Tuesday, 21 September 2010

On Standby

It's a new world.

One where all the doors are closed because I am beset with childish fears when I walk past them, yawning into black.

One where I retire early because I feel like an imposter in my own house, suddenly uncomfortable on the chair where I've slumped happily for years.

One where, for the first time in a couple of decades the glasses are arranged in lines, the cups all hang facing the same way on the hooks, and the plates are stacked in piles, and there are enough of each to serve a regiment.

Except this is a new world where it's just me.

I wish I was that Elizabeth David sort of person who makes a perfect omelette and pours herself a single glass of white Burgundy, and eats it at the table with a linen napkin and the good china, instead of the Bridget Jones sort who microwaves a baked potato and eats it while half-watching X Factor, drinking vodka with diet coke because it's the only thing I have to mix it with.

Clearly, this single occupancy life is going to take a bit of practice.

Meanwhile the anxieties gather like fluff under the bed.

What happens if we get burgled? (Why didn't this worry me when the house was full of vulnerable teenagers, all of whom slept on the first floor and were first in the line of attack should anyone have broken in.)

What happens if I need to go downstairs in the night - something I did regularly when my ex-husband lived here and I was beset with insomnia?

Well, you go downstairs, I tell myself impatiently.

But it's pitch black out there.

So you put the light on.

But still the house is so big and so empty.

So put a lot of lights on.

But I hear noises. People walk across floors who don't live here. Doors that are bolted (Oh yes - it's like Blue Beard's House since the kids moved out), click shut

There are creaks and groans and cracks and heavy items, suddenly dropped from a great height. I've often been here on my own and been sure there was somebody upstairs.

It's an old house. Wood expands. People next door move around and the sound travels.

There isn't anyone living in the house next door. It's been empty for six months.  When the neighbour died alone on the floor after falling down the stairs.



Alone as by herself.

What happens if I get sick and die in the night?

Or in the day?

What if a fox gets in and eats my face? (This last courtesy of my eldest daughter. Thanks.) Or the squirrel who walks like a man on the roof, climbs into my bedroom and has rabies? (I got that one all by myself.)

Take a Valium.

Take a Sleeping Pill.

But then I won't hear the fire alarm (more on this one later...)

Oh Burn Bitch, Burn...

It's coming to something when even the voices in your head get annoyed with you and want you to shut up.

Luke is somewhat more patient.

He's lying beside me (ie, roused from sleep at an ungodly hour so I can obsess aloud).

'What's that noise?'

'Apart from you talking, you mean?'

'Shhh. Listen. There's breathing coming from the corner of the bedroom.'

'It's me. I'm breathing.'

'No, listen, it's horrible. It's like a wolf. There's a wolf in the corner of the bedroom. Slavering.'

He listens and yes, he can hear it too, the low, wet, pant of a vicious wolf getting ready to pounce from behind the dressing table. HHHHHHHHHHHHAaaaar. HHHHHHHHHHHHaaaar. HHHHHHHAAAaaaar.

'Oh it's a fox.'

'What? A fox has got into the bedroom. I knew they could climb up walls. It's going to attack us.'

'No, it's a fox outside. Barking.'

'It's not outside. I can hear it in the corner.'

He points to the open window. Again comes the unearthly sound, hoarse and ungodly. But the window is open.

'Are you sure?'

'Yes, I'm sure.'

Gingerly I unpeel myself from Luke's chest and tiptoe the three inches from the bed to the dressing table. The corner is bare.  Nothing but a lot of scarves (which I could tie together and use in the event of fire to lower myself to safety). I put my ear to the open window and sure enough:

HHHHHHHHHHAAAAAaaaar comes louder, drifting across the bowling green.  It is coming from outside.  Not the dark recesses of my bedroom, but my psyche.

Though it still sounds like a wolf.