Eleven years ago in November, I took part in my university’s Erasmus exchange programme with Warwick University. During nine months, I lived in a small semi-detached redbrick house on Sir Thomas White’s Road in Coventry. One day, I woke up with a dizzy head. I got up and dressed and went straight to the bus stop to catch a ride to the campus. I had a job as a steward at Warwick’s Art Centre and was going to work an evening shift punching cinema tickets. Sitting on the bus, I looked down at my feet and couldn’t believe what I saw: I was wearing a black Adidas Samba trainer on my left foot and a blue/white Gola one on my right. I started sweating like someone who had consumed way too many beers, spirits and weed the night before. I was already late for the ticketing gig so I couldn’t go back and change shoes. I realized there was only one way to get through this frightening situation safe and sound: Just pretend it’s normal. So once on campus, I got off the bus and walked briskly but with a spring in my step towards the Arts Centre. It worked. Nobody noticed. Or perhaps they thought I was just another awkward continental weirdo.
After work, I took the bus back to Coventry and went straight to an Erasmus house party. I walked into the carpeted living room where everyone was sitting and talking in a semi-circle on chairs sipping cheap beers and red wine. I still had my two different shoes on and was holding a Döner Kebab in my right hand. I saw Catherine right away. We looked at each other for a couple of seconds. I walked into the kitchen with my heart racing, said hello to my mates, got rid of the Kebab and took a Carling beer from the fridge. Then I went back into the room and talked to Jeff, another mate, who sat next to Catherine. Eventually, Jeff went to get another beer or something and I sat down next to C. I introduced myself and we had a nice chat. She studied mathematics back then and we discussed the relationship of maths to literature and vice versa. At that time, I was reading plays like “Arcadia” and “Copenhagen” and was seriously interested in abstract connections of science and literature. And so was Catherine.
But then she suddenly got up and said goodnight and went to bed (she lived upstairs). I sat there feeling shell-shocked, irritated and a bit disappointed. She had left so early.
I looked at my shoes. And then I realized that I was falling in love.