Friday. Though there are things to be done and food to be bought, you return from the school gates and curl up with a book you need to finish before evening when the playground mummies will gather to discuss it. Though you are one hundred and seventy pages in, there are more than three hundred pages left before you will be able to deliver your view from an educated standpoint without sounding like you have gathered opinion from one of the many on the internet now seemingly shaping your personality.
You read and because there is no milk in the house, drink sweet black coffee, pulling a musty scented blanket up to your chin and turning your phone on to silent so it’s shrill ring will not disturb a world inhabited by gay men and sneering politicians. You lose yourself in it and everything beyond your sofa and the furtive realm of Conservative Britain circa 1986 ceases to exist, though guilt weighs heavily on such absorption.
You are avoiding yourself: this you know for sure.
You are frightened of the weekend stretching ahead of you. A weekend that by your own insistence, you will spend alone: face to face with what you want. What you need. But before that there is an inevitable end to deal with: a story rich in vice and greed imploding on itself. With just ten pages left, at midday you find can’t bear it, so you get up, unravelling your blanket like so many bandages. You find Mrs Lippincotes neatly packaged in the porch and gather it up with a fistful of bills. Then you cook plain pasta and eat it sprinkled with nothing but black pepper from a bowl older than everybody you know. Your skin feels tight, shrivelling up, no doubt, in anticipation of your 38th birthday in a few weeks time. There is no milk in the house. Your burn your thumb. For the second day running you bite back tears.
The thought of housework appals you. Days like this come rarely now, so you allow yourself the petty indulgences of self inflicted melancholy. You read the last ten pages of the book and tap two fingers into the fleshy side of the palm over and over again. You have stepped outside yourself and don’t want to step back in to the obligations of housework. Or childcare. Or behaving like a normal human being. Though reading in the middle of the day strikes you as something akin to sin, you don’t want to stop, so when you put down the most deserving of Man Booker Prize winning book club choice you barely allow yourself time to cross the decades before plummeting into Elizabeth Taylor’s story of a woman unwilling to conform.
Reading in the middle of the day. You suppress a tsk and carry on.
There are just two hours left now until real life will drag you back on to the playground to pick up a child still so very high on what it is to be. Suddenly having no milk in the house strikes you as the worst kind of abbhoration: the most telling sort of domestic neglect. Tonight you must go to book-club and pretend to be normal. The sort of woman mindful of what is in her fridge. You shove feet into boots as comfortable as slippers and go out into a shock of sunshine. You must not bring a child into a house without milk. Children need milk the way Middle England needs wine: for fortitude and back-bone. Comfort and strength. You walk along, opinion springing unbidden to your mind. Opinion that will die a death on your tongue when faced with the good housewives of Aughton later on. But no matter, you know what you know.
You walk home the long way, up the hill, huffing and puffing with life. The weekend is here. There is milk in the house. You are still capable of independant thought even if you cannot express it. Not so much unwilling to conform as unable. But all is well.
All is well regardless. You dab another drop of Rescue Remedy under your tongue and try to come to terms with it.