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.