Every venture into the staff kitchen is fraught with tension. Mine is a job that makes you exempt from the camaraderie of office workers; us Mentors are lonely souls passing like hollow eyed junkies in the corridor.
Oh no, there’s someone in there. I set my face to “breezy and approachable.” All I want to do is put my reduced price Innocent Indian Daal hot pot in the fridge and walk away.
I get to the fridge and try to wedge it in amongst all the other waiting lunches.
I might seem more normal if I say something?
“Cor! It’s full this fridge!”
Pause. Who says ‘Cor’ these days?
“It’s full is it?” the proper employee replies.
Yes that’s what I said, you’re just repeating my words back to me dumbass, I want to say. Is that all that socialising is, saying the same thing back in a slightly different way?
“Yeah” I add, to comfort him in his imbecility.
Another pause as I try to think of what to add in the same ‘int it funny, life’ vein, but came up blank. Well, no actually I came up with;
- “Lots of eating going to be going on”. Bit of a tongue-twister, best avoided. Or alternatively;
- “Keep everyone busy for days, this,” gesturing vaguely at the fridge. Too much time has passed; I’ll probably have to explain what I a referring to.
But none of these seemed not worth uttering let alone thinking so I left the room without so much as a goodbye.
Esther feels “like a skipping cd” because she forgot to take her anti-depressant.
Meanwhile Lisa has finally roused from her depression.
“Life and life’s pony” she says with a sigh.
This is a corruption of her dad’s ubiquitous expression of stoic resignation;
“Life and life only.”
I look round after she’s said this and something funny has happened to Esther’s face. Then I realise it’s because the P word has been mentioned. Horses and Ponies and sometimes even Donkeys and Mules give Esther a funny turn. This girlie obsession is one of the few innocent pleasures that have escaped the acid reflux of her spleen.
In this case, Lisa had made Esther think that not only was there comfort in the hardest bits of life (being merely ‘life only’), there was also life’s pony to look forward to, cantering into view.
We seemed to have abandoned our living room altogether these days. We eat, surf the interweb and watch TV from the comfort of our kingsize bed. It’s like an island, with Linda and Goldie draped at the bottom while we lord it up at the top, our weak backbones buttressed by a double layer of pillows.
Tonight I catch Esther indulging in the naughtiest and girliest snack ever: pink marshmallows dipped into a pot of strawberry mousse.
She catches me looking on in awe at the pinkness…
“Take them away”, she cries, pushing the marshmallows towards me with her elbow as if it’s a drug she doesn’t have the will to stop taking unless it is out of her sight.
“Do you want to go and get Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, darling?”
I blink. “Really?”
She nods. “Don’t take too long though or I’ll change my mind.”
I hurry off to Blockbuster on my own Mission Impossible. I’ve been waiting to watch it for so long that should just go straight for the DVD but I can’t help seeing if there are any more films I want as well. I browse along the whole display, and when I get to the end I realise I never saw Mission Impossible.
I try not to panic and casually walk back along up past the Ps and Os and finally to the Ms. Man on a Ledge. Moneyball. One Day.
After all this, it’s not here.
Just as despair sets in and I trudge away, I notice a separate stand at the end composed entirely of Mission Impossibles.
I decide to brave the newsagent again; after all it has been some time since I threatened the boy behind the till. Every Friday, he writes up the prize money for this evening’s lottery on the door, and it makes me want to play. I haven’t got enough change now though.
“I’ll be back later for a lottery ticket” I tell him.
“Oh yes, “The Winning One”” he jokes.
“It’d better be!” I say perhaps too forcibly, looking down with dismay to see my finger jabbing accusatorily in the direction of his cheeky chappie face.
I have to get my ticket from Tesco instead.
Time for a nice romcom with Ryan Reynolds and Sandra Bullock called The Proposal.
I realise I now have the same hairstyle as Ryan. But he has a lovely wholesome jock’s face and tanned buff body underneath it. What a lovely chap he is, well deserving of his top sexiest of men awards and teengirl poster sales.
And Sandra Bullock has joined the ranks of actresses who look like Michael Jackson (Dog rest his soul). Well, not really ranks; the only other member is Michelle Monaghan. And maybe Michelle Pfeiffer.
Yummy, time for ice cream and a movie.
Esther: “(Retching suddenly) What the fuck is this? Eurgh! (Spits melted stuff into her hand).
Me: “It’s chocolate, darling (reading from the tub:) “A delicious core of chocolate truffle”.”
Esther: “What the fuck? It tastes like ash and burnt rubber”
Me: “No it’s truffle…”
She continues, eating round the middle bit.
Suddenly she is retching into her hand again.
“Oh my god, what the fuck is that? It’s hard…”
She peers in disgust at the mess on her palm.
Me: “Don’t be silly, it’s white chocolate chunks. They’re yummy”
Esther: “They’re disgusting! Is it fucking American?…Ben and Jerry’s, oh god it’s Americans chocolate, I hate it, tastes like cheese and burnt rubber…”
She hands me back the tub and I tuck into her spoils. But now it all tastes weird to me, even though I was enjoying it before. The white chocolate chips taste like cheese slices, and wherever the truffle core has leaked into the surrounding ice cream, it tastes like a toxic waste spillage.
My dreams are crap (crap ideas; humiliating scenarios):
I was in Macclesfield, hellmouth of my youth, trying to ride a sports motorbike and look after 3 exchange students, one of whom was really beautiful and rebellious (a lethal combination). She wore denim hot pants and a plunging neckline and her long mocha coloured hair lashed as she ran around crazily getting herself into and out of situations with her looks.
There was some kind of market going on and Macclesfield had never seemed busier.
As I wobbled my motorbike past a stall, a boy called me over, and I realised I was supposed to recognise him from school.
“Never been busier,” I said with an expansive gesture.
“No” he said. “Join my mailing list.”
But every time I tried to write my email address it went wrong. After seven goes I managed it, and he said;
“I don’t know whether you’re incredibly versatile or stupid”.
Esther’s dreams are a different kind of crap (good ideas; nightmarish realisation):
“I found a virtual world in my dream, but it cost £3.50 for half an hour. It looked exactly like the real world but because no one was real in there I could hit them if I wanted or ignore them.
But then Lisa and Dom and you started coming in too, and my parents and all our friends and then because everyone I knew was there it wasn’t virtual anymore, and I couldn’t do anything I couldn’t do in the real world which was the only good thing about it. So I had to leave.”