It was only one in the afternoon, very early for me to wake up. My teeth were gritted and the muscles in my jaw were hurting. I frowned. My legs were tangled in my duvet so inextricably that I had to fight my way out. I was breathless and lying on the floor by the time I’d managed it.
I stood up and tugged my red towelling dressing gown from the hook on the wall at the head of my bed. I ripped my dressing gown, again. It was getting quite torn now. It was only six months old. I don’t know how it had gotten so bad. While glaring at the hook, that stupid brass idiot, I decided to have a bath to calm myself down.
As I turned from my staring competition with that hook, I bashed my leg on the large, low, chunky wooden table in the middle of the room; knocking the cup from last night’s bedtime tea across the room. It smashed on the skirting. Cold dregs flecked my face. I frowned.
“Fuck it.” I shouted even though there was never anyone in the house to hear me.
I left the room, forgetting about the mess and catching my hand on the doorframe as I closed the door. I frowned. I decided I would have a cup of tea to calm myself down before I had the bath. I went down stairs. The pocket of my billowing dressing gown caught on the top of the banister and I nearly fell. I yanked it off.
The carpet in the hall had been rough on the balls of my feet, so I was pleased to have the cold tiled floor of the kitchen underfoot. I made a quick cuppa. Why do tea bags always drip?? And then I sat at the kitchen table and rolled a fag. My hand was still hurting a little from grazing it on my bedroom doorframe. I noticed that I was holding it closed tightly against the slight pain. My knuckles were bloodless white. I flexed my fingers. My skin cracked. A small droplet of blood beaded up and then rolled down my hand to the table.
I picked up my tea and took a sip. I burnt my lip a little on the side of the cup and the soft skin inside my mouth on the tea. I flinched a in shock and bit my lip. It bled. I frowned. I put the tea down hard, spilling most of it. I took a pull on my cigarette. For some reason the filter was all squeezed. It was a waste of time to smoke. I stubbed it out angrily and in nearly pushed the ashtray off the far side of the table; but I shot out a hand to stop it, knocking it back towards me harder than I’d intended. It slid off the table and emptied itself onto my lap. An entire week of smoking sat on my lap staring up at me. I frowned back at it.
“Great.” Still nobody there to hear me. Never is.
I stood up. The ash, butts and ashtray flew off my lap and across the kitchen. I tipped the remainder of the tea down the sink and wiped up what had spilled with the arm of my dressing gown. I went upstairs again to have the bath to calm myself down, leaving the kitchen in disarray behind me. I would tidy it later.
As I walked up the stairs, I noticed that I was stomping slightly. I decided to accentuate it for fun. By the time I reached the bathroom I was nearly stomping right through the floor. I turned on the bath and had a quick shave while it ran. I cut myself three times and gave up.
My stomach was hurting a little. I thought I probably needed a shit. I sat on the bog. The porcelain was far too cold. I couldn’t shit no matter how hard I tried. I couldn’t even fart. I was shuddering from the trying. I frowned. I gave up. My bath was nearly run. I decided to get into it as it finished. It was far too hot. It burnt my feet, ankles and calves. I jumped out and almost slipped over as I landed on the wooden floor. I frowned. I turned the cold tap on, put my dressing gown back on and went out of the room to roll another cigarette.
When I came back into the bathroom the bath was nearly overflowing. I speedily leaned over and turned off the cold tap, banging my head on the wall behind the bath as I did. I frowned. The ash fell from the cigarette into the bath. I frowned. I got out of my dressing gown again. My cigarette was ripped from my hand and landed in the bath. The brown of the tobacco started leeching out into the bath water; sharp twists and curls leading the way, blotches spreading behind; suggesting the brittle talons or desiccated tongue of a dying old dragon. I got in anyway. It made me feel a little nasty bathing in what was basically a diluted ashtray, but I had to. The bath was now erring on the side of tepid. Typical. I frowned again.
I bathed in record time. The bathroom floor was covered in water by the time I’d finished. I got dressed in my bedroom, almost falling over as I put on my trousers. Apparently, most deaths at home happen while people are putting on their socks. If only the heart attacks and strokes would have the decency to wait while we made ourselves presentable!
I went down to the kitchen to make some breakfast and coffee. Stepping over the debris from my last visit, I put a filter in the plastic filter holder, filled the kettle and took down the jar from the shelf by the fridge. It was empty. I went to get another air-sealed bag from the larder. I began to open it on the way across the kitchen. Those bloody foil bags are so difficult. I ripped it and a bitter mist of coffee flew everywhere. I frowned. I went to get another, and this time opened it with scissors. I tipped it into the jar, only spilling a nominal amount on the surface, and then heaped three teaspoons into the ready filter.
My kettle always dripped no matter how careful I was when pouring it. I burnt my toes. I frowned. I began to make some bacon, eggs and toast. The bacon didn’t come out of the packet properly and tore as it did. The eggs dripped on the hob as I cracked them. The toast burnt; that toaster, all bloody toasters, are always terrible.
I put it all onto a plate that I quickly wiped clean from the dirty pile beside the sink, and sat at the table with it, the coffee and a glass of orange juice. I didn’t do the washing up or sweep up the coffee grains or tidy up anything else because my breakfast was waiting.
The first sip of orange was too cold and stung my still burnt and bitten lip. I winced and frowned. I finished my breakfast and took out a toothpick. I cut my gum while trying to get at a stubborn bit of food. I frowned. I rolled another fag and went to watch Netflix in the living room with my coffee.
With the familiar repetition of my favourite decades-old comedy on in the back ground, I laid my head on the sofa. It was three o’clock. This was the only time I had to relax. In two more hours I had to go meet Pete at the pub.
When there was fifteen minutes before I had to go and meet Pete, I called a taxi. Uber hasn’t reached us in my neck of the woods yet. I asked for the taxi to wait down the road and the driver to call me when they arrived; I don’t like strangers knowing my address. The taxi would be fifteen minutes. Great. I’d be late and Pete didn’t like having to sit on his own. I frowned.
The taxi didn’t turn up. I called them back.
“Where the fuck is the taxi?” I said, as soon as the phone was answered.
The man on the end of the phone reacted badly to that. I don’t know why, I was perfectly within my rights to be angry. He told me it was just around the corner.
“I don’t believe you,” I said. ” I’m going to call another firm.”
He said that was just fine.
He was angry, but for what reason. I hung up and called another firm. They said the only taxi they could send would be twenty minutes. I told them that wasn’t good enough, but they said that was all they could do and perhaps I should have planned a bit better (the audacity!).
So I waited, frowning.
Pete called me and asked me where I was. He was angry too. For what reason. I was on my way. I hadn’t forgotten. We’d been friends for more than twenty years and I hadn’t seen him in six months. We’d arranged this a week before when we bumped into each other outside MacDonald’s. I wasn’t likely to forget.
“Just relax!” I told him. “Get me a beer.” He didn’t sound all that pleased but said that he would wait for half an hour.
Eventually a taxi turned up.
“Fox and hounds,” I said as I jumped in, bashing my shoulder on the doorframe.
“Please.” The driver said.
I frowned. “Did you just correct me?” I hadn’t said Fox and Hounds rudely; I’d just neglected to say please.
“It’s only common courtesy,” he said.
I was on my way.
“Shall I tell your controller I think you are rude?”
“If you like,” he said.
I was silent for a while. It looked as though he was taking me a long way around. The pub was out in the sticks but I new a much quicker way to get there.
“We’re not going the right way,” I said after a little while.
“It’s the best way to go at this time of day.”
“No it isn’t. Your controller said eight pounds and that’s all I’m going to pay.”
“I’ll let you out when it gets to eight pounds if you like,” he said.
“No. I want to go all the way to the pub.”
“It’ll cost more than eight pounds.”
“I’m not going to pay more than eight.”
He didn’t answer me. I frowned. He had been very rude so far and I wasn’t going to stand for any more of it. We were only half-way there and the meter was already pushing seven pounds.
“You’d better stop the meter mate,” I said after a few more moments of tense silence. “I’m not paying more than eight.”
“I can stop the car if you want.” He spoke very assertively.
“Nah, it’s all right.” I had resolved to let him carry on and see what happened when we got there and I could in,y lay eight pound. I sat watching the meter intently.
Seven-pounds ten. I started planning what I might say. Seven twenty. Then I wondered if I could run away. Seven thirty. But I didn’t want him to chase me into the Fox and Hounds. Seven forty. I would just have to remind him I only had eight pounds. Seven fifty. But why was I going to a pub with no money. Seven sixty. I would say my mate Pete was buying my drinks for me. Seven seventy. But then, surely, Pete could lend me the rest. Seven eighty. I could run before we get there. He doesn’t know my address. Seven ninety. We were already on the winding road that leads through the woodland to the pub. Eight pound.
An ideal time to leg it. Into the woods. I could easily walk the rest of the way through the undergrowth. It wasn’t all that far, and it would give me a chance to relax before I got to the pub.
I took a quick sideways look at the taxi driver. He wasn’t paying me any attention. I stealthily undid my seatbelt, folded my coat in my arms and quietly part-opened the door. The seatbelt alarm gave me away! He reached out to grab me, but I was too quick for his fingers. I turned to look at him as I slipped away from him, giving him a cocky smile. For some reason, he looked worried! How odd. I could tell I’d won.
Then I caught a glimpse of the speedometer.
We were doing seventy. There was nothing I could do. I was already falling insanely gently through the door and into the rushing wind. The white noise snagged me and unwound everything. The doorframe caught my legs as my head hit the hard tarmac.
The opposing forces set me spinning wildly. I bounced along the road, arms and legs twisting and thrashing in a complex choreography of crushing collisions. For the first time ever, I knew that I was thoroughly incapable of any attempt to control my condition.
Just before my eyes closed, I smiled.