The phones ringing, I know who it will be, Mum. Not spoken for about a week, she likes to keep in touch, I dread it. I wait, the answer phone kicks in and I hear “Hi Steve! Bright cheerful, “obviously not in at the moment, hope your enjoying the lovely weather, we’ve had a lovely sunny day, been out in the garden tidying the boarders and dad’s mowed the lawn”, I look out the window at my back garden grass knee high interlaced with weeds, I flush, shiver. Mum continues “we’re looking forward coming up to visit, we’ll come up Friday during the day, and let ourselves in” The heat burns and pricks of sweat bead on my forehead, “anyway I’ll catch you later, bye!” She ring off. I breath a shaky breath, the tension reverberates through my body, the knot in my stomach tight. I sit in the one empty space on the settee, the stack of plates beside my shift and clink. I survey the room and I despair.
The room is filled with rubbish, all surfaces covered with used plates, cups, glasses, food cartons of various types, and food rappers and in amongst this detritus my books, my friends, half buried, some on the sofa, some on the floor, stacked in small piles, the coffee table precariously piled high. The only place free where I am sitting. Nine months of rubbish, when my parents last visited, the last time anyone had been in my house. I must start tidying up, I’ve got time, my heart sinks as I know I won’t. No start now! Come-on! I get up and walk into the kitchen, go to the draw with the bin liners ignoring the pots, pans, plates all stacked around the sink. The stagnant water in the bowl a horrible grey scummy film on the surface, the floor sticky underfoot, I look out the window to the front garden, the sun shining bright, the waist high thistles stretching out toward it, forever growing, triumphant. I stand in the kitchen holding the roll of bin liners in my hand, where should I start? The kitchen, couple of hours washing-up clear the top’s, looking at the fridge I shiver, there’s something horrible in there, haven’t opened it in a while, don’t want to. Moving into the dinning room, perhaps here would be easiest to start, I look at the table covered in papers, envelopes the centre piece the fruit bowl with it’s shrivelled black banana and orange, dusty green, I curl my nose up, and quickly glance past the pile of unopened letters, the top one DVLA accusing.
Things I need to do, clear the kitchen, clear the living room, same with the dinning room, cut the grass in the back garden, the weeds in the front, the piles of clothes and linen the my bed room need washing, the other bedrooms need clearing, the bathroom, stuff cleared from the hall, have to go shopping get food in, the car, tax out of date and needing MOT. I can see the car out of the kitchen window neglected, dirty, forlorn, another accusation of failure, you can’t even phone a garage to book an MOT, shame fills me.
I haven’t eaten today, looking in the cupboards, full of empty packets and out of date sauces, need to go to the shop, something I can do! Run up stairs to grab my shoes, as I slip them on I hear voices outside and freeze, I slowly stand up and edge to the landing window to peer out. The old lady next door, I was introduced once but can’t remember her name, she is out the front chatting to someone across the hedge, what now? Come on she’s only a nice old lady next door all you have to do is go out the front door and past them say hello as you go, easy. I walk downstairs to the front door check my keys are in my pocket, at the door I stop. I cannot touch the door, I start to reach out and stop I vibrate with agitation I turn and pace into the kitchen, peer out the window, still there. Come on! This is stupid. But what if she mentions my garden, she take pride in hers, to be so judged! I blush with the thought of the humiliation, here I am safe, here their judgement cannot touch me. I go sit in the living room, thoughts of future whorl through my brain, what do they think of me? Your weird, strange! Got to be something wrong with you? Accusations flit across my mind, lynch mob’s, thought’s out of control. I reach for a book but can’t concentrate, so lean back shut my eyes and drift into fantasy, a favourite, about Magda the Blind and her small band of warriors. It is a world I love because it mine.
I can’t here voices outside any more so I look through the window, it looks clear, give it five minutes more just to be sure. As usual that five minutes takes an age! I pace. Finally I open the door and go out, looking round as I shut the door, nobody there, good. I brush past the weeds and quickly walk out the drive and down the road, the back of my neck is tingling, is any body watching! I love to walk there is a beautiful rhythm to it and you can disappear into yourself, It is better with someone to talk with, to explore thoughts and ideas, dreams and plans. Unless with someone I don’t go for a walk unless I’ve got somewhere to go, it seems aimless, pointless I feel watched, the judgement of others, What’s he doing walking on his own, strange person, weird. Having somewhere to go I can justify it, and protect myself from criticism. Walking to the shop, I look out at the world, my body being a vehicle I control. I sit in the control room, instructing it to move forward and it does, automatically walking step after step along the road, stopping at the road side before crossing, while I watch on the viewing screens.
As I pilot my way, I picture myself lecturing a group of students about the Saxon kingdoms of England, how Essex, where I live, was once the kingdom of the East Saxons, and East Angela derives from the East Angles and how to understand who we are now, we need to understand the past that created us, in my head a can express this with total confidence an fluancy, all queries handled I have total mastery. As I approach the shop I break out of my revere. I enter turn left as usual and head to the ready meals and cooked meats are, can’t be bothered to turn the oven on, or truthfully can’t face the washing-up. I want the whole cooked chicken, to much for one person, I hesitate and look at other options, I want the chicken, still I fight the urge, there’s lots options chops, steak, seuages, pastas, far better for me, I pick up the chicken. Turning to walk down the aisle I see a neighbour, I turn and examine the yoghurt pretending I haven’t noticed her. Knowing I could just turn and say hi, I examine the ingredients on the pot. She joins the queue at the till, I walk down an aisle out of site. When she’s gone I pick up the other essentials, bread, biscuits and big packet of crisps, and join the queue, remember must ask for headache tablets, Nurofen, don’t forget. My heart beats faster, hands are clammy, the knot in my stomach tightens, all you have to do is ask for Nurofen, that’s all, no problem, relax! I put my stuff on the counter, don’t forget to ask? The checkout girl starts swiping my stuff through the till, come on don’t chicken out, it’s easy every one does it! She’s finished “ is there anything else?” she asks, “yes” I blurt, “can have some ….“ In my mind I watch helpless as the thought disappears in the distance, leaving a void, nothing, terror strikes, I am lost! “er …. some ….” I cannot think, there is nothing. I am frozen, locked, my jaw won’t work, I am tension! “ for head aches” .. ooh what do you call them?” I stammer, hot flush, sweat oozing, “which one’s aspirin, paracetamol? She asks “yes those will do” I gasp. I pay and quickly leave, relief floods through me, then as I recall what happened shame and embarrassment, strike again and yet again I heat up, mortified. I’ll have to do my shopping elsewhere for a while.
These thoughts took me home, I quickly entered, walked into the living room and flopped. I used my keys to rip open the packaging on the chicken, dumped it on a clean-ish plate poured tomato sauce on the side and ripped into it, the pure sensual pleasure, chunks of chicken ripped from bone, the textures, the bite of the sauce, crude, I can clear a carcass so the bones look as they’ve been bleached. I turn to the crisps, feeling full, but needing the pleasure to continue, the crisps crunchy, spicy making my mouth tingle and burn to the point of pain. Finishing the packet I look towards the biscuits, I do not need them, I feel the fullness of my stomach, but I hunger for these biscuits. I start into the pack one after the other they are gorgeous, creamy chocolate and oaty course biscuit, but the stomach is full and starting to protest, I force some more then have to stop bloated. I sit in deep discomfit, stomach fit to burst. What to do?
I turn on the TV idly flicking through the channels, nothing interesting on, I continue flicking, It stops me thinking.