About once a week during my first year, I walked down to the main office of the halls of residence to rifle through the post. I tended to order a fair few things (soft porn, CDs, more soft porn and far too many books) with what I thought, at the time, to be a fairly sizeable student loan. I also occasionally got letters, not just from my parents, but from odd members of my family, including my little cousin who'd only just started learning to write, but was very keen to let me know that she was the one who missed me the most.
I believed her. I still do.
The halls of residence were huge. It was a big university and these were purpose-built to house over a thousand, so there were mountains of post. It was all organised by surname, but no more alphabetically than that. I picked out the pile of letters which corresponded with the first letter of mine and shuffled them like a deck of cards.
About two or three times a week, there appeared a new letter in the pile addressed to someone named "Tom Sexy Surname", or at least a variant thereof. There was "The Sexy Tom Surname", there was "Tom (Sexy) Surname", there was "Tom Surname of Sex", and some variants thereof. If Tom had a title that wasn't "Sexy" (like "Mr.", for example), then it certainly wasn't being used.
Unlike pink. Pink was being used. In abundance. Pink letters with little pink heart stickers, pink glitter stuck on with pink glue. On the back of most of the envelopes were pink kiss marks made with pink lipstick. Most of them had the abbreviation "SWALK" written over, under, across or interlaced with the kiss marks. Usually in purple. If it were pink you wouldn't have been able to see it.
I'm a romantic person, evidently. I wouldn't be "Innocent Loverboy" if I wasn't. But everyone has their limit. This should have been mine.
But it wasn't.
I was fascinated. Every time I looked for my own post, I had a look for Tom Surname's too. Whoever was sending them (and I had a fairly good idea who...) was quite keen that he got a lot of post from her (could've been a him, or a them, but from the handwriting I'm guessing it was a her), and was also obviously fairly keen on Tom, to the point of telling potentially everyone in a university of over 25,000 students that he was sexy. Good for him, I suppose.
Or it would have been. Among the things I noticed, however, was that the letters for him were growing more and more numerous as time went on. By the time Christmas rolled around, at the end of term, half the letters were for him. The same letters, in fact, that had been there since the beginning of term (believe me, I know; I'd been keeping tabs). Tom genuinely hadn't been picking up his post... or, if he had, he at least hadn't been picking up these. They just hung there, in perpetuity, waiting to be opened. And he wasn't opening them. I certainly wasn't going to open them.
Although I so desperately wanted to.
And then they disappeared. All of them. They just vanished. And they stopped coming completely. I was convinced for a while that I'd been proxy to the end of a relationship. It made me feel sad for a while, even though I'd no idea who Tom Surname was and what had been going on there. In fact, for a couple of weeks, nothing seemed to have arrived for Tom.
So, of course, I wrote Tom a letter. At least, I put his name and room number on an envelope, sealed it, and put it in the cubbyhole we shared. I stopped short of putting SWALK on it, but I did kiss it... for good luck, y'know. And, lo and behold, one day later... this vanished too.
Tom had started to pick up his post. And, to this day, I wonder why it took him so long.