An Ode to Neville

By Jules Sanderson

This is a reflective piece, looking back at my time as a student, sharing a house with one of my best friends.

We are best friends, bonded together in that intense, competitive form female friendships sometimes take on. Back at university after four months apart, we’ve both changed in each other’s absence but neither can admit it. We don’t fit together as well as we used to but to say that out loud is too much, would lead to too much, so instead we go to the corner shop and buy cheap vodka which we drink in the living room that doesn’t feel like ours yet. We are nineteen years old when we move into the house on Neville Street.

My room has been painted a bright sunshine yellow and when I wake up hungover, which is a lot, it confuses me. One time I lose my favourite dress for three days, only to find it under the kitchen table. Another time I throw up in the hallway on the way out to a party. We never clean it up because it’s only wine and you like to point out the stain when people come round.

You do exercise videos and I jump around behind you, feeling giddy and happy and young. One night you burst into my room and jump on top of me in bed and I love you. Then you fall down the stairs and when I pick you up there is a man sitting at our kitchen table that you forgot you bought home. He steals your iPod although you don’t realise until days later. Builders come and knock down the wall in your bedroom which someone (not us) has punched a hole through. White plaster dust covers everything even when we close our doors and we wake up with it coating our eyelashes and eyebrows, suddenly our Grandmothers overnight. It coats the walls like chalk and we draw clumsy pictures in it when we’re drunk.

I take your food from the fridge even though you get so mad and we eat fishfinger sandwiches with ketchup. You fry them in a pan while I put them under the grill and we both think the other is crazy. When I’m too drunk to go to bed and the world is spinning you sit with me next to the toilet and sing a nursery rhyme about crossing the Irish Sea. We think being drunk makes us grown-ups but all it really does is turn us back into children. We hold hands and skip along the pavement. Your room is dark, like a cave, and there are clothes all over the floor. You put my hair up in a beehive and I feel like a Bond girl. It is so cold I sometimes sleep in my coat and we stay in bed too long because it hurts when our feet touch the floor. I wake up in my clothes from last night and don’t change before I walk into the living room because I feel no shame.

You make me try balsamic vinegar and teach me how to make chocolate sauce from Nutella and milk. You lose your ID and I give you my passport which they confiscate because you don’t know your own middle name. I never get it back and I’m so angry because I know yours is Simone. One morning after the night before I puke into the kitchen sink all over our dirty dishes and you laugh and laugh.

Sanderson cards

© 2014  Jules Sanderson is a freelance writer based in London. She drinks a lot of coffee and stares out of a lot of windows. Follow Jules at her blog Things on Toast. Follow her on Twitter: @thingsontoast.

There’s something universal about youthful bad behavior. The absence of a year or place in Jules’ essay just heightens its effect–as a reader you can’t say, “well, that was then” or “things aren’t like that here.” The lack of a resolution and the absence of judgement (in several senses) in Jules’ essay raises questions that linger. Every piece of autobiographical writing stitches a zigzag line between the unique and the universal, as Jules’ essay does.  -Sarah White

About first person productions

My blog "True Stories Well Told" is a place for people who read and write about real life. I’ve been leading life writing groups since 2004. I teach, coach memoir writers 1:1, and help people publish and share their life stories.
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1 Response to An Ode to Neville

  1. Doug says:

    Jules, thanks for sharing this piece. Sarah got it right—that “autobiographical writing stitches a zig-zag line between the unique and universal…”. After reflecting on it and Sarah’s comment, it came to me that one’s youth has to age like wine. And your “lack of resolution”, which I like, suggests it needs a little more time before it can be fully appreciated. One minor correction—your reference to bond girl ought to read Bond girl if you’re referring to the character James Bond.


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