This is Part 2 of Silas’ story. Find Part 1 Here!
How do you recover from making a complete fool of yourself in front of someone you’ve never met? Even though Silas didn’t know the strangers’ name, he couldn’t stop thinking about how embarrassing he’d been. Not that it mattered of course. He just could never see him again.
Unfortunately for Silas, the run-ins didn’t stop at the Moreland Sainsbury’s Local. The next time was at the usual Pret run. As Silas was waiting for his oat milk gingerbread latte, he saw him walking towards the window. Without missing a beat, Silas ran into the toilet and waited. Five minutes past. He knew outside, in the throng of Christmas marketers, his latte would be standing alone. Leaving his hiding place, bobble hat askew, he had been and gone.
After changing his Pret of choice, he walked into the Virgil Building to the desk he’d booked. Seeing through the crack in the door, his desk mate was none other than Mr Sainsbury’s Local. He turned on his heel and found a café instead.
Perhaps the most troubling example of avoidant behaviour came when he was going to PictureHouse for their yearly showing of It’s A Wonderful Life. Cara and Aeesha were with him when, upon noticing that he was coming out of the screen, ducked into the projection room. After being locked in for twenty minutes, someone finally came in to check who was casting a shadow over the film. Still, Silas had been successful.
“I don’t know why you’re acting like that,” Aeesha told him when walking out of the film. “Didn’t you say he looked familiar anyway?” Cara had run ahead to try and get signal and message her boyfriend. It was just the two of them: Aeesha had been Silas’ best friend since arriving at uni. After bonding over a fresher’s week that wasn’t everything either of them had hoped. After promising to help each other make university what they wanted it to be, they’d become inseparable in all areas of life. This included Silas filling Aeesha in on every embarrassing detail of the Moreland Road incident.
“That’s not the point. I just can’t do it.” Silas mumbled between tying his scarf. “He looked familiar, but I think he was just a face on campus. I don’t think it’s important.”
It was the next day at a 9am seminar in 8 West. Frost had drawn itself along the window and the students could see their breaths dancing in the December air. It was the first seminar of the semester and 20% of the unit module’s grade was going to be based on a group project that Silas knew he’d end up doing most of. He forgot to ask his coursemates if they were in this seminar so sat staring at the door hoping he could partner with one of them. One by one, tired second years strolled through the door followed by the professor. His prayers remained unanswered as the seat beside him sat empty: he didn’t know anyone in the group.
The group project was set out: choose your partner, choose a topic to present on. The professor chuckled as she said the class will have only one week to research, create and present.
“I’m sorry I’m late.” Silas heard the voice before he saw him. Mr Sainsbury’s Local. He recognised him from lectures, and he beelined towards the empty chair by Silas, sitting down with just the flash of a smile.
His blood was drumming in his ears. The beat drowned out everything else the lecturer was saying- the blur of the PowerPoint they were reading line-by-line off of. He only came to when a hand was placed on his shoulder.
“So I guess we’re group partners,” he smiled again and stuck out a hand. “I’m David.”
Silas introduced himself and took his hand.
“You were a bit late so do you have any questions?” Silas rubbed the back of his neck and met David’s eyes. Maybe he didn’t remember him at all.
“Yeah I have one.” David paused. “Want a coffee pod?”
Silas googled the meaning of ‘David’ as soon as he sat on the U2, his mind as cloudy as the steamed-up windows surrounding him. He often looked for the literal meaning in things including names. His own name came from the Roman Sylvanus, God of the countryside and was given to people who lived, wandered and got lost in the forests. He believed his name had connotations to not knowing what he was doing, something he disagreed with avowedly. He believed Aeesha’s name held more power than his: alive and well. Cara’s simply meant good friend. John’s was entirely caught up with the Bible that Silas had no doubt John had to be swapped at birth if his system was to have any credibility. Upon looking at David’s meaning, the lights on the bus flickered.
Silas was on his way to David’s house. He was bringing his laptop and some Bailey’s for their first research project meeting. David had insisted on Silas coming to his place despite his protests that it would be easier to go to Velo or even booking a room at Virgil. David’s reasoning for doing the meeting at his house was because he wouldn’t be able to get there in time. As was the promise of living in Oldfield Park, David lived five minutes away just around the corner making Silas a bit early. After walking past David’s house to try and waste a bit of time, again, he heard the voice first.
“Silas! You missed it!” the voice was coming from the top window. Poking out of the roof was his shirtless research partner, steam coming off his body. “I’m coming down!”
David’s house was surprisingly homely; his flatmates were three girls that all greeted him as David showed him the Christmas tree, making an effort to tell Silas they had decorated and put it up without David’s help. A seemingly electrocuted Barbie doll on the top, hair sticking out in five pointed directions. David made sure to say that was his only contribution.
David’s room, or rather forest, was the attic. As you walked in there were plants sprawling everywhere: begonias filled the windowsill above a vinyl table. Two huge banana plants waited for them to come in with their great waving leaves covering old concert posters for Stevie Nicks and Elliot Smith. A towering philodendron sprawled across the bedside table whilst on his desk sat a tiny cactus: the only place in the room where a plant had been confined.
A few hours passed in the jungle of David’s room. They had decided on their research project topic: media stereotypes. Both of them had tried to research but they kept finding themselves lost in conversation, Silas at the desk and David on his bed to begin with. They shared similar views; on politics, on music (however clashing on a recent album) and travel plans. Soon they were both sitting on David’s bed after Silas had to see if David really had seen Stevie Nicks sing live (he had, Austin City Limits 2022). The video showed David and a guy swaying and singing, arms over each other. Silas couldn’t help but feel his heart beat a little bit faster.
It was getting dark and David leant over Silas, turning on the lamp. They had a presentation template and summaries of different research articles but were struggling with narrowing down their topic. They couldn’t take on all media stereotypes and get a good grade: they had to be specific. The guy from the video earlier was still on Silas’ mind and he took a risk.
“What about LGBT stereotypes?” he asked, studying David’s reaction. Would he frown? Flinch? Laugh? David turned his head, both sitting side by side on the bed. His eyebrows raised and his eyes lit up.
“Superb. I have so much to say about that.” He was typing into his search bar already.
“Like what?” Silas produced an uneasy laugh.
“Well I think gay stereotypes are moving in the wrong direction. They’re so heteronormative. Or all about sex. Or about AIDs.”
“I’m surprised you know all that,” Silas flicked his eyes between his laptop and David. “Do you know any gay people?” A silence filled room. Silas imagined all the plants leaning forward to hear the answer. David laughed.
“You!” he kept laughing. Silas let out a sigh, unable to tell if it was out of relief or disappointment.