ritual. I was a creature of habit. There was a formula I had to help me get through the day. As all high school had a routine, I added a few of my own patterns to fit in the gaps the school left for us. I knew all the times when the dorm room would be empty, or when the class would. And I used the alone time in idle fantasies and/or reading. It was mostly reading, to be honest, about idle fantasies.  Our library was comparatively small and there were no reading spaces so you took the books to class with you. The librarian knew me by name. I was that much of a recluse. People would come to Me to borrow books before trying the library. I loved it.



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