Hold your breath, pinch your nose and dive head first into the absurd world of Thomas Howarth’s Uni Confessions.
I was invited to a house party last year. My girlfriend’s housemates were celebrating. I think one of them had gotten an internship or pregnant or something. Whatever the cause, I was invited to a house party. And I went to it.
It was your usual affair – a geology student filling the television with milk and dropping a David Lynch boxset into the electrical white fluid; a child dressed like a clown perching on the stairs, whispering ‘red rum’ over and over again; a tired girl sitting alone in the kitchen, gazing, bored, at a live chicken roving along the worktop – and I was stood on the landing with my girlfriend, making my mouth go flat and noisy against hers.
We’d met on a barge six months prior, and felt that ‘we met on a barge’ was too good an anecdote to go to waste. So we entered into a relationship, and told everybody about how we’d met on a barge. Eventually, we began to develop feelings for each other. I’d realised that I quite liked her black hair and different coloured eyes, one blue and one green. And here we were, half-a-year after the barge, kissing at a house party. Needless to say, I felt like I was Elvis Presley.
‘Shall we take this further?’ She pulled away from my exhausted, dripping face-hole.
‘Further than kissing?’ I asked, wiping my lips on the stair-child’s clown costume. ‘Like, biting… teeth?’
‘No,’ she sighed, taking my arm in her grasp and pulling it into a bedroom. I followed, and found her lying naked on the duvet.
‘Ah, right, yes.’
So we made the beast with two backs, and rolled breathlessly onto our own. We rolled too far and landed on either side of the bed. I shouted to her.
‘Was that good for you?’
She shouted back, a simple nod. I was about to shout again, offering an apology for the fact that I’d kept all my clothes on throughout and performed my half of the activity through a rip in the crotch of my jeans, but I noticed something on the floor next to me. It was a small, glowing chasm. It cast a pattern on the ceiling, like the shimmer from a swimming pool or toilet bowl. I reached out with trembling fingers and touched the edge.
My brain exploded and imploded and fell back together. I was lying in a park. A newspaper, sidling along on the breeze like a cowboy, tripped over my face. ‘January 1992,’ its date proclaimed. I crawled to the nearest fence and hauled myself into a upright position. My brain was still rolling around inside my head, like the thing that sloshes about inside a Magic 8-Ball. January 1992. I had fallen into the past. I glanced around, and saw the glowing chasm from the bedroom lying as a split in the ground. Before I could make to dive back through it, it sealed like a wound. I was trapped.
I spent the next few weeks adapting to the environment. I got myself a job, a hat, and a girlfriend. We met at the site of a brutal road traffic accident, and I felt that it was too good an anecdote to waste. Lovers rarely meet at road accidents in 1992 these days. Our relationship advanced.
Nine months later, my wife gave birth. I kissed her forehead and stepped around the hospital bed to see my child.
‘It’s a girl.’ The midwife smiled like a painting. I looked into the face of my baby. As I registered her features, my wife spoke.
‘Melinda. She’ll be called Melinda.’
The baby wriggled, and stared up at me with two different coloured eyes, one blue and one green. Her tiny head was topped with thin black hair. I spat hot venom, dropped the baby into the arms of the midwife, and instinctively hurried through the closed window. As I rolled through the air towards the car park, a gleaming chasm opened in the tarmac. I fell through it, and landed on the floor of a bedroom. Glass from the shattered hospital window settled on the carpet around me.
‘Are you okay?’ came my girlfriend’s voice, from the other side of the bed.
I croaked horribly, and she stumbled over to see me.
‘Nothing. It’s…’ I cringed at her nudity. ‘Put some clothes on, Melinda, you’ll catch a chill.’
‘Alright, dad,’ she said sarcastically, laughing at my bizarre, fatherly demand. I winced. The chasm in the ceiling closed up, as if the universe itself was winking at me.
We’ve been together for nearly two years now. We met on a barge, you know.