85. IV

Morphine suits me. I’m dopey, happy, sleepy. I thought I’d be more grumpy from lack of food, but after eight hours, I’d gone past wanting it. I was definitely not bashful. A dozen strangers saw me naked, bleeding onto clean sheets.

Tea. Toast. Jam. Water. Co-codamol. Ibuprofen. Sofa. Film. Bed. Repeat every six hours for three days. Jet lag. Nausea. Period pains. Hangover.

Room number four. My nurse is called Ivy Rose and she’s my kind Irish mother for the day. I think she knows she has a beautiful name and pretends I’ve never said it before, every time I tell her. I thank everyone in a uniform for looking after me. I’ll be on my own soon. Independent. Just me and Siri. She can remind me to take my meds, ring people for me, and change the channel on the TV, but she can’t loosen bottle tops, or lift a kettle.

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40. Vapour Trail

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Trembling, weak-kneed, with sweaty palms, my limbs were lead. Increasing nausea with every breath forced me to inhale lightly and breathe out more quickly.
Fumbling with my phone, I willed it to pick up the house wifi. Auto-pilot, muscle memory in my fingers, I found the app, scrolled, and pressed play. The overgrown hedge obscured me from being seen from the house, but not wanting to linger a single second longer than I had to, I bolted around the corner. Forcing myself to carry on, I knew I could make it. Leaping onto the bus, I gratefully mouthed “thank you” as the driver gestured that he didn’t need to see my pass. There I stood, half-bent over, clutching the yellow dimpled pole, gasping, catching my breath, trying not to be sick.
Inside the house, the first few bars of ‘Lose Yourself’ by Eminem began playing on the wireless speaker.
I got off in town, went to the bank, the EE phone shop, then caught a taxi home. The adrenaline made everything so sharp and in focus. I asked the taxi driver to come back in an hour to take me to the train station.
Clothes, shoes, jewellery. Check.
Passport, cheque book, laptop. Check.
Toiletries, personal correspondence, chargers. Check.
One suitcase and one holdall.
I emptied the contents of my bedside table goodie drawer into a black bin bag. The rest of my underwear drawer went in there too, as did that photograph of us from last Christmas. These were all tainted now.
My cheeks were hot; I was buzzing, and felt a strange mixture of rage, indignation, humiliation and guilt. I paused, then took the little green address/internet password book from my flatmate’s desk, and stuffed it into the front pocket of my suitcase.
I should have been sipping a glass of red down the pub now and talking about work.
I scrawled a note “Gone to my mum’s for the weekend. Family emergency. Nx”, then washi-taped it to the TV.
Pressing a little square on my phone until it wobbled, I clicked the tiny x. Then did it again. In ‘contacts’  I tapped ‘block’ then swiped ‘delete’. Then did it again. Ripping the plastic off the SIM card, I told myself to get a grip, to try and steady my trembling hands as I swapped one SIM card for another. The old one went into the black sack with the other contaminated garbage.
Just three hours ago, I’d been listening to colleagues discussing a TV programme where people attempt to disappear for a month, and tracking experts try to find them.

Less than two hours ago, a burst water main forced the office to close early. The invitation for afternoon drinking was not as tempting as my spur of the moment decision to tell him the news about my new job in London. When I got to his house, however, my flatmate’s car was parked outside, and his bedroom curtains were closed.

15. 3310

“Somewhere.” Jenny says, “There is a drawer in this house with an old Nokia 3310 in it, with a picture of someone” she cups her hands round her mouth, in case the kids are listening, and mouths some words. I only manage to lip read “into someone’s mouth”

I don’t quite catch the first word, but I can guess what it is. Nothing she says ever surprises me. I can always rely on her honesty. It’s more refreshing than brutal. That’s what I like about her.

“Mobile phone nudes are the modern equivalent of finding some polaroids in a trunk in your grandma’s attic of her when she was young.” I say.

“Do you think?” She replies.

“Like ‘Readers Wives’ was when we were young” I say. “I’m glad I’m not dating these days. It must be a nightmare with all that sexting and revenge porn. We’ve never even face-timed when he’s been working away.”

“I think men are getting bored of it now. I hope they are.” She says. “I am. That hair-pulling does nothing for me. I don’t understand how some of them don’t realise that prawn is a just a film, and not an instructional video.” She always says ‘porn’ as ‘prawn’. She continues. “They should put a disclaimer on. For entertainment purposes only.” She does air quotes around that last sentence.

“It must be a bit of a shock when you find out that none of the moves you see on screen that do the trick so easily, actually work in real life.” I say, chuckling.

“Well, some people are twats aren’t they? They think that they would be able to get up and walk away from a knife fight cos it’s just a ‘flesh wound’ (she does air quotes again) cos they’ve seen it at the cinema. Maybe they should try getting to know someone first and finding out what a real woman actually wants.”

“Very true.” I say.