Twas the Season
Outside, twas the season to be jolly, drunk. The last night before the Christmas holidays begin, when students get hammered, sing carols and bring joy to the world.
Inside though, trouble was brewing.
In college, I lived in a house with 3 dudes. A massive, kind-hearted, hard-as-nails Yorkshire Pudding called Mark, an overseas student called Ying and Chris.
Our house was surprisingly clean and hygienic, except for Chris. He was a slovenly, dust bin of a human. I'm sure he had redeeming qualities, but in almost a year of sharing a house with him, I never saw one.
Chris had had every advantage in life. Rich parents, an achingly upper-middle class life, a private education and a safe, loving home filled with every comfort and toy a child could ever want. He was 6' 2", dark haired and square jawed. When he arrived at college, he was in good shape. He was popular with the ladies, right up to the point when he opened his mouth. Then, his own special brand of arrogance, barely-disguised distain for womankind and self-congratulatory idiocy would let him down.
He was also a massive Mummy's boy.
Independent living hit him like a ton of bricks, wrapped in 4 bedroomed detached house.
Suddenly, there was no-one to cook or clean for him. No-one to pick up his fetid socks or take his putrid washing out of the machine. No-one to tell him what not to do or when not to do it.
It messed him up.
He started drinking heavily, every day. He'd eat a kebab 'n chips or a pot noodle for every meal. If it was any colour other than beige, he didn't eat it. He'd play video games 'til dawn and then down a couple of red bulls before driving his fast and furious-mobile at warp factor 9, the mile and a half to college.
In 6 months, he went from athletic and chiselled, to fluffy and moon-faced. By month 9, he was what my Mum would call big-boned. And boy, was he touchy about it.
In short, he was a mess.
Then, inexplicably, he got a girlfriend. His girlfriend may have been blander and less interesting than a JML leg pillow, but nonetheless his ego got a king-sized hit of validation, which he main-lined.
He stopped being a mess. He graduated to a colossally selfish, loved-up, insufferable mess.
Relations in the house deteriorated.
We all had a coping strategy. Mine was nihilistic indifference. Mark's was extraordinarily creative threats of extreme violence. Ying's was to throw himself deeper into his studies.
Chris' own strategy was to double down. Hard. If he was going to be an insufferable knobhead, he was going to be the most insufferable knobhead, he could possibly be. It was like he was in training for the Olympics. Knobhead gold was within his reach.
However, picking on Mark or I wasn't really an option, so he went the easy route. He picked on Ying. Real schoolboy stuff. The kind of stuff any self-respecting 14 year-old would be ashamed of. He'd chat behind his back. He'd sneer at his clothes, his hair, his accent. He'd comment, barbarously, about his work ethic and he thought it hilarious to refer to him as the "Rittle Man".
Like I said, if he had redeeming qualities, I never saw any.
Ying, in contrast, was quiet, gentle and driven by a steely motivation. He was Vietnamese by heritage, but British by birth. His Mum and Dad had come to the UK in the late 70's as refugees. They were some of the so-called boat people, displaced by the turmoil left at the end of the Vietnam war. While here, Ying was born and a few years after that (when things had settled down) the whole family returned to Vietnam to live. This meant Ying had a British passport, which was his ticket to a degree from a British university, and he wasn't going to let anything stand in the way of that. Certainly not, someone like Chris. So, he ignored it for months.
Things came to head just before the end of the semester.
The traditional pre-holiday pub crawl had been carnage. Outside, the students had sung their carols. They'd bedecked our halls in boughs of Holly, drunk their weight in Advocaat and nuzzled indiscriminately under the various strategically positioned bits of mistletoe. But, the night was over and everyone was staggering home.
Chris lurched in the back door, totally Donna and Blitzen. He announced his presence by puking his guts all over the back the seat that Ying was sitting on.
And with that, peace was no longer an option.
Normally, Ying's English was impeccable. The one thing that was noticeable about his speech (other than his cadence and accent) was that he didn't really swear, the way native English speakers do. I asked him about it once and he explained that the words didn't really fit very well when he translated them back into Vietnamese, so when he started reusing English as an adult, he'd adopted a sort of filtering technique - like you have for umms and errs - the sounds were there, but he just ignored them.
But this time, overcome by anger and righteous fury, his impeccable language skills abandoned him.
"You… You…" He struggled to find the right word.
"Yeah, what?" slurred Chris. "What? What are you going to do about it? Well? Rittle Man. What are you gonna d-"
Ying clocked him. No mess. No fuss. Just a peach of a left. A proper pearler. Chris stumbled and fell backwards. Dazed, he landed in a heap on the sofa.
"You… You…" screamed Ying again.
"Fatty, fatty, podge face boy!"
And that, boys and girls, is how I discovered the true, mean Ying of Chris' mass.
I'll see myself out.
Merry Christmas, ya filthy animals.