It’s 10am on Thursday, I don’t know the actual date, I’ve lost track of dates although I’m paying close attention to the time of day…
7am exercise, 9am jump up and down while a stranger who can’t see me tells me how well I’m doing at my lunges interspersed with how many views his YouTube channel has had. I start to feel that the effort I put into my burpees in Brixton is going to encourage a family from Basingstoke to join in.
At 10am we start home schooling. I am teaching my 5 year old daughter and, to be honest, I’m quite enjoying it. Not sure what all the fuss is about really. I take out 5 minute Maths and using my best sugary sweet reception teacher voice I start the school day. She shrieks and disappears faster than a Tesco delivery slot. I sit on the landing attempting to coerce her out from behind the locked bathroom, the carpet bristling against my calfs. I attempt to talk her through opening the lock, she is now screaming and rattling the door.
“Do the opposite of what you did when you thought I was going to be teacher mummy.”
The door knob rattles and twists.
I repeat my instructions like a Brit abroad, the same words only louder and slower:
“Do the opposite of what you did when you thought I was going to make you do take away.”
“What does opposite mean.” She says, the tears replaced by the obstinate tone of someone talking to an idiot.
Across the short expanse of the landing, the door opposite swings open and light floods the small stretch of carpet announcing the arrival of the cavalry. The delicious smell of hot coffee and warm toast fills the air. My darling husband leans back on his leather office chair, points to the headphones cocooning his ears emphatically but with a look of exasperation as if playing a game of charades with an elderly relative who has to guess 50 Shades Of Grey, before raising his index finger to his lips and swinging the gateway to his lockdown office tightly shut again.
I raise a different finger to the closed box room door where my husband has spent the last 8 weeks on endless Zoom calls and amidst a growing kingdom of Lego. The speed of expansion would make the Chinese Government’s hospital construction department feel inadequate.
“Hold on.” I say to the other locked door. A muffled sob is the only reply.
Returning to the kitchen in search of a teaspoon I slide open the cutlery drawer above the burgeoning bin. The drawer is empty. I open the dishwasher and recoil at the smell of rancid fish, I can’t remember when we last had fish, last Easter if the smell is anything to go by. I find the only spoon in the cutlery cage, the back of my skull tingles like a cold blob of week old salmon has landed on it as the fleeting image of dirty spoons in a tower of dirty mugs sitting just out of camera view on my husband’s desk. I wonder if they are being over the top with keeping offices shut.
I turn on the tap over kitchen sink and apply a liberal squeeze of Fairy. A little goes a long way no longer applies when it comes to cleanliness, watch as the viscous, emerald green slime coat the silver spoon, spreading slowly over rocks of congealed bolognese. Isn’t it nice being able to take pleasure in the small details of life? The plastic kitchen brush which started life as pristine white but turned to a perma-tan orange after first use, is its usual ineffective self and just flicks out scalding spots of water, not even the tin man’s pubes on the scourer can shift the stubborn lump. I discard the help and plunge my hand under the white Fairy foam into a basin full of scolding water. The heat scalds my hand, I hiss “For fuck’s sake” and pull away like a zombie in the Thriller video, the bolognese is unmoved. My nostrils flare and my eyes bulge white, the heat from the water reaching my cheeks. There is a lingering smell of rotting fish intensified by the steam, my throat closes up as I swallow, in case I was stupid enough to think about eating it. I could fetch another spoon but now it’s personal. I’ve invested too much of my energy and this is my home, I can’t let this thing beat me. What would the neighbours say?
“Was she another victim of Covid 19?”
“No. They found her face down in a bowl of soapy water with a dirty spoon in her hand. Dirty dishes from the night before.”
“I see. Should have put it in the dishwasher”
“Whole house smelt of fish apparently when they found her.”
“The daughter had locked herself in the bathroom.”
I hunch over the sink and using my chewed nails dig feverishly into the brown bolognese blob, “Out damned spot, out I say.” I feel a thrill as I get a purchase under the skin of the bolognese mole and peel it from the curved metal of the spoon. I turn on the cold water and watch the single jet fan out as it hits the smooth silverware. Emerging victorious from the kitchen I mount the stairs, spotless spoon in hand, key stage 1 Maths book in the other and a bar of Dairy Milk in the back pocket of my jeans. The tip of the spoon fits into the groove and the lock turns easily. Inside I throw my back against the only exit and twist the door knob to locked. With a glint in my eye like Jack Nicholson in The Shining, I turn to my 5 year old pupil who looks up nonchalantly from her white, porcelain throne as the roll of toilet roll she is holding fully unravels…