Adam’s first year at university was a lot of things; it was the first time no one (well almost no one) knew who his father was- and subsequently what his father had done-; it was the first time he had ever lived in an flat with other people; it was the first time anyone and everyone had ever expected anything from him; it was the first time he wasn’t the smartest guy in the room (and also the first time anyone had ever told him he was); it was the first time he’d ever gone clubbing; and the first time he’d ever drank (and the last time he’d ever drunk Tequila); it was his first kiss (which he would likely never admit) and his first time (which he possibly would). Yes, Adam Parrish’s first year at university had been good: but possibly the best part of it was the flatmates he had found by the end of it. Blue Sargent a bubbly, sarcastic, feminist whirlwind of person who made anger look delicate and femininity look scary and legwarmers look fashionable and Henry Cheng, who he was certain could also do all of those things but much preferred to run a miniature social media empire from their flat kitchen table, and regularly break the laws of physics with a little help from some hair spray.
Although they had spent their first year together in a shared flat in university halls, they rented a private flat for their second year, just the three of them (and Gareth, but nobody counted Gareth on account of his bad attitude and the fact that he had all but moved in with his girlfriend.) The flat lived in a run down block of flats in a not massively great area of London, but the rent was cheap and the parking was good and really, that’s all they could hope for, ok yeah sometimes they had to ration the hot water and one time the microwave set itself on fire, but it was pretty damn good for what they were paying.
In Adam’s humble opinion the best part of living with Henry and Blue (other than living with Henry and Blue) was their neighbours. Mrs Peters downstairs owned two Pomeranians (Doris and Janet) she was all too happy to let Adam walk, feed, or otherwise fuss over, Mr Jenkins in 3B was in the habit of paying them to do errands for him in cake and the occasional roast dinner, Susanna who lived in the flat opposite regularly had loud arguments with her weird boyfriend and aggressively flirted with both Adam and Henry when she found them in the hall. And Adam loved all of it, even on the days when Susanna wouldn’t leave him alone, even on the days when Doris wouldn’t stop barking, even on the days when the cake was gross, because it was his home, and he owned it (rented it, whatever, same difference) and that meant he was out, and that meant it was brilliant.
The only thing that had ever made him reconsider this assessment was the three guys who lived upstairs, from what little he saw of them Adam had concluded that they must also be students, he had also come to the conclusion that they were rich and as such had chosen to live in this shithole entirely of their own volition (in fairness so had Henry, but he at least had the excuse of two very skint flatmates and a desperate want to ‘better appreciate the starving masses’.)
However, it was not their obvious student-ness, nor their obvious richness, that made him wary of them: it was the otherness that coated their every action. Adam himself was infused with a certain otherness that made people wary, he knew this, both because he had told by a number of other students and one very resentful ex-girlfriend, and because he had never felt so at home as he did sitting at Blue’s kitchen table with his tarot deck, surrounded by that same otherness. But their otherness seemed different to his, or rather, their otherness seemed exactly the same as his, but was being used in a different way. It was as though Adam was suffused with magic, it lived in him, but more than that, it lived through him. These boys simply seemed to be magic, as if by themselves. And he didn’t like it very much. Which was fair, if a little hypocritical.
Having said that, he did enjoy observing these neighbours and their various comings and goings; the large black bird that lived on their windowsill; the strange mix of EDM, obscure indie music, early 2000s pop/rock and soft 60s style love songs which crooned from their flat at all hours of the day and night; the papier-mâché houses which turned up in their recycling regularly; and the knife-thin, aggressively greasy young man who paid late night visits and once tried to push Adam down the stairs. It was something that made his day a little more interesting.
That morning Adam had woken to his first day off in three weeks, and he only had it off because his boss at his third job had closed shop to attend the wedding of his nephew in Birmingham (who he not-so-secretly thought was awful, not because he was truly awful, but because he had all sorts of new modern ideas, like recycling, and veganism, and women’s rights, and Mr Gregor thought all of these ideas were awful, and thus by extension his nephew.) Adam was immensely pleased to have the day off for a number of reasons, 1) he had an essay due, 2) he had four chapters of reading for his Environmental Responsibility module, 3) he didn’t like Mr Gregor 4) he was very, very tired.
It was not yet noon when the arguments started, something which Adam only knew because he got up at 10:30 (scandalously late in the life of Adam Parrish) and started working immediately whilst timing himself; not for any real reason, but more because it made him less stressed about exams when he knew his average essay took 45 minutes, and his best essays took 75, and his most fabulous essays took 2 hours. The arguments themselves were little more than masculine rumbles, like the distant chords of a song he half knew. Adam did not strain to hear this argument, both because he was not nosy, and because he knew it was pointless when his one working ear wasn’t strong enough. Yet the occasional phrase floated down in perfect clarity, they were strange and varied sentences, he caught the words “Bulgarian mobster” and “dead king” and “my fucking farm” somewhat strangely “patriotic dick pic”, none of it made any sense to Adam (or indeed Blue who he was sharing his study space with until her shift started at lunch time), but they provided short lived comic relief.
By the time 2pm rolled around the arguments had stopped, Blue had gone to work, Henry had solidified his position as most productive member of the flat by successfully setting up another Instagram advertising deal for a client, and Adam was hungry. His day off would only last until 5pm and then his shift at O’Malley’s would start, but that gave him three hours to get some food and get changed. He grabbed his wallet off the counter, pulled a tatty sweatshirt Blue had bought him over his equally tatty grey t-shirt and left.
The walk from their flat to the shop wasn’t a long one, and Adam had purchased a cheap- but effective- pair of over ear headphones to make the whole trip more bearable, he found an advantage of a big city was no one would dare talk to a man in headphones, which meant he didn’t have to explain his lack of hearing, which made any and all errands 100% better. He was on his way back, nacho ingredients in hand, when he ran into his neighbour. Literally. He was the tallest of the trio of rich, mysterious otherworldly blokes that lived upstairs, and the one that seemed to associate with Mr Knife-Grease-Stair-Pusher-McGee. Adam was not terribly shorter than this man, but he was an awful lot lighter, which is how he came to be sat on the cold, wet floor of the high-street in a puddle of what he really hoped wasn’t piss.