Monday, May 15

A Case of Handle, Lock, Latch

It was a Monday morning. I was in no particular mood, although I had woken from an unsure sleep to a wet world outside of my window all grey and grim; it was not nice to look upon. I prepared myself and my bag and then got ready to leave my flat. Would you believe it but when I opened my front door and looked down I saw a screw on the wooden threshold, stood upright on its head. In my eagerness to open the door and get out – I paused. The screw was on its head, not moving to the agitation of an opening door pulled against it. It was in the corner, not the centre, but an inch from the latch-side. A coldness ran through me. A screw would not just land there like that; it must have been placed. Maybe someone was watching me, how I would react to the screw. Still, the screw stood there, looking up at me with a sharp nose and rings of eyes. Could it have worked loose from my door, fallen down and, as luck would have it, landed perfectly? That was a tall order. I checked the door to see if any screws were missing from the handle, the lock, the latch. Nothing! I poked each secure screw with my finger to see if any were loose, but no, each was resolutely fixed within its hole. I shook the handle, the lock, the latch to see if they were still solid and capable of performing their singular respective tasks. Yes, all fixtures were correct. I stood and confronted the screw once more. Then I bent down, picked it up and threw it into the corridor, a foot from my door, as if to shoo it like a black cat. A little flick of the wrist. It landed, rolled and stopped. Look! it did not land on its head as it had done so on my threshold. It landed on its side and rolled in a kind of circle. I looked around me, looked up and down the corridor. No one. I double-locked the door and started towards work.
As my shower-hot skin adjusted to the temperature outdoors and the fine fall of rain, the screw played on my mind. It chilled me to think of the screw. In the cornershop they had just baked all the pastries and bread out back and it smelled good. I said good-morning to the lady behind the till and bought some gum and rolling papers – considering my change to see whether I had enough for a bottle of water; I didn’t. I wished the weather would change and become more like May and less like March. Everything was cold to me. The traffic was noisy. Why had the screw stared back at me when I looked at it? Why didn’t it just look away like strangers on the tube? Ah, I thought, I remembered that when I woke up there was a coaster next to my bin. I hadn’t moved the coaster next to my bin, but there it had been. How on earth did the coaster get there, other than under a concerted effort to disrupt my mind? There are so many coasters in my flat, scattered upon various furniture, that I could not place the location from which this particular one had been moved. If someone was to enter my flat, placing a coaster of mine next to the bin was certainly a way to upset me, and they must have known this. The screw was simply them messing with me further, attempting to drive me insane. ‘We’re screwing with you.’ They were. They were on a mission, these infiltrating madmen, a mission to unsettle me and drive me out of my mind. By getting to me in my flat, where I live, my home, they were seeking to send me insane! I looked around and thanked god for all the other pedestrians and motor vehicles, the buses and cyclists, all the people in my office; they would keep me safe. No one would dare attack me while I was in the company of strangers. I felt safe but did not look over my shoulder.
I hurried along, in the company of strangers. The wind blew against me, entering my shirt through the gaps between the buttons. I squinted my eyes against the rain. I thought about the screw and pushed it out of my mind as a bus moved over an uneven manhole cover, sending an almighty shot out across the street.

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