It is 6.30am.
Light streams through the room and I feel a chill from the windows which have been left open, a fire alarm precaution against all of the smoke.
I look over to C who is fast asleep, entirely peaceful and, at least this once, not snoring. For maybe the first time he actually looks his age.
I do not need to look round more to know that the party is over. Already my brain has clocked that I have to be up in three hours in order to catch my coach to London. Mentally I am leaving this room and the baggage which goes with it.
I know, just as I knew last time, that I need to leave on my terms.
I sit up and then realise that my right leg is trapped under C. I try to pull it free. It doesn't work.
It strikes me that I may have a problem here.
"[C]" I hiss, not wanting to startle him too much.
"[C]" a little louder, using his actual name this time.
Maybe a different course of action is required. I lean over and try to lift C's leg in order to free my own. This should be easy enough.
Easy that is if I wasn't contending with how much a fully grown, unconscious man's leg weighs.
Unless I want to give myself a hernia I do not intend to try that again.
I shuffle off of the seat and on to the coffee table, hoping that the changed vantage point might help me.
The notion of kicking C awake seems suddenly tempting. I settle instead for a slight dig in the thigh.
I should not like to have to rely on a sleeping C in case of emergency.
I prod him in the stomach. And again, slightly harder this time, with relish, a belated payback for my Saturday morning elbow-in-eye wakeup call.
Ok, so C has to be dead.
I check that he is still breathing - yes. That is good. I would not be able to practice any of my first aid skills from this position.
But I am still stuck. I wonder how long it will take for him to wake up naturally. I contemplate ringing Dean to say that I will not be in London until the following day.
"[C]" normal voice now, less concern for startling him and more for the possible effects of having the blood supply to my foot cut off for a prolonged period.
"[C]" louder, shaking him now.
"[C]" on the verge of shouting.
There's a flicker, the eyes open.
"[C], you've fallen asleep on my leg". I say it as gently as I can given that I have just woken him through a combination of shaking, prodding and shouting.
He has the startled look of not quite knowing where he is. But something has registered. He lifts his leg and I, with some relief, pull mine free.
Then it hits me that I have a very small window to say goodbye before he sinks back into unconsciousness. Already I can see sleep is claiming him again. This is my last opportunity -
- As I walk down the corridor I play with the notion of knocking on his door before I hand my keys back in and saying goodbye then, when he will at least remember it as more than a half experienced, hazy, gently affectionate dream. But I know I am using this as a comfort, prolonging the experience, reaching for something that means that this is not over.
Of course I will not do this. I will go and sleep. Get up and pack. Leave Oxford. It is all as it should be. All as it ever was intended to be.
This time my leaving is different. I understand more. The catch in the voice. The poetry. I have listened and watched and heard, building up scraps so I will know him more than he will ever know me.
My friends, even the ones who know C, do not quite understand the attraction. I suppress a giggle as I think of the nickname bestowed on him. And then there are those whose antipathy is stronger, the only half joking assertion that he wants punching in the face, that if he were met then words would be exchanged.
There are the things I have seen this time too. A night in Leeds when, just for a second, the coldness which can radiate from those eyes was turned on me. A day in Oxford when there was something that can only be described as double denim going on. That he knows he is better at this game than I am and yet he still plays. And the things he evokes in me which I do not like: recklessness, selfishness, I could go on.
But I know this is not how I will remember him, it is not how I want to remember C. No, that will be in French phrases, lingering glances, stolen chips and returned newspapers. In secret subtexts, laughter, On Beauty and his Agincourt tie. In talking in the dark, holding hands and those incredible eyes. In whatever it is that compels me so completely and makes my stomach lurch. In him understanding me enough to say things that I needed to hear.
In the knowledge that I could oh-so-easily fall in love with this boy, but that I will not let myself.
I have reached my flat, I pull my key from my pocket and realise that I am crying.
I open the door and wait for a second, breathe deeply, count to five. And then, firmly, close the door behind me.