Yesterday evening I was in the middle of watching Back to the Future Part III - I'd just got to the bit where Doc asks Clara Clayton to dance - when I got a call from Tim, a friend who I met whilst attempting to find myself in India back in 2003. When you hear the phrase "let's have a pint in Stockwell" you probably wouldn't immediately picture a darkly-lit incense-filled room filled with piles of exotic looking cushions, pints of San Miguel, a hookah of mango-flavoured tobacco and a game of chess. But somehow that was what happened.
After the game - Tim won, quite easily I suspect - he told me how he'd been working in SOAS library a few days ago when the wave of existential confusion that he's been experiencing for most of January finally overcame him. He began to rapidly scribble a short story about five friends, one called Fruity, onto the page in front of him. After several minutes of intense writing, the ink in his pen ran out. But he carried on writing the story regardless, despite the terrified looks coming from the guy sitting at the adjacent desk. I wondered whether perhaps this was the kind of thing that might precipitate an existential crisis, rather than prevent one, but apparently writing something which no one will ever be able to read, which will never even exist, was "very cathartic". A silent story, he called it.
This reminded me of a tale I'd heard sometime last year. A friend of a friend used to be a very talkative as a child. Her older brother found her constant chattering incredibly annoying and tried to think of ways he could get her to shut up. So he told her that all people have a limited number of words they're allowed to say and if they use up their allowance of words, they'll die. His trick worked, the flow of words was stemmed, and she became a reticent and silent child.
Tim responded by telling me about the lie his brother told him when he was younger. It was that repeated blinking would build up your facial muscles and give you very strong and defined cheeks. But Tim didn't want to have big toned cheeks that stuck out, so from that moment on, he tried to avoid blinking.
It was only this morning that I realised: our boardgame may have finished, but we were still playing what can only be described as Anecdote Chess. I also began to wonder whether perhaps the bar staff hadn't put a special something in the hookah.