I realised I loved a challenge in my uni days. But it wasn’t University per se that was challenging me- I barely attended, so that could not be the case. It was the girls. There were so many to choose from!

Bi-curious straight girls (Arts students), wannabe lesbians (Environmental students), militant lesbians who wouldn’t give it up (Law students) and drunk students (usually International students).

Then there was my college-dorm neighbour Steph. She didn’t just have me hook-line-and-sinker, she had me in the bucket. In a little puddle of water, desperately hanging on for dear life.

She was a post-grad and I was in second-year so we’d mostly hang-out in her room after classes. I remember we met during winter because she used to text me at night when she was cold and I’d come over and get into bed with her. She was doing her Masters in Philosophy, which meant nothing to me, but I loved hearing her talk about it. Sometimes she’d talk for hours about it and I’d just lie there grinning. I remember we were both so poor but it just made our relationship seem more romantic and co-dependent. We shared everything, from toothbrushes to our coffee loyalty card, making sure the other one always got it stamped, saving up for the free ninth cup. Sometimes on really cold days we’d meet on campus, get coffee together and she’d pull a whisky flask out of her boot and we’d ‘Irish’ our coffees. She thought it was cute when I said that the first time and then it stuck, she started calling me Irish. We had the most pure of relationships. We just weren’t a couple. The relationship was in my head.

Steph wasn’t very attractive, she was actually quite ugly. Her body seemed all out of proportion, her legs were really long and the rest of her hadn’t quite caught up. Because of this she walked like a trotting horse. Her skin was flaky, her hair dry and she was so pale from lack of sun. But she was one of those lesbians, who, because of her personality, became a whole lot more attractive. Her coolness overrode her unattractiveness, at least that’s what I thought anyway.

I believed it was only a matter of time before we hooked up, we were both single, both gay and both really cold that winter. I kept waiting for her to make a move one of those nights we spent in her bed. For hours we’d talk about something wanky, like Jack Kerouac’s stream of consciousness and the shaping of the modern novel. We’d lie there spooning and stroking each other’s arms, but we’d just drift off to sleep. I’d often wake to find her in the middle of the night sitting at her computer by the bed, typing away. I very rarely saw her sleep a whole night through and I hoped it was due to sexual frustration. In the mornings she’d be really distant and often leave me to sleep in her bed while she went to the library. Her pillow would always be covered in dandruff and looking back now I am amazed this didn’t disgust me. I thought it was kind of cute.

I desperately wanted her to look at me as more than just a friend and would send her cryptic text messages with quotes from books, but sometimes I wouldn’t hear from her for days. She was just like that. I would invite her to Art exhibitions and she would stare into the paintings for what seemed like an eternity and then want to discuss them with me for hours afterwards. Steph thought everything could be interpreted as sexual, she would say all art was perverse and full of sexual connotation. Well, I just wanted to get to the sex.

I know, I should have made the first move, but it almost felt like it was her duty, she was like Socrates and I was her Plato. Older philosophiser and student. But it never happened and it eventually drove me away.

I ran into her a few years later after she had graduated and moved away.

“Hey Irish, you’re all grown-up- you seem so relaxed” she said.

I got annoyed for old-times sake, why couldn’t she just say I looked good? It was as if I was not sexual to her at all, and never would be. Then she tells me she’s sorry she was always so distant with me back in the student days. Turns out she was shagging her supervisor, who was married. And male. For a moment I was relieved. “Not that I ever would have shagged you, Irish, we were so platonic weren’t we.” This was not a question. She was telling me, just like she always did. And I smiled and grinned, just like old times. Steph was never going to let me win that challenge.