Ran into Danny Epstein today. Looks the same as the guy who used to pour lumpy custard down the back of my underwear and tell everyone I had diarrhoea. Only much, much bigger.

It’s been five years since our last encounter, but I recognised him straightaway.

It was just like old times. Suddenly, I could barely breathe, and I was teetering on the verge of a full-blown panic attack.

And just like old times, there was no escape. No buildings to duck into, and no time to cross the road – I had no choice but to engage him in this game of Chicken. First one to blink …

No matter – I was willing to keep walking past him, hands in pockets, shoulders slumped and head down. But he said Hey Gordon how’s it going? and I had no choice but to stop and talk with him.

If I hadn’t been thinking about where I would rather be, I would have almost laughed at the absurdity of the situation. Seems ridiculous when you think about it:

Hey, I know you.

I know you too.

And suddenly, for the first time ever, we have something in common to talk about? Yeah, right.

“So whatchu been up to, man?”

I shrugged, wary. “Nothin’ much. Just doing some Christmas shopping.”

“Yeah I should probably make a start on that. But me, I’ll just leave it to the last minute again.”

(Forced laughter from me.)

“You going to uni next year?” I asked. As if this ape could have possibly become a serious enough student since high school. Probably didn’t even finish college. It was a nice little touché to remind us both who wound up the top dog here.

“Yeah, over at ANU. Got an early offer and a scholarship. International relations. And law. You?”

Slightly surprised, I stammered out, “Uh, yeah. B.A. at UC … I hope, anyway – just waiting for the offer.”

“Yeah, I wouldn’t worry too much about it – you’ll get in.”

I just shrugged.

“Well, man, I gotta keep moving. Good to see you again. Here, look, here’s my number – give me a call sometime and we’ll grab a beer, yeah?”

And just like that, he was gone.

I threw his number into the gutter as soon as he was out of sight, and I didn’t regret it.

But I could almost feel the warm custard sliding between my cheeks again.