The temperature seemed even hotter than before as we pushed the trolleys back the same way to collect my belongings. My feet dragged as if I were wading through golden syrup with a ball and chain attached to each of my legs. I tried to imagine that we were trudging through some endless desert somewhere, but it obviously was not a desert, it was a main road lined with P30 parking signs, and the shopping trolleys were probably marginally easier to push along the footpath than through the sand. They did seem to have a life of their own, though.
The concert outside the Student Union still proceeded noisily and apparently quite chaotically, and if we were heckled again, I did not notice. This was because I felt too exhausted to look. My shirt and Chloe’s top were wet with sweat and sticking to our skin.
We loaded my things into the trolleys—one box of clothes, my laptop and two boxes of books. I collect books like a dragon reputedly hoards riches. They are my little treasures, though I cannot afford to buy them often, and I usually acquire them second-hand. I love it that a book can be relied upon to provide the identical information, or tell the same tale, time after time—unlike people, who can be fickle. Rereading something I already know is grounding for me, and it is pleasing to know that information in a book is always the same each time I look at it.
It was now late afternoon. The trolleys were not easy to handle, not having been designed for long-distance pavement journeys, and squeaked continuously, making me grind my teeth in annoyance. Chloe stimmed by tapping out a beat on the handle of her trolley as we walked, the regularity of which was reasonably calming. Sometimes, one of the trolley wheels would stick and drag along the footpath with a high-pitched shrieking until it freed itself. Other times a wheel would turn randomly, causing one of the trolleys to lurch sideways abruptly, like a pouncing metallic cat. However, we managed the almost 3km back to our new home without serious incident.
After the constant noise and bustle of the halls of residence, it seemed positively tranquil in the new house. I got my first look at my new room. It was a comfortable size, 4.7m by 3.9m, and well laid out, almost a clone of Chloe’s room in size and shape. Chloe had the room next to mine, then there was Stef’s room, and one bathroom, which we would all have to share. Chloe announced that she would draw up a colour-coded timetable for the bathroom for the three of us each morning and evening. I appreciated that careful planning on her behalf. That was one more detail arranged (and one fewer thing about which to be anxious).
We unloaded my possessions and took them into the house. Chloe bent over and carefully placed a box of books on top of the one that I had put down next to the bookcase. As she stood up, she wiped the perspiration from her forehead with her left hand. She wore a white sleeveless top (because this was a Friday), and sweat gleamed on her arms and shoulders. Her blue hair was tousled, and I wondered if she felt as worn out by the heat as I did. One strap of her top had fallen down her right shoulder, but she ignored it, or perhaps was unaware of it. She took three steps to my bed and lay down, letting out a heavy sigh. She twirled her hair with her left hand, and patted the bed with her right hand.
“Robert, why don’t you sit down here? You must be tired. You could rest a while too, lie down, maybe. We could talk or…you know, something.”
I thought I knew how she felt, though, of course, I could not know for sure without Chloe telling me. This was a significant move for us both, bringing a lot of change and, inescapably, anxiety. As she rested, I looked eagerly at the empty bookcase, already mentally arranging my books in order by category and (within that) alphabetically by author. I felt a surge of excitement as I anticipated removing them from the cardboard prisons of their boxes, feeling the smooth dust covers in my hands, and placing their regular rectangular shapes neatly onto the white shelves in front of me in a perfectly ordered, systematic manner.
Chloe sighed again. Perhaps it was because she realised she would have to unpack also, and felt too tired to do so. Suddenly, I realised that we had missed our break together at the university café because we had been too busy moving into the house. I felt thirsty. A cold drink would be good, but a hot drink ought to be better. Apparently, hot drinks cool your body down faster than cold ones.
“Do you want to go out for a coffee?” I asked her.
“I don’t drink coffee,” she said abruptly, then sat up, stood and left the room. A few seconds later, I heard the door of her room close.
That is right, I admonished myself. Chloe drinks green tea. No wonder she did not want to go out for a coffee.