At my school in London, there was a giant dormitory with about 200 rooms. That was not where I lived. I lived in the overflow dorms – a tiny, top-secret haven called Oliver Hall.
To find Oliver Hall, you had to either go through the kitchen entrance with all of the cooks, or cut through the School of Psychotherapy – a long, often pitch-black hallway of classrooms that eventually became the hot gambling and/or make-out spot. Most kids in the dorms had no idea how to get to Oliver.
There were only 12 rooms in Oliver, so the 24 of us – even the ones who hated each other – because a close, tight-knit family. Some of my best friends are people I met in Oliver. Jen was there. So were Steve, Frank and Ray. So were a lot of people we adored, like Eva, Macie, Kacy and Antionette.
There was also a guy who… oh, man. I don’t even know how to go about this. I don’t want to type his name… let’s just call him Nosferatu. Jen named him Nosferatu because that’s exactly how he skulked around, clawing at thin air like an old silent movie vampire:
I don’t really know how to describe him without being mean. He was nice to me most of the time, but there was something just kind of off about him, and he would often unintentionally freak us out.
Example: during a big party at the school pub, he squeezed into our booth to say hello just as someone put “Bohemian Rhapsody” on the jukebox. He completely spazzed out, singing along with so much excitement that he looked like he was having a seizure, and elbowed me in the chin during the guitar solo.
Or: in Paris, when we were out to dinner with a big group of students. Within 30 seconds of getting our plates, I looked up and saw Nosferatu clutching a knife and fork, smiling at me, with a perfectly intact and perfectly stripped fish skeleton sitting in the center of his plate where his food had just been.
I think the description that best sums him up came from that guy that I dubbed “Viper”, because he looked like DJ’s rocker boyfriend on Full House. One day in the refectory, Nosferatu walked by and Viper remarked, “Man, all he is missing is the scar from the lobotomy.”
Nosferatu befriended the popular kids in London, and soon ditched us to sit in the back of the bus or go to the posh expensive clubs. We would often joke about how he was too cool for us now. It made us feel better about laughing at his mysterious, chilling antics.
One of the last nights in London, however, I was hanging out with Steve and Ray in their room at the end of the hall (affectionately referred to as “The Opium Den”). Steve left to go make a phone call, and Ray and I both picked up magazines and started reading, because we were the kind of friends who could do that.
After a couple of minutes, we heard a light, gentle tap on the door. Then, “HEY GUYS!”
Ray and I jumped, and saw Nosferatu heading into the room with a shoebox. “My mom made sugar cookies. Do you want one?”
He opened the box and flashed the cookies at me. They had icing and looked perfect, like they were from a bakery. I nodded.
This is why I can’t make fun of Nosferatu without feeling bad: to this day, that is the most delicious cookie I have ever eaten in my entire life. Words cannot describe it. Food from home was like gold in the dorms, and it was extremely rare for people to share their stash. And these were Mom Cookies. I was really touched, so when he made himself at home and sat down across from me, I didn’t mind.
“I’m going to miss you guys,” he said.
“I’m going to miss you too, [Nosferatu],” I slurred, still drunk with love from the cookie.
“I mean, we’re in LONDON. And you guys… you’re my NEIGHBORS. That’s special, right? We’re neighbors. Neighbors in London. That is such an important thing.”
I nodded. Ray grunted and turned a page.
“We’re always going to have this bond, you know?” Nosferatu continued. “And when we see each other in a couple of years, in heaven…”
I don’t remember what he said next because out of the corner of my eye, I saw Steve walking in the room. He froze mid-stride, looked at me with wide eyes and mouthed, “In HEAVEN?!?” Then he spun around and left immediately, before anyone else could see him.
Then Nosferatu stood up and began walking towards me – yes, like this:
And he was sing-songing, “Good neighbor. You’re such a good neighbor…” And he gave me a big hug and a wet kiss on the cheek. Then he left.
By this point, Ray was curled up in the fetal position on his bed, so he couldn’t see the hug. As soon as Nosferatu turned the corner, Ray peered out from behind his bed and whispered, “Are you okay?”
“I think so.”
“I saw him coming for you, but for some reason I couldn’t move.”
“That’s okay. I couldn’t, either.”
“I’ve never been frozen with fear before. Interesting.”
“You just got hot action from [Nosferatu].”
The we heard footsteps running down the hall, and Steve burst in the room and gasped, “IN HEAVEN???”
I am going to Jersey next month to see those boys and I’m so psyched. I doubt we will run into Nosferatu, and if we don’t then that’s okay. Nosferatu and I will meet again.
In a couple of years.
In heaven. Holy crap!