It’s been a lazy day. It has been a long week, and I was completely done with everything, but I don’t think that’s really an excuse. I know I had a whole list of chores to do, but I honestly couldn’t be bothered. I spent the day curled up on the sofa binging Netflix, and am feeling better and worse for it. Zara calls them ‘self-care days’, but then Zara actually has a clinically diagnosed mental illness. She needs self-care days; I’m just lazy and really bad at being a grown-up.
So far I’ve managed to get away without leaving the flat all day. I haven’t even gotten dressed, still lounging about in my pyjamas, which would give my mother a proper freak-out if she knew. It felt too difficult to try and choose clothes though, and I had no intention of seeing anyone anyway.
It’s almost nine in the evening now though, and I really want chocolate. I finished off the last of my lunch bars some time this afternoon- somewhere between episodes seven and eight I think- and now I really want some more. Actual chocolate, like another bar of Galaxy? Or something with bits in, like Malteasers or Crunchies?
No, I want Curly Wurlys. Like, I really want Curly Wurlys, and now I’ve thought about it the thought won’t go away.
“Damn it. That means I have to get dressed doesn’t it?” My flat doesn’t answer me- it never does. I thought about getting one of those smart devices, the voice-activated ones, but I know I’ll forget about it and then it’ll give me a heart attack when it talks.
So then. More food. I guess if I’m going I can grab another bag of crisps or two as well, make a night of this. I should be able to finish the whole series then.
I sling my baggy gym trousers over my pyjama bottoms and grab my biggest hoodie. The corner shop’s in sight of the entrance to my flat, I can get away without a bra, right? Who am I kidding- it’s nine on a Saturday night, there won’t be anyone else around. They’re all either out having fun or tucked up at home. I put my shoes on without socks, and pull a face at the weird feeling of insole against my bare toes, before I grab my keys and purse and head out.
It’s been raining today, judging by the puddles on the pavement. Up at the flat I hadn’t even opened the curtains. The world could’ve ended and I wouldn’t have noticed. Some adult I am. Might explain why my life is such a half-arsed train wreck. In my thirties, no partner, no real career, no house and not much in the way of savings. Or a life. Or a goal, an aim, a reason. Not that anyone asks about that, but I don’t know… it always feels like everyone else has one, you know? Like everyone else has some script or programme that they’re following, while I’m just fumbling in the dark. Staying in my pyjamas all day.
On TV everyone knows corner shop owners, and they say hello and chat about the family whenever they go in. I’ve never seen any of the people who work in our corner shop talk to anyone, except the other staff members, usually when you’re trying to ask them for the alcohol behind the counter.
Today I don’t even look at the counter when I walk in, ashamed they might notice that I’m not dressed properly. I mean, I’m not in my slippers, what more do they want? My feet are still uncomfortable though, and I shake them out as I shuffle to the snack section at the back of the shop. How can my legs feel tired, they haven’t done anything all day?
Come on, please have it… yes! Bingo. I give a little toot of triumph, having been alone far too long, then bite my lip when I remember that I’m out in public. There’s a loud rustle behind me, and I spin, terrified that I’ve just utterly humiliated myself.
I can’t see anyone though, but I think I can hear some talking? Leave them to it- the last thing I want today is to get the attention of the neighbourhood kids. I feel even more a waste-of-life as I lurch round the snacks and gather up more supplies. In my head I’m already using this embarrassment as a reason to eat even more. Cos that’ll help me sort my life.
I’ve got my precious pack of Curly Wurlys, two sharing bags of tortilla (eating half now and half in an hour counts as sharing with yourself, right?), some gummy sweets and another bar of chocolate, just in case.
“Anything else?” I mutter to myself. Fruit, perhaps? But the selection here, such as it is, never looks that appealing, certainly not at this time of night. It would just go straight in the bin anyway; I always forget about fresh fruit until it’s too late.
Milk! That’s a grown-up, sensible thing to buy. Then at least I can have cereal tomorrow morning, instead of more tortillas or left-over chocolate.
I walk over to the fridge, and that’s when I realise that the whispering hasn’t stopped. I try and dust the front of my hoodie down, horrendously self-conscious of my appearance now, but that makes me drop one of the bags of crisps. The whispering stops, startled by the noise, so now I’m actually curious what they were talking about. I push it from my mind- not getting involved, not gonna try and listen when it could get me into trouble- and bend over to pick my crisps up.
Loud thuds, followed quickly by a whoosh overhead, all of which happen too fast for my binge-addled brain to register. Mouth open I look up.
There’s a man- a boy really- stood over me with a cricket bat raised and level. If I’d been standing up it would’ve hit me right in the face, or neck, depending on how badly I was slouching. Though if I thought I was startled by this development, that was nothing compared to the boy’s expression. He was frowning at the air above me, before his eyes slowly rolled down and met mine.
Getting out of my flat had felt like the biggest hurdle ever, but now I’m buzzing on the ridiculous amount of sugar and E-numbers that I’ve eaten today. Without registering what’s going on I drop my supplies and punch the boy in the crotch. As soon as I do it, before he’s even hit the floor, I gasp and freeze, and the only thing that brings me out is the sound of someone swearing at the front of the shop and heavy footsteps coming my way. I have no idea what’s going on, but I’ve spent all day tied up in the drama of imaginary worlds, and now I’m wondering if I just haven’t left it yet.
I dive down one of the aisles, twisting my two pairs of trousers round my calves as I skid away just as another man, a good few years older than the first, comes round the corner. He’s also armed, and it finally sinks in.
A robbery. And now I’m a witness.
Those damn Curly Wurlys.
The man’s coming towards me so I lash out, adrenaline thudding in my brain and tearing my guts up. Being on my back I use my legs, but he bats them aside and now he’s kneeling over me. I have no idea what’s coming next, and so far he hasn’t actually hurt me-
Don’t care. Too scared.
I reach out and grab the first thing I can and bring it down on his head with all my strength and fear. The tin shoots out of my hand as it hits his skull, but the man’s eyes cross and he topples over next to me. He’s not out cold, like in the films, but he’s not moving, and that’s good enough for me.
“What’s happening? Oi, Ja- guys?”
There’s a third one, at least, unless the cashier’s decided that now’s the time to talk. I try to stand to creep down and have a look, but as soon as I’m up I fall down again. My legs are shaking, my hands are shaking, and I can feel tears in my eyes. I watch as my weapon, a tin of tomatoes I see now, rolls away under the shelves.
What the hell is going on? This is just a corner shop, my damn corner shop. This sort of thing doesn’t happen here.
I only wanted some chocolate.
There’s another commotion up by the entrance, and I realise that I have to go that way. There’s no way out back, not that I know of, and besides… I can’t really leave the cashier to handle it alone. Can I? Should I? I check my hoodie pocket, but of course I left my phone at home. I was only going to be five minutes after all.
I take a deep breath and start crawling on all fours back to the front. If I don’t walk I can’t fall over right? It feels like it takes forever, and my knuckles dig into the floor as I keep my left hand clenched.
I’m at the end now, by all the promotional stuff. Okay, what would happen if this was a film? The bad-ass protagonist would peer round for a second, measure up all the bad guys, then dive out and karate chop them all down in the blink of an eye.
That would be so cool.
I should’ve stopped and thought, but I don’t. I peer round, ready to eye up all the bad-guys and then suddenly transform into a martial arts expert. Except that the last would-be thief is looking right in my direction, and spots me straight away.
“Damn it!” he bellows, and now he’s coming towards me with a golf club and an evil sneer.
With no finesse or class I whimper and start throwing the stock at him. Item after item, packs of biscuits, celebratory chocolate boxes, bags of bloody lollipops- whatever I can reach from where I’m curled on the floor. At first it works, as he bats them away and stops moving. Soon though he realises that they’re not hurting him, or stopping him.
He’s still coming for me, golf club ready.
There’s a loud thud, then one final smack as he crumples to the floor. The cashier, now being ignored, had pulled his own cricket bat out from under the counter and given the thief a taste of his own medicine.
Silence settles on the shop for a while before the cashier looks at me.
“Are you alright?” he asks, saying more words to me than he’d said in the two years previously.
I nod, but I have to swallow three times before I can speak. “Can I buy these please?” I stutter, as I hold up the crushed pack of Curly Wurly.
I think I've earnt them now.