“Oh I am so sorry to hear what happened.”
“Oh I know a few people who took a year out this year, so you are not alone.”
“It’s ok to take a year out, university is not something for everyone.”
“Focus on what is important right now, whatever will be, will be.”
“I hope everything works out for you.”
“We missed you in class, you know you were quite a clever one…”
These were the reactions I received when I bumped into classmates in university, and told them what happened. For some of them I was too ashamed to have them known what had happened to me, for fearing that they would wish they did not know me at all if they ever found out, that included a tutor I liked in year one. Many of the classmates filled me with sympathy and encouragements, I thanked them for being kind.
Yet part of me was angry – I presume at the time I was angry for many things, for me being ashamed of myself not able to progress like everyone did, therefore it contributed my silent jealousy, so silent no one could find a single trace in every part of me they see. Also for my situation – for those words of encouragement or hope could not help me spiral out from the relationship with the housemates, part from possibly Nancy.
I presume the difference of getting was based on our differences, for example how we motivated ourselves in housework. I tend to be the kind who would do them when I say I would, with no specific time of the day given, could be morning, afternoon or evening. For Daphne however she always seemed to find something to complain about on the work I did, such as I didn’t clean the toilet hard enough. At times she would come into my room and give me an indirect lecturing on me not contribute enough on housework. I knew this as she often begin with “I just cleaned the bathroom…” but I never heard any sound of scrubbing or saw any dust being removed whenever I go to the toilet straight after.
While Nancy’s amount of work was understandable, Daphne seemed to building up a habit of directly firing at me for lack of contributing in housework, for keeping myself in the room too often, not able to find a job and so many other things. I liked to argue one thing that, she never say the same to Harriet, Angela or Iris, who I could see very little to none contributions being made. At least once in a while I did witness Nancy sorted out the washing and hovered nosily in Sunday Mornings.
I was suspicious about this – did she fire her words at me because I was the only person who wasn’t in university? Did she feel she had every right to treat me with so little respect, because I was the only one who wasn’t progressing? When did the status of progressing in university or not, gives people the right to trivialize one another, inside and out?
And yet I could say nothing, I could not risk the possibility of my already difficult time to become more painful with those words, or thoughts. And so it goes, I switched off the light, to sleep off the pain.
Harriet have had an interest in embroidery, she often stitch beautiful pictures or writings, when I knew her in Lupton the student hall. In fact I have had a picture stitched by her for my birthday.
I never was able to recall the picture she stitched for my birthday, until the very day when she came to me with a face of horror, her hands were holding the stitch-pad with needle crossing the surface of the fabric in white. She was trembling as if she was standing in North Pole.
I was at the time in front of the laptop on a wooden heavy desk with draws at the side, I just finished writing some advertisement of myself on a website looking for personal assistant. I could hear Harriet’s footsteps was like someone in rush hour, by how she thumped on the stairs as she ran.
“What was it?” I asked as Harriet tried to catch her breath from flying down the stairs. She shown me her stitch-pad – it was a small circle pad with wood in golden colour at the side, the fabric in white with flowers and leaves in different colour surrounded itself with a name I was not familiar with: Florence Knight.
“I don’t know anyone with this name!” She cried frantically, so hysterical as if she committed a crime and fear we give her no sympathy, “I didn’t know why this name came up.”
“Maybe it’s just a sub-conscious matter?” I tried my best to keep her from exhausting herself with fear. “You know you might’ve known someone, read something or so and so, then remember it without knowing?”
“I am SURE I knew no one with such name!” Her screamed reminded me her argumentative nature, which as a result I was not able to get on with her in the same way as I did with Nancy. I had my hands up to surrender on this argument. On the other hand she seemed worn out, in the context that she did not sleep for days, or she was in a state – the demonic appearance of people who were possessed in films.
“Maybe some sleep wuld be good for you?” I suggested intently, definitely not prepared to put up with her temper that reminded me of all the famous dictators in history.
“I suppose,” she said with a heavy sigh, “I mean I just don’t feel safe enough to sleep –”
“How come” I asked, slapping myself in the head for not remembering to follow-up Harriet’s condition since the night she screamed.
“I am sure there is something in my room is desperate to get me.” She spoke with her eyes popped out like Nosferatu. At night she said, she would see shadows surrounding her bed, there did nothing so far. Sometimes would be a faint images (like a hologram she said) of a girl killing herself, another girl being murdered and another girl being swallowed by something –
“I shall sleep off a little.” She commented calmly, she spoke in a way that she was referring to someone else in our conversation. She then picked up her stitch-pad and left the room, walking slowly back into her room with no sound in her footstep- as if she was a ghost, as if she was a handful of dust as if she was never there.
I turned back to my laptop to write more letters to employers, yet after hlf an hour, I was not able to focus so I switched off the laptop and was going to read “Atlas Shrugged”, but then the interaction with Harriet played and replay in my mind in a disturbing way. I decided to get my diary out and make a note on her condition, I was not really responsible to her as we weren’t related in family context, but as a friend or a housemate – I take this as a sense of duty. Beside the fact that I couldn’t help being paranoid about the connection between the embroidery and the screaming incident.
“21st October 2011:
Harriet was filled with fear upon seeing a name written in her embroidery, a name she did not know, call Florence Knight. She was certain that she knew no one with such name, nor memories to recollect with such name exist. Along with the screaming incident two weeks ago, she seemed to be certain something demonic about the message.”
I sighed heavily as I wrote that passage, I shut the diary and continue my reading of “Atlas Shrugged”.
I sighed as I looked at the e-mail, it would be the twenty-seventh letter of telling me “sorry you’re not in” in the most polite manner. “Due to high volume of application…” Oh cut the crap!
The jobs I applied for ranged from an ordinary sales assistant to extraordinary personal assistant of people in need, as holy as possibly Florence Nightingale if I may say so, not many people were willing to take time to care for those people. “You are just not experienced enough.” One e-mail said, I think it was from the eleventh rejection. I would’ve loved the idea of volunteering too, I thought, but none so far were willing to pay for my bus tickets.
What about sex work? The idea came across when I thought of Nancy, Nancy had been working in that area before I knew her in Lupton the hall. She seemed happy with her work, and she didn’t complain much of her clients, maybe I would ask her about it. How would my mum react if she found out I thought, would she love me as I am then?
I logged onto my Google mail, few e-mails from Gumtree. Seemed my advertisement of mystery for a job gained some replies, yet I was left laughing with no sound when I read the replies I did not know if I said or wrote anything that gave them a misguided idea of my purpose, yet there were at least two men who claimed they would pay me seventy pound or more whenever we meet and I “play” the role of their girlfriends for the day. That definitely sounded not bad in the matter of generating income, but can I really do that for real? “Hel-looo!” a voice echoed after the sound of slammed gate and door, it would be Nancy.
“I am here!” I cried back, she ran up the stairs the way Cathy Earnshaw toward the hills in “Wuthering Heights”, dropped her belongings as if her room was a dumping ground for waste, then straight to my room. She always ran toward the bed whenever she entered my room, she envied my bed was much comfortable than her’s.
“How was the job hunting going?” She asked casually, her casual tone was done in purpose, as Daphne’s interrogation had left me traumatized for a while. I shown her the adverts and the reply, she laughed with hysteria over the replies I had earlier, “I think you can negotiate for more.” She said, “but of course only if you joined me you would be likely alienated by Daphne and the girls, even if the law takes time to catch us working together and charge us for running a brothel!”
Indeed – even if the law might take a while to catch us if I start being an escort, Daphne and the girls were much quicker and harsher at catching and punishing girls who often did things outside their ideals. Nancy was once caught escorting by Daphne when a friend of Daphne recognized Nancy from her pre-Uni days as an escort, this resulted Daphne demanding everyone to take sides – either her or Nancy. Part of this decision was based on the fact that Nancy was more popular than her, yet somehow no one seemed to object Daphne’s demand and sided with her numbly. To be honest, Daphne and the girls in the house were the only people bothered by Nancy’s profession. They only shared the same house with us out of what they claimed as the courtesy of being a hall-mate, as for Nancy and I – it was more likely the fact that they couldn’t share house with two strangers, when four bed houses were fast off the market, and they couldn’t find anyone they can trust to live with them.
Well at least seven and a half month left til the contract finished, I thought, “Speaking of that, a client I met today was looking for an assistant.” Nancy commented, as she was browsing the books on the bedside table. “One of his assistant is leaving for another job, I presume you are interested?”