Six am. It’s time for me to get up, it’s time for my day to begin. I spring out of bed, my pale blue nightie from page thirty seven of Littlewoods falling down my legs as I make my way to the bathroom, the ice cold of the freshly tiled porcelain sending shivers through my naked body as I get ready to step into the shower that will take me twenty three minutes. To feel the water cascading from the gleaming shower-head down my back, purifying my dirty flesh from the night before puts my mind at rest. Once I am dressed in the outfit I had carefully chosen the previous day- a knee length burgundy skirt from the John Lewis designer range and a V-neck white t-shirt from Calvin Klein- I will begin my twelve minute makeup routine, using Nars foundation and lipstick with Mac eyeliner and a hint of deep Auburn eyeshadow. My hair is a deep dyed red from L’Oreal’s home kit and I use Ghd straighteners to style it each morning. By now it is three minutes to seven and in three minutes my husband’s alarm will echo through our three bedroom house. It will take me three minutes to make a coffee for him with my Tassimo coffee machine that I had still to unwrap from it’s packaging.
It is eight am and I kiss my husband goodbye in his black Armani slim fit suit -which I carefully lay out each morning- as he leaves for work. He will be back promptly at five, forty seven, when I will have Tuesday’s dinner of three cheese lasagne and garlic bruschetta laid out. It looks perfect on my ten place frosted, two inch thick glass topped dining table with matching sleek chrome and faux leather chairs in black, imported from Furniture Italia. In the hour while he got ready for work I scrubbed, hoovered, polished, wiped, swept, mopped, washed, dried, folded and prepared the house for the day. I now have ninety six minutes to go to the supermarket to get the food I need to prepare tonight’s dinner. I nod a good morning to my neighbour as I leave, checking my watch; ninety four minutes.
I walk past the rows of neatly aligned suburban houses; the gardens adorned with tired painted gnomes and identical stone paved paths. On the fourth house I turn to glance back at my three bedroom house that towers over the bungalow to it’s left and the converted two bedroom to it’s right. The four foot marble waterfall fountain gleams and sparkles for the neighbours and the winding driveway invites them to use the brass lion knocker brought back from Vienna, on the shining painted blue door. Seventeen minutes later, I arrive at the local store and I take out the list of the eight items I will need for my Tuesday meal. The mind is flawed, I cannot rely on something that has flaws, therefore my list ensures that nothing will be forgotten. I must get all eight ingredients according to the list and this will take me forty three to forty seven minutes depending on the length of the queue at the checkout which should be no more than five people long- a maximum wait time of eleven minutes. I begin with vegetables and end with dessert, checking each item as I go along -brand, date, condition, ingredients, comparison- then I can hand over my credit card to the cashier and check my receipt; cashiers are flawed, they can make mistakes. Forty four minutes later, I leave the store, the weight of my items distributed into two bags, one in each hand.
Something feels wrong as I near my house, something is different. My eyes dart around the street, desperately searching for the source of my fear, and then I see it. As soon as I see the large delivery truck, it’s wheels sparkling with the glow of newly bought items. My heart skips a beat, did I forget about an order I had placed? I would have noted it down, memory is flawed. Just as quickly as my excitement had grown, my heart sinks. The truck is loitering outside my two-bedroom-converted-neighbour’s-house. My legs speed up pace as I make my way towards the house, the truck drawing me in like a magnet, it’s dark, dirty white colour mocking me. My neighbour appears in her garden to greet the greasy truck driver, her chubby red face smiling at me in silent gloating. I hold my breath in apprehension while I wait for her delivery to be revealed. Maybe it’s something I already have, of course they would all want to copy what I have, they just have no shame. My blood runs cold as I watch the six foot dark painted mahogany dining table emerge from the back of the beast. The table legs are hand carved in a classic style and it has been finished with a crystal clear varnish so as not to completely cover the natural grain of the wood. I count the chairs as they make the journey into their new home…nine, ten, eleven, twelve. They compliment the table perfectly, with the same wooden finish, they also have black leather cushions an inch thick on the seats. I start to feel faint, I cannot look anymore and I stumble my way back to my mediocre house.
My catalogues should have arrived by now, it is thirteen minutes past twelve, the post is late. I pace up and down the hall, my palms are sweaty. It’ll be in my catalogues, that’s where she will have ordered it from. But how did that self righteous hippy get that dining set before me? The doorbell echoes through the walls, startling me out of my thoughts. I swing the door open to see a different postman. I snatch my catalogues out of his hand, he shouldn’t be handling the ones not in a plastic cover. He should have known that. There is no time to argue. My fingers fumble clumsily through the pages searching for the shine of mahogany, the curve of carefully carved legs, the soft and yet sturdiness of the seat cushions. My heart races as the products merge into a blur. I go through and back through and through again but it’s not there. I won’t ask her where she got it, then I am no better than the rest of those copycat scum in this street. The black antique clock on the marble mantelpiece in my living room catches my eye, I am late.
I get dressed in my beige Timberland garden boots and Debenhams blue washout full length dungarees and head out of the patio doors in the conservatory. Gardening will help, they say gardening ‘soothes the soul’. I unlock the brass padlock on the shed, quickly pulling out the tools I need, everything has it’s place. When weeding it’s best to start from one end and to work my way around. There are not many since yesterday but it will take me seven minutes to complete this process. My hands shake as I take the small trowel to the loose soil to dig up the green, leafy parasite. I try to recall the details of my own beautiful dining set…frosted glass topped ten seater…but I can’t. It isn’t as strong as the mahogany, it isn’t as elegant, as perfect. It’s not good enough. How could she have it and I don’t, where did she get it? My head swims with anxiety and confusion, the garden in front of me fades to darkness.
The smooth, carefully varnished surface feels like silk to my fingertips as they brush against the table when I collect plates from our twelve dinner guests. They can’t stop complementing my new dining set, it’s actually getting a bit embarrassing now. They can’t work out where I got it either, and I won’t tell them, it’s my secret, why should they get my nice things. I bring out the desserts and sit down on the soft cushion of my chair, feeling the smooth, beautiful details of the wood on the legs as I pull it closer to it’s table counterpart. There are smiles all around, everyone is talking animatedly, the dinner is perfect, the colours of the raspberries are illuminated against the mahogany wood.
Light seeps into my eyes as I slowly open them to see my husband’s frown looking down at me.
‘What happened?’ I whisper.
‘I came home from work and you were attacking the house! I don’t think our insurance will cover this honey. What’s wrong? You had a spade in your hand and you have smashed up everything, I don’t think we can salvage anything. You were screaming about it all being worthless, that it couldn’t be perfect without “the set.” What’s “the set?”’
The dining set.
‘We’re late for dinner. I should have noted it down, minds are flawed.’ I say as I get up from the kitchen floor and begin to unpack my groceries.
Fifty three minutes until dinner.