To : firstname.lastname@example.org
From : Martin’s Rare Books Inc, Madison Ave, New York
Subject : Another one
This is the thirteenth this month, how many now? And why do they always find themselves keeping a diary?
I have a favourite tea-towel, it’s a simple one, white with red squares on it, a classic, if you like. Yesterday I was drying up my favourite mug, the one shaped like a Cadbury’s Creme Egg. Coffee tastes better in that mug for some reason, maybe due to its rounded shape. I fumbled and saw the cup in the air for a bit before it was inevitably going to heartbreakingly smash into little pieces on the stone kitchen floor. As I looked to see the disaster, I noticed that the cup was still there, hanging in the air. Thinking this was one of those slow-motion things that seem to happen, I stood there for a bit then instinctively went to rescue the cup from the air. I thought my arm would move at an equally slow pace, but it didn’t. I caught the cup and gently put it down on the kitchen counter, all intact. The cup still needed drying but I wasn’t going to chance it again, I left it there to dry out overnight.
This morning I made a cup of coffee in the Creme Egg mug and it did taste better than usual, even though it was only instant coffee. This has surprised me before, so I didn’t think much more about it and enjoyed the coffee. I washed up the mug, and let it drain on the drainer by the sink. The tea-towel was neatly arranged, as usual, over the handle of the cooker. Which was odd because I didn’t remember putting it there yesterday when the cup-in-mid-air miracle happened. To be honest, I don’t remember what I did with the tea-towel after I left the Creme Egg cup on the counter to dry.
I went out shopping, as is my wont on Saturday mornings, to get some items that had run out: tea bags, a new pan scrubber, cornflakes and best get some good proper coffee in as well, my coffee machine had sat there for a while, unused, so I thought I’d get it going again. I bought a lemon for this and came back, unpacked the shopping and began to clean the coffee machine with water and lemon juice, several cups of water through the machine to clean it out. Then I made some proper coffee into an espresso cup and looked for my Creme Egg mug. Nowhere to be seen. Oddly, I looked for the tea-towel as well, and that was still in its place. I definitely put the mug on the drainer, but it was no longer there. It was in the cupboard where it normally lives. I don’t use it that often, it doesn’t hold much coffee and I don’t like to use it too much, and wash it up too much in case the pattern fades. It’s my favourite mug.
I also have a least favourite mug. One given to me by a former friend with whom I had a bit of a falling out. The mug reminds me of her, and so I don’t use it. As an experiment I got it out from the back of the cupboard, washed it up and dried it using the magical tea-towel, deliberately fumbling with it but it just crashed to the floor and spread its shards about all over the place. It took a while to find them all and bin them. I’m not going to try that experiment again with any of my mugs, as I pretty much like them all now.
This evening I was watching something on Netflix that wasn’t too taxing and mildly diverting when the internet went down. The programme carried on from its buffering and I got involved with who was doing what to whom, until I realised that the internet was still down after twenty minutes. My phone and laptop both showing connection errors. When it was clear who was doing what to whom, Netflix had its error. The lights went out as well. I’m writing this down in long-hand by candlelight, I’ll type it up later. I didn’t know I had any candles, nor matches to light them with, it’s all electric here, no gas. Sometimes it’s very nice to be sitting inside in candlelight, very cosy and primitive, quiet and comforting.
So, I’m typing this up now. The lights and the internet are all alive and well and it’s gone midnight, so I shall say goodnight. [Not much to write up I guess, just a bit of weirdness, probably my age, and my mind going a bit daft. Let’s see what happens tomorrow, anything of note will be in this file.]
Well that was yesterday and the day before. Perhaps I should add some dates to this diary, though I’m not sure I want to keep a diary, I never keep one going.
Perhaps I should mention here, if I’m ever going to read this again, is that I’m reading that book Joanna gave me, all about magic, and angels and strange co-incidences, white feathers and all that. I just had to think the right thoughts, feel jolly good and all will be brilliant. So far it has, actually. I’d forgotten that the cornflakes I like were in the shop where they normally don’t stock them. In the candlelight I felt a warm feeling of self-esteem I hadn’t had for a long time, strangely disappearing back to normal levels when the lights came crashing on. Tonight I shall turn everything off (see if I do in later diary entries!!), and see what happens. Also, that mug thing, of course.
Joanna called me just now, which is always nice, but she wants her book back. It’s a shame because I haven’t read it all yet. It’s going to be about a fortnight before I can get it online, it’s quite rare seemingly, out of print and only available from America, at some considerable cost. Perhaps Joanna will lend it back to me sooner than two weeks?
Joanna has lent it back to me! She just wanted to check something in it and didn’t think I’d really read it. She was surprised that I had. Now, something in me didn’t want to mention the magical stuff that is happening to me, not just yet, it’s all a bit vague at the moment. The book looks newer, a different copy from the one Joanna had given me originally, maybe she has a few copies. Then why would she want my one back?
Yes, definitely a different book, same cover design, different contents. The tone is different, less extravagant (Americans!) and more sober, and there are some new ‘side-bar’ quotes in grey boxes. I say quotes, more like warnings, powerful stuff apparently. But I do want the original copy back to read, deffo. I shall talk to Joanna about it tomorrow, I’ll be seeing her at Carlo’s in Wardour Street.
Saturday evening, late-ish
Well, there goes that. I asked Joanna about the differences between the books, and she didn’t know what I meant. I brought the new book with me to show her the differences, I should have asked her to bring the original to Carlo’s but forgot. She thought I was accusing her of something. Stormed out with a choice word or two, which I won’t record. Another friend I’ve fallen out with. I shall just have to order the book off the internet and see if it’s anything like the original. Or I could break into Joanna’s flat and see if I can find it!!! The rest of the day is a bit of a blur, to be honest, can’t remember much of what I did, usual Saturday stuff. Noticed the cornflakes weren’t there at the shop.
Took the day off sick. Not unwell sick, just knackered and depressed. Ordered the American book, will be nearly a month to arrive.
The book arrives, one month ahead of schedule and it is the new version. I’m going to spend the day looking on the internet for the original version, and maybe talk to some booksellers around the world too. Off sick still, but I have things to do.
Nothing on the web, but I did have a weird conversation with one bookseller. Martin’s Rare Books Inc. It went a bit like this (well, a lot like this, I recorded our chat). Oh, and I’m not naming the book (BBA – book by author) yet, it’s a bit weird:
“Martins, how can I help you today?”
“Hello Martins, I was wondering if you had a first edition of BBA?”
“Let me see, just a minute, hang on, ah yes, we have one in stock. Oh, not a first, I’m afraid, this one is 1987, that ok? Twenty two dollars, plus shipping, where are you calling from?”
“I need a first edition really.”
“You’re English, cool!”
“Welsh, but never mind – can you check whether you ever had a first edition of that book at all, ever?” I sound a bit wobbly here.
“Okay, let’s see. No. Never. Hold on, can you give me the name of the author and title again, maybe spell it out, something’s odd here”. I did. “Ok, the screen’s frozen on me, let me ask Martin. Martin! Hey look at this.” There’s a shuffling sound and Martin comes on the line to me.
“Hello sir, this is Martin, can I have your name please?” I told him.
“Full name, address and, importantly, email address please?”
“Please sir?” So I did, full name including middle names, address and email like an idiot, I thought I’d be on some kind of mailing list.
“Thank you, sir.” He didn’t use my name I’d given him.
“Now, sir, I have something to tell you about that first edition. I don’t know all the details, but you really don’t want it, you don’t even want to handle it, let alone read it. Thank you for your call to Martin’s today, goodbye.”
And he hangs up, I ring again and no-one answers. Some kind of in-joke I guess. I email them adding their email to my address book. I ring the next bookseller on my list. But they didn’t have the book at all, not even the new one. Same as all the others on my list, no records of it at all.
Back to work. Everyone seemed a bit distant today. Probably didn’t believe my off-sick story. I’ll talk to HR next week as I suppose it’s a mental health issue rather than a broken leg or flu.
Normal Saturday things, I think. A blur. I’ve hidden this journal. Might take some time to write things up now.
The only thing for it, of course, was to raid Joanna’s house and get the book that way, there is no evidence of its existence anywhere in the world. I’ve been to Joanna’s house a few times, stayed over one night, with a lot of other people after a bit of a wild party. Bloody uncomfortable, the floor, and the party to be honest. I’m not a social person, I only went to please Joanna, who seemed to want to get to know me better. Then she practically ignored me all evening. Anyway, the thing is, I went to her house to ‘case the joint’ as they say in old American gum-shoe novels. It was a sunny day (Sunday, I think) and there was a family of four playing in the front garden, Mummy, Daddy and two little’uns splashing about in a paddling pool. The house looked pretty much as I remember it, Joanna had come into a lot of money (probably after reading that first edition) and bought a big, detached five-bedroom house in the West End of town, all for herself. I walked past and was surprised to see the family and no Joanna. To keep looking natural I walked past, down the lane and walked one circuit of the park before coming back along the lane. I decided to talk to the new owners. Apparently, they’d lived there for about five years, and the previous owner was also a family of four. No knowledge of a Joanna. And it was definitely the right house, the front door was a particular Farrow and Ball red colour that I remember looking up (“Rectory Red”, and the house was an old vicarage).
I looked Joanna up on my social medias. Not found. She was deffo a friend of mine on there, I googled her, nothing (local, anyway, lots of Joanna’s with the same surnames all over the place. Not her). I rang her number(s) – all not known. I rang Tony. Tony had never heard of her, thought there was something wrong with me. Maybe there is. I rang her work, and no-one of that name, etc etc, you get the idea. Joanna had vanished.
And so the first edition had gone too, I supposed.
I knew Tony from a brief job I once had at the local insurance firm. We were both web developers and had the same sense of graphic design, we always agreed what would look good, and what management wanted that looked bad. We continually managed to get the designs how we wanted them in the end, so we formed a sort-of bond. He had family and I was alone, so we didn't go out much, but I kept in touch by text etc. He did seem to be a very jolly fellow, in contrast to my constant anxieties. His family all seemed to be doing very well, and Tony eventually set up his own company doing, I don’t know, doing something. I never did find out, but it was nine to five, I know that.
I went round to see Tony and had a nice chat, which is unusual for me, it was very pleasant until I mentioned Joanna. Tony knew Joanna through me, and they’d met a few times, with me at Carlo’s and maybe at that party too. I thought, at one time, Joanna and Tony might be some kind of “thing”, but kept those thoughts to myself, Tony being happily married and all that. No idea, never heard of her, Tony wondered if I was ok, mentally, I’d had issues in the past. That book seemed to be helping a lot, actually. I vividly remember the times with Tony and Joanna (Tony always called her Jo), and Tony didn’t. Not at all.
Joanna had simply never existed. Except in my head.
When I eventually left, Tony strangely waving from his front door, I got into my car and noticed I was almost out of petrol. I’d filled it up, I think, on Wednesday, the day before. Must have sprung some kind of leak, which is a pain, but I didn’t smell any petrol around the car, I got out and had a sniff. Actually, I got back home just as the car spluttered out of life. I’d call the AA tomorrow, another pain.
Called the AA, some faff about my account, I needed them to come and fill up the car, at least as much to get me to the petrol station. Again. I paid the annual fee like I had done last April, I’d sort that out online later. Then I called the garage and booked the car in to look at the fuel tank. I was friendly with Sunil, who was their chief mechanic and I asked after his family, but he seemed taken aback somehow, like I’d said the wrong thing. Janice at the petrol station didn’t say hello to me either when she looked up from the card reader.
I’m writing this all down, you know, which is weird because it seems a bit too much detail. Though I know, from reading very old teenage diaries of mine, that these little details, all forgotten, can take you right back to those times. The very serious, very earnest troubles I had back then in my small world seem petty now, in this very big world of adulthood. When I re-read these notes, then at least I have some detail to remember fondly, and hopefully will all be somehow explained, or passed off, at least as a sequence of random circumstances and coincidences. I could turn it into a very short story. It is, it is, well, it is, all very odd though. I’m trying not to edit this very much, just to get the raw details down. I feel, well, empty. An emptying is going on.
That’s it. I may explain more tomorrow.
I woke to the sound of an alarm going off, at six-thirty am. An alarm clock. I didn’t set it, it just got set and went off. I could hear the milkman outside, clinking bottles, and a smell of old cars’ exhaust fumes. Four star. I remember six-thirty alarms, when I did my paper round.
I got up in my dressing gown and came down to write this on my laptop, retrieving the hidden floppy disk from the cupboard. It takes a while to load up, but I’m used to that. Am I?
This is confusing, the clocks are all wrong, and all at different times, I put them all right and none of them are digital. But this computer thing, word processor, is working ok. I hope so, anyway. Today I shall ring Martha, my old therapist, maybe the GP, ‘cept its Saturday, Monday I shall ring Norman, my doctor, or Quack as Mum likes to say. Liked. God. Saving this, and talk tomorrow then. xx
The wallpaper in my bedroom is quite loud, mostly dark purples and some red splodges. Well, was. The reds have faded and the purples are mauve now. Things are slowing down. I can still type, but not as fast. Save, save save, I keep saving this document, but it takes bloody ages. The light from the windows, even through the curtains, is getting brighter, and it’s getting on for September.
Still typing, though it’s difficult to see the text now. I hear ghosts in my house, children running about, adults chatting in the kitchen, I’m finding it difficult, difficult to move. I’m sending this document to all my email contacts, every one of them. All are bouncing, except one, but I can’t read it now, no idea who the recipient is, I just hope that this gets read, I’m typing slowly in this glaring light, autocorrect on full. The name and the author of the book, by the way, are : “