I hauled 3 months worth of luggage into a boxy room, and looked out the door, across the hall at a girl sitting cross-legged on the bed, lava-lamp beside her, incense thickly wafting into the corridor. There were other intimidating people on the floor, but the one I remember most clearly had black hair, black clothes, skull earrings and a deathly white face. Heavy music was thumping at my chest, but it was already beating fast anyway.
“Well, I’ll leave you to it now”. Dad smiled and pulled my door behind him. I walked over to the window, glad there were a few trees down there to look at. Shrieks of laughter and shouts bounced down the hall. I tried not to cry. This was supposed to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Thank goodness.
I unpacked and hung up all my belongings. That took ten minutes. Then, I knew I had to go out. Without stopping to think about what lay ahead, I stepped out, unseen, took the shuddering tin can of a lift down four floors, had a forgettable conversation with a girl from North Berwick, and then went out for dinner. That was only a brief respite, for then I was launched into the terrifying clamour of the students’ union, and the embarrassing moment of asking for a Coca Cola when everyone else was drinking.
I walked out of there with some people, can’t remember who, thinking that it was going to be a long year. It was tough. But at that moment, I had no idea that the girl in black would become my angel in disguise, that other rooms in halls housed like-minded friends, and that Glasgow would become, years later, my real home.