They shared everything, spoke in their own language and covered their walls in pictures of each other. From the moment they met at Freshers' Week, Alexandra Jones' first true, big loves were her university friends. So why did things change after they graduated?
Do you ever go backwards through your Facebook photos? You know, click left instead of right and end up schlepping through 300 pictures of Halloween 2007 or your Sixth Form Leavers Ball (argh, the badly applied teenage make-up, the home dye job)?*
I set up my FB profile in 2006, a month after starting at the University of Leeds. Those photos, from freshers and whatnot, aren't just testament to a handful of years spent on the edge of civilization (drunken, depraved, distasteful) but also a picture-book of my coming of age.
They show, a bit like one of those Darwinian ape-to-man drawings, my evolution into a person who no longer thinks of leggings as an acceptable replacement for trousers and, more nostalgically, they document the story of my great university love affair: the one with my housemates.
Steph, Jo and Elli were the first three people that I met when I moved into halls and I was mad for them. We just clicked; we were like rabid Beliebers who'd been given full access to the objects of our affection. Within weeks of meeting we were together day and night, ate all our meals together, watched TV together, shared spit, secrets, slow dances, single beds and filled our walls with pictures of each other.
We became friends obsessively; we spoke about things no one else knew about, we spoke about them in our own language. Our lives were one long inside joke and it was wonderful being on the inside.
Over those few years we grew-up together, lived in a succession of crappy houses, graduated and then, still in the full flush of uni-friendship, we went our separate ways. Elli moved to Spain, I moved to London, Steph and Jo moved home.
The intensity of our friendships existed for as long as we lived our lives wrapped around one another. When we untangled ourselves, as you have to at the end of those few years, we drifted outwards.
Even if we'd stayed living together forever, I know it would have happened: jobs and boys, the assorted stuff of life, would have unglued us eventually.
This way, with us scattered to different parts of the country – and even different countries - it's just happened a little quicker. It's not like we never speak anymore, but our priorities are out of synch: I gripe about tube delays, Elli works from home. I'll spend my mornings queuing for the bathroom in a flatshare until I'm 50, Steph is buying her first house.
I used to feel bad for the people who'd had a boring time at uni. Those that didn't fall in love quite so hard, those that didn't find people who became their best friends within weeks and their family within months, quite so easily.
But that pity quickly turned to envy when I graduated and realised that where I was heartbroken, lost without those bonds, without the sense of belonging, they found it easy to move into the proper adult world. But then, I suppose it wouldn't be such a great love affair if it didn't end just a little tragically.
*Probably not because you're not some crazy person who spends too much time vetting their own facebook profile. But I am.
SPEAKING OF FRIENDS...
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