The knock on the door came and I skipped from the kitchen with a slice of toast (homemade sourdough obviously) hanging from my mouth. The innocent-looking brown box sat two steps from the door: a safe distance away from the delivery driver who was already doffing his cap to me, mumbling an ungentlemanly “Alright?” and leaping into his open cab. Unfortunately, it was also a considerable distance for me to make it back to the safety of the house. A fact I realised a tad too late.
My hand was on the parcel. My mind was on the parcel. My keys were not in my pocket. I was wearing my tatty green dressing gown – which was fortunate, considering my current daily routine – and who keeps anything bar snotty tissues and the occasional piece of breakfast Easter egg foil in dressing gown pockets?
My fate was sealed. No key. No latch. No bloody chance.
It happened in slow motion. Abandoning my parcel, I turned back towards the house. Arms outstretched, legs slipping into the splits, fluffy slippers flipping off in the wake of my speeding desperation to catch the door. My fingertips flirted with the letterbox. I felt the callous metal of the flap, mocking me with its coolness. My fingers weren’t strong enough. I wasn’t fast enough. The door gods weren’t kind enough.
I should’ve known better. I’ve only lived in this bloody house for five years. I know how the lock works. Then a tiny thing like a global pandemic throws my brain out of order and I find myself locked out. In my flannelette dressing gown, covering only an oversized t-shirt and my big pants. With a piece of, let’s be honest, barely edible sourdough toast in hand.
So now I’m sitting on the doorstep, the concrete caustic on my undercarriage, trying to avoid the breeze whipping my flimsy wrap open, and wondering what the hell to do.
All this for some crappy colouring pencils I had ordered from Amazon. I didn’t even want to do any colouring. I haven’t done any since school.
‘Do some colouring,’ they said.
‘It’ll be calming,’ they said.
‘Mindfulness is important,’ they said.
Mindfulness, my arse.
Mindful of my arse in the robe, I stand up: it’s time for action.
I pick up the package and dump it in the hydrangea to deal with later.
As I see it, I have three options – four if you count sobbing uncontrollably on the garden path until the world ends. Burying that impulse, I weigh up the more constructive alternatives:
One: I could shimmy up the drainpipe and climb through the open window.
Pros: I’d be back into the house quickly and, hopefully, before anyone goes past.
Cons: I’m not Spiderman and shimmying up anything, let alone a rickety, grotty drainpipe that I should’ve replaced last winter, does not sound like something I can do on a normal day. Let alone on an emotional morning clad in the same bedroom-wear I’ve been in for almost two days.
I put that idea on the ‘maybe’ pile.
Two: I could knock at next door and ask Mrs Entwistle to… Well, I don’t know what sort of help I’d ask from a 90-year-old with two pointless hearing aids and a weakening grip on reality. I do know she gets through a lot of gin, so that could offer a distraction.
Pros: We could get pissed together and I’d forget I was locked out.
Cons: I wouldn’t get back into my house and I would die of alcohol poisoning because Mrs Entwistle would surely drink me under the table.
Another addition to the ‘maybe’ pile.
Three: The worst idea in the whole world. An idea worse than digging my feet into chilli powder and then biting my toenails off. On a rollercoaster. With an audience.
The final option is that I could run halfway across town (in my dressing gown) to my dickhead ex-boyfriend’s house, where he lives with his new morally bankrupt harlot, and pray that dickhead still has a spare key. Then I’d have to negotiate a social distancing key-handover and I’d be in dickhead’s debt forever.
Pros: I might get a key.
Cons: Did I mention dickhead?
I put that idea atop the ‘maybe’ pile and re-evaluate the other options. Option one is worth another look. The upstairs window isn’t that high, and I could probably squeeze through. I wish I’d done more living room workouts to prepare for such physical exertions. Joe Wicks tried to get me fit and I spurned his advances, instead choosing to watch his beautiful hair bouncing around whilst I sat on the sofa eating sodding sourdough.
If I survive this, I’m turning over a new leaf.
My street is not a thoroughfare, so people rarely pass through and, in pandemic-stricken times, it’s as empty as, well, a pandemic-stricken scene. Nonetheless, I look both ways before I start my assault. I pray that the bin men aren’t coming today. I’ve lost track of what day it is, let alone what day they come.
One foot on the drainpipe bracket. The other foot on the lower window ledge. I’m really doing this. I’m a superhero! I grab the hanging basket to my right to use it as leverage. I bet Wonder Woman never had to deal with mulched pansies that were clearly overwatered.
Groaning and grabbing anything I can get hold of, I make a steady ascent. I have a flashback to PE in primary school and having to climb the rope. Moany old Mrs Bailey would be eating her words if she could see me now.
I’m going to make it! The open window is within reach. I elbow my way onto the windowsill, knocking open bottles of Herbal Essences into the bath. My weight is unbalanced; I need to hoist myself up and over the opening before I lose my grip. More bottles of potions tumble as my hand scrabbles along the damp tiles, searching for a solid grip.
My fingertips close around the roller blind cord. I’ll take whatever I can get. It’s not that strong but I’ll be quick. I hold tight and pull myself up. It works! For a second. In that moment, I heave my torso onto the windowsill and the blind comes crashing down on my head. Credit to me, I’m not fazed and don’t lose my precarious position. My bare legs are kicking freely as I work my way in, swimming myself into the bathroom. I praise the fact I wore my big pants, especially when I hear a voice below.
‘Are you ok, dear?’
My exploits have been loud enough to raise Mrs Entwistle. Astonishing.
‘I’m fine!’ I call down in reply as my blue and green spotty knickers slide out of her view.
I plunge into the shampoo strewn bathtub, entangled in various components of the now defunct blind. But I’m proud. I bloody made it.
I take a second to breathe and assess the situation. I’m a strong, independent woman who doesn’t need any help to deal with a dilemma, even during a global catastrophe.
Wiping off the excess slime, I straighten my robe and pop body parts back where they belong. I walk out of the bathroom with my head held high and troop downstairs to greet my worried neighbour, mentally adding gin to my next online order. I stop at my kitchen drawer en route.
‘Mrs Entwistle,’ I begin, holding out a small plastic troll on a keyring, ‘I wonder if I could trouble you to keep this somewhere safe?’