It’s half-past-six on Thursday and I’m sat at the kitchen table drinking my second mug of coffee. I can’t get any more awake than I am now. I woke before the alarm at five forty-five, fifteen minutes before Raymond left for the M1. The patio door is wide open inviting in the cool, pleasantly refreshing late spring breeze with wafts of dewy plant life and blackbird song. The two coffees, I suppose, are to make sure I’m not asleep and dreaming. I’m in that state where I feel too alert and giddy that it scares me yet excites me at the same time. It’s nervous energy, I know.
I jump, startled by the two slices of bread trampolining out the toaster; this always happens when I buy the thin sliced loaf. Luckily they land on the bread board in front.
It’s only a small galley kitchen but I love it. The light from the patio bounces off the small white tiles that contrast the dark, grey units. I walk barefoot on the birch wood floor with my toes curling at its coolness. I take out the butter and jam from the fridge and layer on liberal amounts of each.
‘Watch your cholesterol, Faith.’ That’s what Ray would say right now.
‘What’s toast if it’s not dripping in Lurpak?’
I take the plate with my breakfast to the table and enjoy the slightly salty, sweet strawberry and grainy mixture of flavours and textures.
When I finish eating, I lick my fingers clean of the sticky mess and wipe them on my pink, fluffy dressing gown; it needs a wash anyway. I grab my big, brown leather handbag from under the chair and empty its entire content on the table, whilst discarding the plate and mug to one side. Rummaging through the mix, like I’m shuffling a stack of dominoes, I find the small dairy I’m looking for. I thumb through and note the overdrawn markings that indicate important dates like birthdays; mine of which I celebrated only last week, April 3rd; forty-four years young.
Today’s date is marked with a bold, black marker with nine o’clock heavily underlined. Today is important and I feel positively I will have the start, if not the solution, to my predicament.
I’m all washed and dressed under the dressing gown in dark blue jeans, brown tan boots, white blouse and green three-quarter sleeved, v-neck jumper; smart/casual. I reload my handbag with the usual ammunition of tissues, purse, pen, diary, make-up, painkillers, sweets, mobile and peppermint oil. I leave the dark coloured bottle on the table and make a mental note to pick some up as soon as possible, as it’s past the use by date.
I have a problem with hiccups. It started in my teens and my mum dragged me to see the doctor, under sufferance, as she worried it might be something more sinister.
‘Singultus,’ the doctor said bluntly. ‘Nerves,’ he added. ‘You internalise your anxiety which has to manifest itself in the physical, in your case, in the form of hiccups.’
He thrust a prescription under my nose and as an after thought, patted my mother on the arm and said I’d grow out of it. It bothered me at first but I never grew out of it, more grew into it. Things changed and I adapted like you do, but it took on a life changing form. Hiccups isn’t fatal but for me it causes more trouble than the annoyance of involuntary spasms of the diaphragm and the well meaning advise of semi-concerned people.
‘Shall I pat your back?’
‘Do you want a glass of water?’
‘I heard if you drink from the opposite side ……’
‘I know,’ I want to scream. ‘Don’t you think I’ve tried all that? Leave me alone.’
Instead, I kindly inform them all I have peppermint oil and produce the dark bottle from my bag and pop a blue capsule in my mouth.
There is a dark side to my problem that I discovered when I ran out of my ‘blues,’ as I like to call them. Aside from making me feel anxious and insecure, after a length of time I experience a strange buzzing in the nape of my neck that intensifies as it spreads out to fill my entire skull. I liken this transition to a rogue, angry bee that has flown into a milk bottle and can’t figure how to get out. It lasts a matter of seconds and then, ‘snap,’ like a cracking whip, it stops. Feelings of dread engulf me, twisting knots in my gut that seems to anchor my feet to the ground. It’s the same every time.
The first time this happened I was by myself in a multi-story car park, in my black Golf, gripping the stirring wheel. Luckily I hadn’t set off driving. I thought I was having some sort of seizure or stroke. After the ‘snap,’ my face became like jelly and seemed to ripple when I moved my tongue between my teeth and lips to moisten my dry mouth. I remember opening my mouth wide mimicking a guppy fish. It felt like I didn’t fit in my own skin right, as if I’d momentarily left my body. I clenched and unclenched my fists and thumped my thighs and slowly I gained a sense of myself.
The desire for water was as desperate as a dying man’s grip for life. I drunk the litre bottle I had with me and ran deliriously to the nearest kiosk and bought two more. Satisfaction: there was no other word to describe the feeling that dousing the anchovy lozenge taste gave.
The next time I was waiting at the bus stop with an elderly lady.
‘Five minutes…it’s not long…I’ll be home and I can settle in for the evening. Shall I have the fish pie or the beef cobbler?...Oh and there’s the apple pie and custard for afters…I can’t wait. What about the telly…I fancy a good thriller…Great the bus is here.’
She seemed oblivious to my intrusion. I sat behind her on the bus and she carried on planning her evening routine. I left her after five stops as she placed her slippers under her bed and her teeth in the glass of water.
I do this every now and then; I just look, leap and learn. It’s like a treat really, a mini break away from my ever frustrating world. I smile at the sad strangers and gain wisdom from the thoughtful young and old and give seemingly intuitive advice to work colleagues. Of course I felt guilty at first but then things just got out of hand.
I often wonder what will happen if I leap into someone’s mind and never return to my own, but that never happens. As long as I keep within a six metre radius, things are fine, otherwise the bees start buzzing and snap, and I’m back in my mind.
I’m roused from my reverie by the sound of bouncing plastic; it’s the empty bottle, unbalanced by the breeze and landing on the floor. Unfortunately it doesn’t scare away my hiccups that now wake with me every morning. Marvin is circling my legs, which usually means he wants something to eat. He sits up proud like an Egyptian statue and stares at me as if to hypnotise me. I know you’re not meant to stare at cats, I think it’s something to do with them being intimidated, but I do it anyway and pounce in. What a big mistake.
‘I’ve been waiting for you to slip up for ages and bravo, you’ve done it big style.’
‘Is that really you, Marvin? I can’t believe I’m actually talking to you. You don’t sound very pleased.’
‘Nor would you be if you were fed this muck. Not any more though. Only the best from now on. I can see you’re dying to know how, or have you figured it out yet?’
I have and it isn’t good news. As we exchange internal dialogue, my perspective shifts and I no longer sense myself. From experience, I have become familiar to this, but not to the point that I’m morphing into Marvin. I shake involuntarily and annoy my self by enjoying the feline stretch.
‘Don’t look at me like that, pussykins,’ he says. ‘God I hate it when you talk to me like that it’s so annoying. How I tolerate it I’ll never know. Do you realise there’s no going back? Once you delve into an animals mind there’s a permanent exchange. You’re lucky though, you could have chosen Pinky and Perky,’ he laughs, looking at the goldfish. ‘Here, you’d better drink some water.’
That’s that then.
The door bangs shut. What’s Ron doing back home? I run up to him purring as loud as I can. He pats me momentarily and heads for the kitchen as I trot close behind.
‘Can you believe I forgot this document? At least the presentation’s not till eleven. Are you okay,’ he enquires.
‘No,’ I meow.
‘Perfect,’ says Marvin, smiling down at me.
‘The cat’s acting a bit weird, don’t you think? He’s not usually this attentive. What’s got into him?’
Marvin shrugs. He has his head in the fridge, inhaling all the forbidden flavours that are now at hand. He tears the peppered ham into strips and rolls it round a square of Wensleydale, picking it up daintily, and pops it in his mouth. I curl up under the table willing on sleep, hoping it’s all a dream.