Kelly has a theory. It's a lunatic theory because sleep deprivation is slowly driving her mad. And it's a desperate one because we are desperate. It is simply this: none of this is real.
It's the "intelligent design" theory of tragedy. The misfortunes befalling us are just too neat, too pat; too petty. The way Kelly's condition has been deteriorating exponentially is fair enough - diseases take hold, they insinuate. They burrow in. They party. That's nature: red in hoof and tail, goatee bearded and horny headed.
But...I attempt to have a night out. My friend's band is playing in Stoke Newington, nearby. I'd like to go. I'm a bit fat to be a scenester but I like to keep my hand in. I invite Jess out and the moment I do there is a panicked phonecall from Mo, Kelly's sister. Kelly is a bit manic at her work's Christmas do. I ring her and she is indeed in an agitated state. I ask her if she is alright and she tells me she is fine and to go ahead and meet Jess. I text Mo and get a markedly different assesment of the situation and so I blow The Ethical Debating Society out. That's the name of the band, by the way. I ring Jess leave her two answerphone messages to say I wont be meeting her after all, and then send a couple of texts as well, to seal the deal.
It starts snowing outside, fat soft flakes the size of postage stamps. Under different circumstances I would enjoy walking in the snow, as I did walking the five miles back from the Royal Free a week before-hand, sloughing off the gluey hospital fug with the exercise and the keen wet cold. But time is a factor so I take the tube and it is delayed as usual. The driver spends the entire journey barracking his customers because one of them, somewhere, has left his bag in a doorway while the doors are shutting. I hear this everyday and on virtually every journey and I have never once seen anyone with their bags jammed in the doorway as the doors were shutting. And there are a lot of backpackers out there and all of them quite happy to ram their sweat soaked haversacks into you face, but crucially, never in the doors - they've got places to go.
So after a solid hour on the tube I got off at Finsbury Park. Where I live. I find no messages on my phone. It's now 6.15 and as far as I know Jess is on her way to sit on her own in a Stoke Newington boozer. I phone her again. No answer. I ring again and leave another voice-mail, this one rambling and incoherent, which is how she usually hears me speaking. And then I think: Fuck it! I've done what I can - if she's sat on her own own, cursing my name (and she would) it's not my fault - she needs a new phone.
I walk up to the house through the snow, salt staining the cheap leather of my boots. There is nobody in but Kelly has told me she is stopping off at the hospital to pick up an inhaler. I try the door. The key turns but the door doesnt open. I try again. The door which usually elastic, you can feel the cheap wood give slightly as you turn the key in the lock, is stiff and unyeilding. The door doesnt open. The deabolt has been put on. I'm standing on the doorstep of my own flat in the snow unable to get in. I try the key again. Nothing. I look up and see that one of the flats has a light on. There is condensation in the window. I ring the bell and there is no answer. I ring again. I try the key again. I ring the doorbell of the top floor flat where there is no light on. Obviously nothing happens. I ring Kelly and tell her I cant get in. She immediately assumes I'm accusing her of something, some sly subtle thing. There is a notion at the back of Kelly's mind and edging forcefully into her voice, that in some way it's my fault the door wont open as if this technology somehow exceeds my reach. A locking mechanism is about as far as my knowledge of physics goes but I have had some practical experience of doors. Kelly advises me to go to the pub and wait for them - she has the BIG key required for the secondary lock. I dont need telling twice.
It's half six. I go to my local. It's closed for a private party. I go to my other local. It too is closed for a private party. All of the pubs in the area are closed for Christmas parties bar one - The Stapleton Arms. It has its advantages - it's on the 210 bus route (just) so will be great for Kelly and Mo when they get out of the hospital. But it has its disadvantages too - it's fucking freezing and its full of cunts!
It's half eight now. I've made a glass of wine last two hours. I'll go home. Try the door. Perhaps one of the neighbours has unlocked it now or I will have magically learned to use a key.
So I ask you: has my vain notion of going out with friends really resulted in my wife no longer thinking I'm competent to operate a key, in my being forced onto the snowy streets and into the worst pub in North London unable to help or even talk to those I love, whose three hour ordeal in pursuit of an inhaler has worn her phone into a brittle stump of incommunicado. Could this be real?