Introduction

One of my flatmates at college was a timid philosophy student. I never heard her enter a room or walk down the corridor, and was convinced she floated around in ballet slippers, yet when I consulted her footwear, it comprised of the typical student menu of Doc Martens and Converse. Every few weeks, we’d have a party in the flat, invariably with a theme, and whilst she never expressed a wish to attend, she didn’t indicate a desire to forego it either. Although I guess it was hard not to attend a party that was taking place five metres away from your bedroom.

She always appeared at these gatherings, but I could never calculate how long she stayed, nor discern precisely when she had entered or exited the room. She left little trace; neither ate nor drank, but she observed intensely, and occasionally made an insightful remark. She removed one of the most trying characteristics from friendship: expectation. Whilst most of us spend our mid-twenties drunk on people-pleasing, she’d no desire to participate in it, nor to offer others a complete picture of how she carried herself in the world. We can often mistake this behaviour for evasiveness, hostility or even failure on our part. When another flatmate complained that she was difficult to get to know and asked me to describe her personality, I said that she was like a short story.

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