George, the cat, is not one to suffer idle petting. He accepts a few strokes in good nature, but extended petting bores him. He just leaves when the attention becomes too prolonged, or he swipes a clawed paw when he doesn’t want to leave, but when he does want you to stop.

Watson is the opposite. Watson loves attention, the more the better. He loves being around people, and lacking people he will try to find someone to hop around with – even if his options are limited to George, the cat.

Lady is the imperial nature of our animal court. Regal, remote, cool to the antics of the lesser members. She watches from the side, and take no part in the antics. She is more prone to look down upon the machinations of Watson with an air of cool indifference.

So, when Watson skips around, happy and social, George can lay in with his ears flattened against his skull and his tail whipping. Lady can raise her head from the sofa to watch if something is about to happen. Sometimes I think Watson is pretty stupid, and that he hasn’t learned that when a cat wags its tail, it’s not happy.

Today, I had to bathe Watson’s ear in antiseptics because George the cat clawed it good.

*

One assured way to get Mark to reach for the inhaler is smoke. We can go down the street, go around a corner and walk into smokers who have been chased outside by business or rental regulations. Immediately Mark wheezes up, and have to puff the inhaler.

He is so sensitive that he can go into a room that haven’t been smoked in for ages, and still feel his throat close. On a night out, he can (possibly) consume a whole bottle of his asthma-spray because there are smokers everywhere. Thankfully not in the bars, but still, there’s smoke on clothes, and in strands wafting in through a closing door.

For that reason, both Mark and I live a relatively straight-edge kind of life. The only drug we do is alcohol, and even there we try to be careful. Neither of us likes to lose control. Neither of us wants to get shit-faced drunk and sing in the gutter, unable to walk straight.

That doesn’t stop some of our friends though who can answer the door when I visit, even though they are stoned out of their little minds on weed. Lucky I wasn’t the police, wasn’t it?

The worst part is not the inevitable nervousness about being in that situation, where you always wonder if the police will break down the door at any moment. I think I’d make a bad bit part in a South English Breaking Bad.

No, the worst part is to leave after a while and then know that I’ll have to go straight to the shower and then change everything because if I don’t, Mark will be sitting there sucking his inhaler in his own home because of the stench in my clothes.

*

I’m a 20-year old in 2015 Britain, so it’s not like I have any particular issues with people smoking relatively harmless stuff like weed. But it’s still funny that owning a little bit too much of the stuff can lead to a prison sentence, although the universal reaction to being high on the stuff is being almost unable to move, and to stare for thirty minutes at the miracle that is the remote control.

I don’t think the police wastes its resources charging people for small possession. It would be like trying to stop a waterfall with a police baton. Fortunately they focus more on what they can do about the consequence of the drug that’s very legal even for the likes of me to partake – alcohol.

*

Unlike yours truly, Stephen is more of a traditional student who likes to party a lot. It’s his thing. He’s very social, very outgoing, very engaging. And that means he sometimes gets into trouble.

Most of the time, that means that he’ll stagger home at four a.m. in the morning, drunk after a party, and then fall asleep in the sofa in front of the telly instead of in his room. This means that his parents will find his sorry arse in the morning when they come down to eat breakfast, and then they’ll spend the next couple of days shouting at him to grow up and be more responsible. After he’ll miserably inform us of this, promising to do better, to be better, to live better. Until next time.

Twice in the years I’ve known him, it will be worse. He’ll get into a fight. Like last night when a drunk girl slapped him across the face and caused him to start bleeding from his nose. The slap was as sudden as it was unlikely. The girl was quite drunk and aggressive, and out of the blue gave him a right hook when he went to order beer, accusing him of looking at her inappropriately.

But that’s alcohol for you. The stuff that will make you lie in a pile unable to move, but endlessly fascinated with some common object will put you in prison. The stuff that will make you right-hook a stranger ordering drinks will be a vital industry whose survival depends on students like us consuming the stuff like there’s no tomorrow.

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