We met his parents one day when they came to visit. We said hello and I was about to add ‘How’s Student 37?’ but caught myself in time, and anyway they left quickly.
We knocked on his door and left him notes, sliding them through the gap, but there was never any reply. When we were bored we’d draw out pictures of what we thought he might look like. Sometimes we decided he looked basically human but other times he was drawn as some kind of freakish monster with two heads or a tail.
Steve had a girlfriend, but when we told her about Student 37 she wouldn’t come round any more because she was afraid he was spying on her. Occasionally we got other mates to visit but either they didn’t believe us or just felt freaked out and wouldn’t come back, so generally our flat was very quiet, which I guess is how Student 37 liked it.
The first few days we just thought he was incredibly shy and then we wondered if there wasn’t anyone in there at all, but after a while we were certain we’d heard noises. We came up with almost every possibility: he was a criminal, he was an undercover detective and one of us was a criminal, he was a spy, he was doing some complex scientific experiment, he was part of a scientific experiment but had escaped.
The best idea we thought up was that he had a serious form of ME.
‘What’s that?’ Pete asked.
‘Err… oh what does it stand for?’ said Steve, who had suggested it.
‘Chronic Fatigue Syndrome,’ I said.
‘Eh?’ replied Pete, ‘how do you get ‘ME’ out of that?’
‘No, CFS is just the general term, I can’t remember what ME stands for either, something long and complex no doubt.’
‘So, tiredness basically,’ said Pete.
‘Yeah, but an extreme version,’ I said, ‘no strength to move, pain, headaches and just the constant need to sleep, but without it ever refreshing you.’
‘I think I’ve got that,’ said Pete.
‘No Pete,’ said Steve, ‘you play rugby three nights a week, you definitely don’t have ME.’
At the end of the year he left, late one night. We were all around but still none of us saw him. He left his door unlocked so we went in. The room was clean and bare apart from the furniture. We hunted round for any clues that might tell us something about him but what we found instead was a note he’d left for us.
Sorry I never saw you, but thanks for putting up with me. You were right, I am a spy.
Pete laughed, ‘he’s joking right?
I shrugged, ‘who knows?’