Keeping in line with my life from the age of 18 onwards, I was perpetually single, and to be frank, the idiots getting off with other idiots on the dance floor were offending me. Not because they were getting off, exactly; I was absolutely au fait with the amount of sexual tension there was in a bunch of rowdy students. Nor was I offended that they were doing all this in public view: it made for an amusing spectacle. It's just that the dance floor was meant to be used for dancing, in my opinion. I tended to thrash around a bit, sprawling mass of limbs and hair that I am, and if I had to bump into one more kissing couple...
I weaved through the heaving mess of saliva and grunting and noticed, among other things, a discarded condom on the floor. Durex. It was still sealed in its packet, and I naturally picked it up (because I am a sucker for free things I find on the ground). It looked fine to me when I inspected it - no rips or tears in the packaging. Still felt relatively fresh, and it was well in date. Had probably just fallen out of someone's back pocket, I reasoned, slipping it into mine add to my own stock when I got back to my room.
"Have you met my friend Laura?" asked a girl I vaguely knew from sight. I knew a lot of the girls in my year; they all seemed to know me: I was the dancing idiot. Out of a mixture of courtesy and curiosity, I followed her finger, turning around... and there she was.
Laura. Blonde hair cascading over her shoulders in countless, messy curls, sparkling blue eyes, nice body shape, and a cheeky, attractive quality. There was something ineffable about her - she was, as an unknown quantity, being given a bit of a wide berth by everyone else in the club. Drawn inexorably into her aura, I shifted uncomfortably and managed to rearrange my face into my default ‘flirting’ smile, hoped it wasn't too much of a grimace, and said hello.
The rest of the evening passed in a Laura-shaped blur. I hovered. I bought her drinks. I tried to make polite conversation. Eventually, I flirted. It was, at the time, something I was good at - flirty without being threatening; male without being masculine; sexy without having sex. I just never seemed to know when to start or stop, or where to go with it. But she was receptive, seemingly hanging onto my every word. I ended up, after a while, telling her she was sexy, gave her a big hug, earning a dazzling smile...
My room floated into my head. She'd be welcome there. It was tidy. My bed wasn't too small. There were Pokémon posters on the wall; everyone loves Pokémon. I'd been so terribly lonely for months now...
"Okay, well, I’m going back to my room," I heard myself saying to Laura, who (as I noticed with a certain grim fascination) was now more than a little drunk - which was, of course, my fault. "I might get a bit bored, but this is tiring me out." And I've got a condom in my pocket, I reminded myself.
"Well, when you get into bed, text me," she said.
I didn't need her to elaborate on that. Nor did I want her to. What was unsaid was a far sight more exciting than what was actually said. I doubt, however, that it was her intention to ascertain that I'd made it home safely. I just needed to walk across campus and make it up the stairs to my room in student hall. Hardly a difficult task, especially when not hyped up on Coke-and-cordial and chips with cheese (I always, somehow, ended up getting chips with cheese...).
"Oh... but I don’t have your number," I said.
Yes, that really is what I said. Not "could I have your number?", "I'll give you my number!", "I look forward to it!", or even "I will!". But I was aware that this sexy girl had asked me to text her without giving me a means to do so. In the pre-Twitter, pre-Snapchat, Faceparty-dependent days of 2003, this could be a serious setback.
She shrugged, laughed, and didn't respond any more than that, taking another sip of whatever I'd bought her and beginning to groove to the phatter bassline. I could sense her slipping away, but I didn't have much of a choice - I'd said I was going. I hugged her goodnight and walked off, out into the cool night air, and into the kebab shop to get chips with cheese.
I never saw her again. But, on the plus side, I got a free condom.
[Heavily edited and re-posted version of an article originally posted elsewhere. Hooray, bonus content!]